Memorial Day is here and summer is just around the corner. Students in schools across the country are growing restless as they count down their last few days in the classroom. Meaningful and engaging Memorial Day lessons require little planning and help students remember that their long weekend is about more than bonfires and barbeques.
Elementary students often know very little about Memorial Day, so printable comprehension activities like this one from Super Teacher Worksheets are a great way to teach them why we celebrate. Group activities, such as listing “Thankful Things” about our nation, are also an awesome fit for this age group and help to introduce the idea that freedom isn’t free. Memorial Day is the perfect time to expose students to patriotic songs. Try playing the Star Spangled Banner or America the Beautiful while students complete a patriotic craft.
Middle school students usually have a basic knowledge of why we celebrate Memorial Day and are ready for more involved activities. The Library of Congress chronicles the stories of veterans on their website. Try having students make one vet’s story into a timeline or picture book to share with the rest of the class. For a zero prep activity, middle schoolers can watch these short videos from the History Channel. They’re sure to learn something new from each clip.
High school students may think they’ve learned all there is to know about Memorial Day, so it’s important to find them new and engaging material. A virtual field trip to the Marine Corps or Air Force museum is sure to capture their attention. This article from the Smithsonian was written by a military historian and offers information most don’t know about the holiday. After students read the article, try the “I used to think, but now I think” routine from Ron Richhart to uncover misconceptions.
Students of all ages can share their appreciation for living veterans and active duty military by writing letters of thanks. Operation Gratitude will get your students’ letters into the hands of our servicemen and women. They even provide a helpful letter-writing guide to help as you plan your lesson.
How do you honor our veterans with your students? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.