5 Things Every Student Should Know about Veterans Day

September 7, 2023

As educators, our mission extends far beyond the confines of textbooks and classroom walls. We are tasked with nurturing young minds, fostering empathy, and instilling a deep sense of civic responsibility in the next generation. That's not always an easy task! One crucial aspect of this duty is teaching our students about the significance of Veterans Day. (Click here for ready-made lessons.)

We all know that Veterans Day is not just another holiday on the calendar. It is a powerful opportunity to instill values of gratitude, respect, and pride in students. In this blog post, I'm sharing essential facts about Veterans Day that you may want to share with your students. You'll also find practical strategies to make this holiday meaningful for your middle school students.

Here are 5 essential facts about Veterans Day to share with students...

1. Date and Significance: Veterans Day is observed on November 11th every year. It is a day to honor and express gratitude to all veterans who have served in the United States Armed Forces. Veterans Day is a time to honor and show appreciation to all military veterans, both living and deceased, who have served in the United States Armed Forces.

IDEA: Since Veterans Day is an opportunity to teach students about the sacrifices that veterans and their families have made for the country, it's a chance to discuss the different branches of the military and the roles they play in protecting the nation. Help students gain a better understanding of the branches with a cooperative jigsaw activity. 

Divide students into five groups. Assign each group one branch of the military. Have students work together to research the role, function, uniform, and important terms associated with the branch of the military. Then, re-form new groups with one expert from each branch. Have students take turns sharing what their learned about their branch. Finally, have each group present their findings about one branch to the entire class.

2. Origin of Veterans Day: Veterans Day was originally known as Armistice Day. It was established on November 11, 1919, to commemorate the end of World War I and honor the veterans who fought in that war.

IDEA: Help students learn all about Veterans Day with a collection of facts hidden around the classroom. 

As students complete the Fact Hunt, they can compile their learning on doodle posters all about Veterans Day. Grab a collection of 14 facts here.

3. World War I Connection: The date, November 11th, was chosen because it marks the armistice (ceasefire) that ended World War I. This war officially ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. 

IDEA: Get students up on their feet collecting important facts about Veterans Day. As they rotate around the classroom, have them add the facts to a doodle-style infographic poster

Give students time to color and decorate their posters to reinforce their learning. Then, have a discussion about what they learned as you display their posters.  

4. Difference from Memorial Day: Veterans Day is often confused with Memorial Day, which is another important holiday. Memorial Day, observed on the last Monday in May, honors those who died in military service, while Veterans Day honors all veterans, including those who are still alive.

IDEA: Encourage middle school students to actively thank veterans in their community. This could involve writing letters, creating cards, or volunteering at local veterans' organizations to show appreciation for their service. 

One of my favorite ways for students to thank a veteran is with a Veteran Poem. Students create an acrostic poem on a solider shape and then they can give the poems to veterans. Here's the template for the Veteran poem.

5. The Poppy Flower: The red poppy flower is often associated with Veterans Day. This tradition comes from the famous World War I poem "In Flanders Fields," where poppies grew amidst the graves of soldiers. Wearing or displaying a red poppy is a way to honor veterans.

IDEA: Read and analyze the poem "In Flanders Fields" with students. 

As students read the poem, have them work through this FREE Doodle Poem Analysis. Then, have students create paper poppy flowers. They could write messages of gratitude on or around the flowers they create.

Honoring Veterans Day in the classroom is a wonderful way to empower our students to honor the sacrifices of our veterans, appreciate the freedoms they've safeguarded, and become active, empathetic citizens who understand the importance of service to their country. I think that you'll agree that teaching about Veterans Day ensures that the legacy of our veterans lives on in the hearts and minds of our students.

Thanks for stopping by,

Mary Beth

P.S. Click here for my favorite Veteran's Day lesson!

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