Last-Minute Ideas for Veterans Day

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Classroom Application
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Each November 11, Americans observe Veterans Day. First started as Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I, Congress amended the proclamation after World War II and the Korean War to honor veterans of all wars, officially changing the name to Veterans Day.

Educators around the country recognize this observance in many ways. Some invite veterans to their classrooms to share their experiences. Others ask students to interview family members who served in the military. Others explore and discuss the concept of patriotism.

This year completing some of these activities is complicated. Due to social distancing requirements, it isn’t possible to invite veterans into schools and classrooms. Virtual teaching may also present challenges in adapting previous lessons to remote learning situations. 

Consider taking advantage of technology as part of your Veterans Day lessons as you make your adjustments. One tool often discussed in the TeachersFirst blog is Flipgrid (reviewed here). For an overview of this resource’s many features, take a look at Melissa Henning’s Tech Tool of the Month Part 1 and Part 2posts from July.

Flipgrid is extremely popular because it is easily adaptable across grade levels and content areas. However, one often under-appreciated area of Flipgrid is the DiscoveryLibrary, which features a variety of topics provided by Flipgrid’s partners and provides users many ideas for using Flipgrid to engage learners and promote collaboration with peers. 

One of Flipgrid’s partners is the National WWII Museum (reviewed here). The WWII Museum topic area includes fifty prompts that engage students in learning activities related to World War II. Some activities include responses to videos, analysis of primary documents, and exploratory visits to relevant websites. Although created with World War II in mind, many activities easily adapt to Veterans Day’s broader concept.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the Veterans Day-related ideas suggested by this Flipgrid partner for different grade levels. You’ll need to log in to access them, but creating an account is both free and easy.

Elementary School:

  • Victory Gardens and Pollinators – Combine science with social studies by taking a visit outside to see how many pollinators you can find! After visiting the link that shares the concept of victory gardens due to rationing during the war, challenge students to explore and record the number of pollinators found during their time outdoors. 
  • Why Do Things Fly? – Watch a video discussing the use of the C-47 skytrain during the war, then read a story of four friends thinking about what makes things fly. As a final activity, students record a response explaining how they believe things can fly.
  • Artifact Spotlight: Ambulance – This activity is part of a STEM Innovation Webinar and includes a “make your own blood” activity. Warning: it might get messy! Upon completion, students discuss their work in filling out a table and analyzing the results.

Middle School:

  • Decision-Making Scenarios – Engage students in critical thinking activities with the different decision-making activities found in three separate topics. The topics include a link to five scenarios with different war-time situations in the Pacific Ocean. Students record a response with their decision and, as a bonus, are asked to think of a current event in which this scenario might take place.
  • Analyzing a Photograph – Students observe a photo of the Iwo Jima landing and analyze where and when the photo was taken. As part of the reflection activity, students also consider why this photo became so famous.
  • Design a WWII Memorial – After watching a video clip about Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, students pick an event, battle, or veteran to memorialize. In their response, students discuss the appearance, materials, and inspiration for their memorial. This activity is easily adaptable to reflect the general theme of Veterans Day instead of just focusing on World War II.

High School:

  • Enola Gay Crew Member Oral History – Consider the moral implications of nuclear weapons by watching a video interview of the navigator of the Enola Gay, the airplane that dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Students respond by explaining and justifying their position on the morality of targeting citizens and the legacy of the events. 
  • WWII High School Yearbooks – Using the very relatable topic of high school yearbooks, this prompt encourages students to consider the impact of war on high school students. Students visit a site with archives of old yearbooks, then choose one yearbook to analyze and respond to the topic’s prompts.
  • Dr. Seuss Political Cartoons – This prompt is one of two topics related to Dr. Seuss. Students explore a digital collection of Dr. Seuss cartoons in this activity and choose a cartoon to interpret and discuss.

These are just a few examples from one collection found on Flipgrid for a last-minute Veterans Day lesson. Choose any of them and adapt to your learning objectives to fit within your curriculum. Search Fligrid’s Discovery Library to find many other Veterans Day prompts. This collection includes all of the topics above along with some additional ideas from Flipgrid users and partners.

Even if you don’t use Flipgrid, the conversation starters and exploration activities available on the site provide an excellent starting point for building meaningful lessons that use primary sources to encourage and extend student learning.

Have you explored Flipgrid’s Discovery Library as a resource for lesson planning? Do you have a favorite topic or collection to share? Share how you use Flipgrid for your Veterans Day lessons in the comments below. 

About the author: Sharon Hall

Sharon Hall was a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Math teaching. With over 15 years of classroom experience as a National Board Certified teacher, Sharon shares her content knowledge and reflections on ideas for basic classroom technology integration with us.

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