Honor Our Veterans in Your Elementary Classroom

5 min read

| By Gale Staff |

There are many ways to observe Veterans Day. Stores and services offer veteran discounts, veteran-owned businesses receive a boost in support, politicians give meaningful speeches of gratitude, and people around the country thank those in their lives who served in the military. This year, teachers can do their part by integrating Veterans Day into a special lesson plan.

The United States observes Veterans Day on November 11. This year, Veterans Day lands on a Saturday so you might plan for a Veterans Day-themed lesson plan in the days leading up to the actual holiday. To help you get started, Gale In Context: Elementary hosts a dedicated Veterans Day portal. This curated collection features a helpful summary page, age-appropriate book articles, and pieces from vetted media sources. Leverage our Veterans Day content to enrich your students’ research and understand why we honor those who served.

Share the History

Guide students to the Veterans Day summary to help them learn about the holiday’s origins. Veterans Day marks a momentous occasion in our country’s history—the official ceasefire for World War I. The date, November 11, was initially called Armistice Day. World War I was named “the war to end all wars” due to its devastating death toll—more than 29 million servicemen died. People believed the battle was so horrible that the world would finally find a way to avoid future conflict. The Armistice sparked a massive celebration worldwide. Soldiers on both sides finally laid down their weapons, and people took to the streets for impromptu parades. But it would not prove to be the final war. Therefore, in 1954, the holiday was changed to Veterans Day to better encompass all military members, not specifically those who served in World War I.

War is a complicated topic for your elementary history lesson. Students likely already know a little and may even have family members in the active military. With Gale In Context: Elementary, you can feel confident that the information is age-appropriate. Moreover, students can toggle content to meet their specific reading level. War is violent and politically complex, but your students will only find accurate historical facts and develop a deeper respect for those in the military.

Discuss Other Countries with Similar Observations

The United States was not the only country that fought in World War I, so enrich your Veterans Day content with a little geography lesson. Encourage students to research what other countries were involved in the war and how those nations celebrate their own versions of Veterans Day. England, Ireland, Australia, and Canada observe Remembrance Day, and France has Jour d’Armistice or Armistice Day.

Ask students to consider the many nations involved in World War I and why countries observe the war’s ceasefire differently. With Gale In Context: Elementary, they can find further information on Veterans Day worldwide. While different nations have specific customs, the poppy flower is a shared symbol, as military members and others witnessed poppies growing across the battlefields. What other shared symbols can they find while they research the various celebrations?

Bring the Lesson to Life

Think outside the box and consider other ways students can learn more about Veterans Day this school year.

Invite a Veteran to Speak

Reach out to a friend or community member who served in the military and would be comfortable sharing more about their life and answering questions. It’s essential to offer these individuals the space to share their personal experiences, and your students will gain a deeper understanding of what military service is like. If you need help deciding who to invite, contact the local Veterans Affairs (VA) bureau, American Legion, or Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization. These agencies typically have a community outreach staff member to coordinate with you.

Share a Moment of Silence

At 11 a.m. on November 11, 1918, the Allied powers signed an armistice with Germany and officially ended World War I. To honor the end of one of the most devastating wars of all time, people around the country observe a two-minute moment of silence on Veterans Day. Help your students understand why this tradition is important, and perhaps have a discussion afterward about how it felt to share that silence as a class. The exact moment is 3:11 p.m. Atlantic Standard Time so adjust accordingly for your time zone.

Make a Thank-You Poster

Each year, the VA hosts a national Veterans Day-themed poster competition. In that same vein, encourage kids to create a colorful thank-you poster for the veterans in your community. While you might not submit their work to the official competition, you might instead deliver the poster to your local VA or VFW chapter.

Go on a Field Trip

If you have the resources, why not bring your class to a nearby veteran’s memorial site for a picnic lunch? Or, attend a special museum exhibit or Veterans Day parade in town. As a class, you can even make your own felt poppy pins to wear for the occasion.

Find Teacher-Specific Support

By November, the school year is in full swing, and you’re undoubtedly preparing for the busy holiday season. Teachers manage countless responsibilities, including curriculum planning, test preparation, one-on-one reading support, and mental health interventions. But they still find ways to incorporate fun and creativity into the daily classroom schedule. Take advantage of Gale In Context: For Educators to get extra support. This unique, teacher-specific collection houses ready-made lesson plans and activities, helpful how-to guides, collaboration tools, and professional development resources. Whether you’re planning for Veterans Day or any other lesson throughout the year, you can turn to Gale for support.

This November, take some time to teach young learners about Veterans Day. Veterans deserve recognition and gratitude for their bravery, and teaching children about these traditions early will help them understand and respect the sacrifice of the country’s past and present military members.

If your institution is not a Gale In Context subscriber, contact your local Gale representative to learn more or request a trial. For additional information on Veterans Day, including a list of observation sites in your area, check out the Veterans Day page from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

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