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Teaching Students the Importance of Remembrance Day in Middle School

Use these activities to help students learn about Remembrance Day in middle school.

It is important to recognize Remembrance Day in middle school. Remembrance Day is a very important observation in Canada. But do your middle school students know why? 

Learn more about the significance of Remembrance Day and how it came to be, as well as Remembrance Day ideas and lessons you can use in your middle school classroom to help students learn about and understand this important holiday. 

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What is Remembrance Day? 

Now celebrated on November 11 as a day to remember the soldiers who fought in all wars, Remembrance Day was first observed in 1919 as Armistice Day at Buckingham Palace to pay respect to the soldiers who fought in World War I. 

On the evening of November 10th, 1918, an armistice (truce) was signed between allies to end World War I, which led to the observation at Buckingham Palace. The war was said to have ended at 11 a.m. on November 11th, which is why two minutes of silence is observed at that time. During that observation, there were 2 minutes of silence to remember the fallen soldiers and the soldiers who were left. 

These days, according to the Government of Canada website, on Remembrance Day, Canadians remember more than the 2.3 million Canadians who served and the more than 118,000 who died. 

In Canada, by the end of the 19th century, Thanksgiving was a national holiday observed on November 6th. It wasn’t until January 31, 1957, that the date was changed to October so that Remembrance Day would have better recognition and the sacrifice of soldiers would be separate from the celebration of Thanksgiving. 

The United States does not celebrate Remembrance Day, but instead Veterans Day. Previous to 1954, they observed Armistice Day as well until the name was changed in the United States. 

Indigenous Veterans Day is another day of remembrance in Canada for the Indigenous soldiers who fought in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. In fact, it wasn’t until 1994 that Indigenous soldiers were recognized at Remembrance Day celebrations. Approximately 12,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit people served in these conflicts.

How Can We Observe Remembrance Day in Middle School?

Your school may already have official ceremonies or assemblies in place for Remembrance Day or activities for students to learn more about this important day. Even so, there are many other activities you can do to deepen your student’s understanding of the significance of Remembrance Day in middle school. 

  • Read stories about real Canadian veterans on the Royal Legion of Canada website
  • Invite a local veteran or family member of a veteran to share their experiences and insights. This personal connection can help students understand the impact of war on individuals and society.
  • You can visit the Imperial War Museum website to learn more about the poppy and watch a video on its history. 
  • Let students reflect on the significance of Remembrance Day. Engage them in class discussions, encouraging them to share their thoughts and feelings about war, sacrifice, and peace.
  • Discuss the importance of peace and ways to promote peace in the world. Encourage students to brainstorm and implement small acts of kindness or service projects in their community.
  • Learn more about Remembrance Day on the War Museum website and take a look at some of the important memorials.  
  • Discuss the significance of war memorials and the symbolism behind them. Study famous memorials from different countries.
  • Encourage students to create their own poems or stories inspired by the theme of remembrance.
  • Have students research and create engaging presentations on different aspects of Remembrance Day. They can explore topics such as the role of women in wartime, the technology of warfare, or the impact of war on civilian populations.

Bring Books Into Your Classroom to Help Students Understand Remembrance Day in Middle School

Picture books are a great way to help students understand the meaning behind and significance of certain events. You can learn about Remembrance Day in middle school with a wide range of books to help students understand the meaning of war, the meaning of remembering, and the meaning of peace. 

Here are 8 titles for you to check out: 

  1. Where The Poppies Now Grow by Hilary Robinson – The story of Ben and Ray, childhood friends who witness the harsh reality of war during World War I. It explores their friendship amidst the loss of innocence, the chaos of war, and the eventual pursuit of peace.
  2. The Eleventh Hour by Jacques Goldstyn – Throughout their military journey, Jim always takes the lead, while Jules consistently trails behind. Tragically, on the last day of the war, Jim is killed just two minutes before the Armistice comes into effect, symbolizing the cruel timing of fate.
  3. The Highway of Heroes by Kathy Stinson – A young boy navigates the painful loss of his father, a soldier who died overseas. Together with his mother, they journey along the Highway of Heroes, a stretch of Highway 401 between Trenton and Toronto, where fallen soldiers are brought back to Canada.
  4. A Poppy is To Remember by Heather Patterson – Learn about the symbolism behind the Remembrance Day emblem, the poppy, and how it became a symbol of honouring those who fought in this beautifully illustrated book.
  5. In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae by Linda Granfield – This award-winning book intertwines the timeless words of John McCrae’s poem with captivating insights into the First World War and the daily realities of trench life. It offers a compelling blend of history, personal narrative, and the enduring significance of McCrae’s powerful message of remembrance and peace.
  6. The Vimy Oaks by Linda Granfield – This book tells the story of a young soldier who, after the Battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917, collected acorns from the war-ravaged landscape and sent them home. Over the course of a century, those acorns grew into majestic oaks on Miller’s family farm in Ontario, serving as a living memorial to those who served in the war. 
  7. A Bear in War by Stephanie Innes and Jarry Endrulat – A young girl sends her teddy bear in a care package to her father, a medic serving in France, who tragically dies in the battle of Passchendaele. The bear, along with letters and war memorabilia, is later discovered by the soldier’s granddaughter, revealing a touching story of sacrifice and remembrance that resonates with the experiences of many families who have lost loved ones in service to their country. 
  8. The Road to Afghanistan by Linda Granfield –  Through the perspective of a young soldier who recently returned from Afghanistan, the book explores the beauty of the land and the tragic realities of war. Memories also shift to past generations, highlighting the soldier’s great-grandfather’s experiences in WWI and grandfather’s service in WWII.

There are a lot of books about Remembrance Day, the various conflicts Canada has fought in, as well as books on peace and remembering the sacrifices of loved ones. 

Here are 9 more books to check out for your lessons, including books about Veteran’s Day: 

How to Use These Picture Books in the Classroom to Learn About Remembrance Day in Middle School

I love using picture books in the classroom; they’re not just for elementary school students! Picture books can teach all students about many different things, all in a small package. 

Here are some of the ways you can use these Remembrance Day picture books in your middle school classroom: 

  1. Activity Stations: Gather a selection of books, including the ones mentioned or any others from your collection. Set up stations where students can rotate through and engage with each book. At each station, they will complete a graphic organizer to capture their learning and understanding. You can choose from the provided examples of graphic organizers (Set 1 or Set 2).
  2. Read Alouds: Incorporate these books into your regular read-aloud schedule, not only during February but throughout the year. Use these books as part of your read-aloud sessions to enrich the students’ literary experiences.
  3. Non-Fiction Event Study: Explore the various events covered in these books. Have students read selected picture books and then task them with creating a presentation about the real-life event(s) that inspired the novel. They can share their presentations with their peers, fostering knowledge exchange and discussion.
  4. Biography Study: Encourage students to choose an important and influential person to study who was important to the war efforts or who might have fought in the war. Assign them the Biography Symbolism Assignment, which involves reading a biography, memoir, or autobiography about their chosen individual. Afterward, they will create a life map, highlighting significant events in that person’s life. To showcase their understanding, students will provide a written explanation and deliver an oral presentation about their life map to the class.

Remembrance Day Unit

The time around Remembrance Day is a special occasion to remember and honour the brave soldiers who fought for our freedom. I have created a unit to help you teach your students about these important lessons. 

Are you a Canadian middle school teacher looking to foster a profound connection to Remembrance Day in your students? This comprehensive Remembrance Day Unit is designed just for you. Over the course of two engaging weeks, use these 10 engaging and detailed lessons, with multimedia elements, to help your students explore and grasp the core concepts behind this occasion. This unit includes various activities like analyzing media, reading, speaking and listening, writing, and drama that acknowledge both Remembrance Day and Indigenous Veterans Day. 

Lesson Overview

  1. What is Remembrance Day?
  2. Music Lyric Analysis
  3. Poem & Song Comparison and Analysis
  4. Video Analysis 
  5. How Does the Poppy Relate to Remembrance Day?
  6. World War 1 Trench Life Simulation Game (Optional)
  7. Choral Reading 
  8. Modern Day Armed Forces
  9. Opinion Writing 
  10. Photo Analysis
  11. Contributions of Indigenous Peoples

This Remembrance Day Unit is your key to guiding your students towards a deeper, more meaningful connection to this vital moment in Canadian history. Use it to instill a sense of honour, respect, and understanding in your middle school classroom. 

You can find the Remembrance Day Unit on Shopify CAD and Teachers Pay Teachers USD

What teachers are saying about our Remembrance Day Unit: 

“Another great resource! I enjoyed being able to incorporate some Remembrance Day activities into our literacy block. So well organized, great assessments.” – Siobhan O.

“This was an excellent unit to use for Remembrance Day! My students were really engaged in meaningful conversations about this important day during and after these activities. They particularly enjoyed looking at the photo prompts in small groups and then sharing their thoughts with their classmates.” – Lindsay C.

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