As we were growing up, many of us had family members who had served in World War II. It was easier to understand the purpose of Remembrance Day when Grandpa would wear his medals to our school service. Our current students are a few generations removed from that war, though some have had family members serve in Korea, Afghanistan or with the United Nations Peacekeepers. It is difficult for some of them to understand the abstractness of war, so it is even more important for us to give them a realistic view of those events.
It can be challenging finding reading activities for students in upper elementary because the subject matter is serious, often violent and challenging to read. While it is important for students to understand Canada’s role in conflicts around the world, they are still young and sometimes learning about such serious events can be frightening.
We decided to write our own reading pieces to help students understand some of the roles of Canadians. The reading passages were designed to be easily read and comprehended while still explaining the events of Vimy Ridge and D-Day. It is impossible to detail every event, but we have often found that students are very interested in learning about what happened. We emphasize the importance of learning about these conflicts so we can prevent them in the future.
One of the best ways for students to learn the importance of observing Remembrance Day is through a teacher’s actions in the classroom. While many teachers do poppy crafts or activities (which are great for younger students) it is vital to have those difficult conversations with your students.
We collect as many books as possible with a variety of reading levels and keep them on a table reserved for Remembrance Day and use the Remembrance Day Reading and Writing Activities book we’ve created.
We invite families to bring in pictures of family members who served in our Canadian military (or their country of origin). We display these with their stories for a few months. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to have a currently serving parent who is willing to come to our school and share their current military experiences.
We find local cenotaphs, memorials and plaques in our city and learn about for whom they’re named. We research building and street names looking for the connections between those soldiers and our modern-day names.
Of course we hold a solemn Remembrance Day assembly every year teaching students about audience etiquette, the symbolism of the poppy and the hope for world peace. Students present information, listen to the stories of others and create art and music for the event.
We read and write as much as possible throughout the year about Canada’s role in these major world conflicts because even though Remembrance Day is just one day of the year, we all need to remember the sacrifice of so many people every single day.
How do you emphasize the importance of Remembrance Day? Leave us your ideas in the comments below.