On Remembrance Day: A Teaching Guide

On Remembrance Day: A Teaching Guide

Posted on November 3 by Eleanor Creasey in Kids
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I hope you will consider taking some time this year to help your children and/or students understand some of what lies behind the pomp and pageantry of Remembrance Day.

As a child growing up in the fifties and sixties, I have vivid memories of attending Remembrance Day observances at the Southern Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary, with my siblings and my dad, who is a veteran of World War II. These ceremonies and discussions with my dad moved me greatly and through my many years as a parent, teacher and school principal, I tried to help young people understand the importance of  engaging in the act of remembering, and how important it is to remember with knowledge, meaning, emotional involvement, and personal action. In the end, all of this led to the writing of my book, On Remembrance Day, which is a compilation of various aspects of Canada’s Remembrance Day and an attempt to offer support to those who also seek to make this a meaningful day for young people.

In this blog post, I offer some possible activities that could enhance a study of the day along with page references to the book that could serve as a reference and starting point. Most of the activities are open ended, allowing for a depth of response that can vary depending on the age and maturity level of the students.

Generally speaking, my suggestion would be to spend up to half an hour each day for the week preceding Remembrance Day, with participation in reading, discussion and activities. All of the suggested activities fit with curriculum in a variety of ways. If the reading of the book is done in sections, which is what the author intended, each activity works well with the reading of the book.

I have divided the activities and the reading into five general sections, with a different activity or activities suggested for each. It is a good idea to have a small Remembrance Day booklet for each student to record their reflections, writings, drawings, etc., as the week goes on.

Of course, how you use these activities is up to you, and your changes and enhancements will only make the study more meaningful for your students. I would love to hear your responses to some of these ideas I have suggested.

DAY 1: Introduction to Remembrance Day; The Poppy

Reading:

  • Read the introduction on page 9 of On Remembrance Day.
    • Ask students if they know why we remember on November 11. Read page 10. Show the poppy on page 11.
    • The poppy is our symbol of remembrance. How did it come to be that we use the poppy?
  • Read page 13 and show the photo on page 12.
    • Show the students where the poppy is worn.

Activities:

  • Have students make their own poppy wreath using a cut out paper plate painted green and tissue paper poppies made of red petals with a black centre OR make a larger one as a class, with a tissue poppy contributed by each student. This larger wreath could be used as a class submission for the school Remembrance Day Assembly, and could remain in the classroom for the week prior to Remembrance Day to provide a focal point for the week ahead. At home, a wreath could be made and used to keep in a special spot for the week.
  • At the same time as students contribute their part of the class wreath, they may work on a title page for their own small notebook on Remembrance Day. In this booklet they will record their responses and keep other activities throughout the week.

Another suggestion for the beginning of the study:

  • Pages 30 and 31 offer some definitions and answers to some questions we might have. Ask students to write a response in answer to the questions posed on pages 30 and 31 BEFORE you read these pages. Then read these pages aloud. Don’t forget to show the photo! A class discussion about how the answers before and after the reading are the same or differ would lead to some good dialogue.

DAY 2: War Memorials

Reading:

  • Read page 14 of On Remembrance Day to learn a little about Canada’s war memorials, and what a war memorial is. Show the photo of the memorial in Charlottetown on page 15.
  • Read about Canada’s War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on pages 16, 17, 18, and 19, and be sure to show the photos.

Activity:

  • Use the internet to allow students to look up war memorials in your own city or town, and other cities and towns across the country. An idea would be to assign each group of two students to a town or city, have them find a photo of the war memorial there, and ask them to share their findings with the class. To enhance this research, ask students to write about “their” memorial, describing it in some detail, and then sketching it in their notebook.
  • As 2017 marks the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a most important battle for Canada as a nation, one of the groups might be assigned to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in Vimy, France.

DAY 3: Traditions

The focus for today is to learn what it is we actually do to remember. This includes observances large and small, from a most elaborate one presented by the Government of Canada in Ottawa, to the smallest and most simple ones held at most schools across the country.

Reading:

  • Read page 20 of On Remembrance Day as an introduction to this topic.
  • Read about songs and recitations on page 21. Invite students to be the audience for the response to “For the Fallen.”
  • Read the poem “In Flanders Fields.” (It is not included in its entirety in the book but easily found online.) Often a class or group of students recites this poem at the Remembrance Day Assembly.
  • Read pages 22, 23, 24, and 25 and show the photos, as you discuss Laying Wreaths (point out that their wreaths made earlier will be laid soon), Parades and Vigils, and The Silence (discuss with students how the Moment of Silence works. Practise as you think appropriate so they know what they should do at this point in your school assembly. If you can access the music for Last Post and Reveille, this would make the practice more meaningful.)

Activities:

  • Students could do some poetry writing of their own. Acrostic poems or diamante poems using the words Remembrance Day, Remembrance, Poppy, Moment of Silence, Wreath, etc. would complement this part of the study. Encourage students to do some great artwork to present their poems and use these to add to the poppy wreath previously made as a class display.
  • Teach the students a Remembrance Day song. Some examples might include “Imagine” or “The Answer is Blowing in the Wind” or “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
  • Ask the students to write a response based on this starter: “The Remembrance Day Activity that has the most meaning for me is____. This activity means the most to me because_______.”

Homework for tomorrow. Have students ask at home if there are family members who served in our armed forces in any wars or conflicts. Ask them to be thinking about sharing these stories in class tomorrow. Some students may bring photos or other artifacts such as medals and this will provide for good discussion tomorrow. At home, this is a good time to mention the names of family members who are veterans or who may have given their lives.

DAY 4: War and Veterans

Reading:

  • Read pages 27, 28, and 29 of On Remembrance Day and show the photos. These pages can lead students into their own connections and can bring the personal into the study of Remembrance Day.
  • Read pages 32 and 33. Discuss veterans, who they are and what they have done for our country.

Activities:

  • Invite students to share the information they have brought about family members who may have served in the armed forces.
  • Students may choose a war or action in which Canada has been involved and research a battle or war. They could make a poster with highlights of this particular action and share it with the class. This activity would be time consuming, so if it is offered, be prepared to allow students to take time to do a thorough job. Again, the Battle of Vimy Ridge has been brought to the forefront this year, so this might be worth researching. If there is only time to research one battle as a class, this might be a good bet for this year.
  • Students could also make a visual display showing the important battles of each war…dates, locations, people lost. Alternatively, they could choose one of the wars and note the battles in their Remembrance Day notebook.
  • Write a letter to a veteran, real or imaginary. The purpose of the letter is to say thank you for the generosity of their service and sacrifice to our country.

Pretend you are a member of the armed forces involved in a war or action and write a postcard to a friend or family member at home. What will you say? How will you share what you have done or seen? On the front of the postcard, draw an illustration of one of the places in which you have served.

DAY 5: Responsibilities

Reading:

  • Read pages 34 and 35 of On Remembrance Day and discuss with students.
  • Read page 36.

Activities:

  • These pages offer opportunities for student writing and reflection upon the topic of what it means to be Canadian and what their own responsibilities are as citizens. Invite students to write reflections on these topics using the following starters (or others):
    • As a Canadian, it is my responsibility to ______

(discuss things like learn about issues, vote, take care of friends, home and community, help others, do my best work as a student, help my family, to help students begin this response)

  • When I think of Remembrance Day and the sacrifices of soldiers, I think I should ______

(talk about how you should live your life in honour, respect and appreciation of the sacrifices, engage in peaceful activities at home, school, and in the community, etc.)

Invite students to use the internet to find out more about our Peace Tower and the Memorial Chamber. They can share findings in small groups of three or four or with the larger class.

Eleanor Creasey

Posted by Dundurn Guest on October 30, 2014
Eleanor Creasey photo

Eleanor Creasey

Eleanor Creasey is a retired teacher and school principal. She is the author of four teachers' resource guides to facilitate classroom discussion of novels. On Remembrance Day is her first book. She lives in Ottawa.