Every school across Canada has held a Remembrance Day assembly since the end of the Second World War. In fact, it is written into the School Act in Alberta as a requirement. Schools must have a Remembrance Day assembly on the day closest to November 11. We’ve got some Remembrance Day assembly ideas for you.
What happens when there is a pandemic and it’s no longer safe to gather together in a gym to sing and speak and remember the sacrifices that have been made for the freedom and safety of Canadians?
We’ve been rethinking how we’ll honour our soldiers this year. If you are planning a Remembrance Day assembly, we might have a few ideas for you.
Remembrance Day Assemblies are Required
It’s too important to forget about, so you might have to change things around. It can still be a meaningful day.
If you’re looking for more information on why we observe this day, read The Importance of Remembrance Day. If you’re looking for Remembrance Day assembly ideas, keep reading.
Sit Together, but Apart
In most cases, it will not be safe to gather together for an assembly. You will need to follow the public health guidelines for your region.
The thing is, it doesn’t really matter where you are sitting or standing as long as you and your students observe together.
Soloists Can Sing the Anthem
Instead of having everyone sing O Canada, have a soloist sing it over the P.A. system or record it in advance. If you don’t have a student or staff member who can sing the solo, just use the recording you play to start your school day.
One our favourite versions O Canada is played regularly in our school, It is performed by Asani and features English, French and Cree. It is a unique version, so it’s best if your students are already familiar with it before using it as a ceremonial song. Our students love it.
Many schools don’t sing the anthem when it will be sung later in the day.
If there are any other singing performances, these can be done in the same way. Your recordings can be audio or video recordings and can be shared with your school staff which ever way works best for your situation. We’ve included some suggestions in the next section.
Speakers Can Speak
When you have speakers who are going to talk about the different aspects of Remembrance Day, they can prerecord their speeches as an audio or video recording.
If you’re looking for something a bit different than a speech, we’re planning to use our Remembrance Day Drama Circle. We are planning to stand in a giant circle in the gymnasium. We will stand spread apart (because we’re always trying for that important two metres) while we perform our drama circle.
We’re going to have students stand in the order of their cards. Students with more than one card will move out of the circle and renumber themselves after they’ve spoken.
We will film each student as we move around the circle. Students who need to renumber for a second card will leave their spot and walk away from the camera to get back in place.
If we mess up, it’s not a problem. We will just start filming again from that student and then will piece the performances together using iMovie. We will upload our performance into the school’s Google Drive.
Online teachers can use the Teacher Quick Guide from the Remembrance Day Drama Circle. Use the “print to PDF” feature on your computer to save the two pages and rename the file. Upload this file into your secure classroom portal. Assign a number to each student and do the activity on screen together.
Live Performances Are Not Required
Presenters, speakers and singers do not have to perform live. Recordings can be a great workaround. Prepare these in advance and edit them down for time.
Our school is planning to go as low tech as possible. Each recording will be in a single Google Drive. We will number each file. You can play them in order in place of an assembly.
We have decided that for this year we will not have masters of ceremonies, since it just made more recordings and therefore more work. Our school decided not to stream everything live due to bandwidth issues.
We are planning to have all the performances in the morning leading up to the moment of silence which will be held throughout the school at 11:00 am.
If Google Drive is not an option, consider uploading each of the videos into YouTube as private where only people with the link can view. Paste the links into one email and send them to the staff.
A Moment of Silence Can Be Done Anywhere
The moment of silence will probably be safest activity for your school’s acknowledgement of Remembrance Day.
You can do this in classrooms, online or even outside. Just make sure you tell students what to expect before you start.
Musicians Can Play
Our school still has some students playing in band. They have to spread way out to play and frankly, it sounds interesting. This means they have been practicing in the gym. It also means we all get to hear it. Every time they play. Each and every note.
The plan is for the band teacher to record the performance so teachers can play the video recording in their classrooms.
We are planning to have one trumpet player play Taps for us. He will stand in the hallway and will begin and the end of the moment of silence. We will all be able to hear him from there. Since, we’re going to be doing the moment of silence together as a school, he will be playing this to signal that the moment of silence is over.
Musicians can record their performances as video or audio.
One great reason for recordings of the performances is that students and teachers who are learning from home can still be involved either as performers or audience members.
Let Go of the Wreaths
You likely won’t be able to lay any kind of wreaths or do anything where students might need to touch things. Instead, try making a special display that students can view at some point during the week. This could be in a window so people can view it from outside. Or it can be in a trophy case or designated display area. Teachers can walk their classes past the display to look at some point before or after the moment of silence.
Remembrance Day Ideas Before and After the Assembly
Get Online with a Soldier or Veteran
If you know someone in the Canadian Armed Forces, maybe your class can do an online interview? Maybe someone can speak to your class about the role of the armed forces or the duties of soldiers in Canada. There are many veterans who regularly connect with schools.
Reach out the Canadian Armed Forces using their webpage. If you send an email explaining your purpose, location and grade level of your students, you will often have your email forwarded along the chain of command until someone contacts you. This can take a while, so send your inquiry as soon as possible.
Once you’ve had a member involved with your school, you can use that same contact information. They will often need permission from the commanding officer, but it doesn’t take as long to go through the process.
Once you have a member, set up a date and time and invite them into your Zoom class or Google Meet session so they can interact with your students.
Art is Safe for Remembrance Day
Your classrooms and hallways can be decorated with various works of art to honour past and current sacrifices. This of course will depend on the rules regarding hanging things that could get in the way of cleaning. One way to get around this is to photograph the artwork to share on your classroom or school website.
Over the years we’ve done many different art projects and we’ve collected them together in this post called Remembrance Day Art Projects. And we have even more projects that go beyond the poppy in this post How to Create Memorable Remembrance Day Art Projects.
You can find a Poppy Art Lesson in our Resource Library or we can mail a copy to you when you join our mailing list to become a teaching ninja. We also have a watercolour poppy painting project that you can find in our store for free.
Teach Your Students About Canadian War History
The lives of Canadians are and have always been changed by war. There was a time when Indigenous People were not able to serve in the Canadian Armed Forces. During the Second World War, Japanese Canadians were placed in internment camps.
There are definitely times in Canada’s past that we weren’t at our best. It’s important to teach students the good and the bad of war so they can understand the complexities as they grow up.
We wrote a series of short reading passages that examine how the lives of Ukrainians, Indigenous People, Indo-Canadians, women, children, and Chinese-Canadians were impacted as a result of some of the different conflicts in Canadian history. Each passage comes in a different format: a letter, a diary entry, a personnel file, a narrative piece and an expository passage.
Canadians in War is the perfect activity to do in the days leading up to Remembrance Day, but due to the seriousness of the content, you’ll need to use it with upper elementary students. It is not a subject that should be rushed, but it’s worth the time.
Read to Your Students
We’ve gathered a list of books that make great reads any time of year but have a theme perfect for Remembrance Day. You can read the list by checking out our post Books for Remembrance Day.
Sometimes we’ll choose a novel a few weeks before Remembrance Day so that we can finish it right on time.
Write to a Member of the Canadian Armed Forces
Military personal serve Canada year-round. This often means long periods of time away from their family and friends. Your students can write letters of support or friendship to members.
When you write the letters, there are some restrictions about what can and cannot be included, so read the guidelines before you start this project. Since you will be writing to “any Canadian Armed Forces Member” go down to the instructions. These letters are not free to send. You will have to pay for postage. If your letters meet the requirements, they can be sent as bulk mail.
Write About Remembrance Day
We created a set of Remembrance Day writing prompts so our students could write and reflect every day for ten days. The prompts can be completed on paper or digitally, making it easy to use whether students are in your classroom or learning from home.
Walk the Walk
Each year we reflect during that moment of silence. We think about the sacrifices and losses. We might even think about individuals we have known.
This year more than ever, we need to remember what it means to be Canadian. Canadians have a long history of standing up for people, but they also have some darker moments where mistakes have been made. We need to teach both sides of each story.
We need to speak up for those who are treated differently because of their religion, skin colour, ethnicity or preferences. Everyone needs to stand up against wrongs. We need to teach our students how to fight against inequality because as much as we’d like to believe the war is over, it is very much still something we need to fight for each and every day.
Let us know how your school is holding their Remembrance Day Assembly. Tell us about it in the comments below.