The best Veterans Day lessons and activities can provide the perfect way to engage your students in a variety of topics ranging from STEM to history and English to social studies and more.
Veterans Day takes place on November 11 every year. That date marks the conclusion of World War I, a terrible conflict that came to a close on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Originally called Armistice Day, the holiday received its current name in 1954.
Educators can guide their students through the history of the holiday – the day honors veterans both living and dead – and learn about American history and culture in the process.
Just remember to make sure the discussion of veterans and warfare is age-appropriate. Facilitators should also be mindful that many of their students will have family members who serve or have served in the armed forces, and that discussions of combat should be undertaken with great sensitivity. This is especially important this year, given that global tensions are heightened because of the wars in Ukraine and Israel, Veterans Day may take on more poignancy for veterans and their families.
Every year, U.S. Veterans Affairs puts out a robust teachers guide for Veterans Day-related classroom activities. This year is no different, and the 2023 Teachers Resource guide features a wealth of information on the history of Veterans Day, suggestions for classroom and school-wide activities to mark the day, as well as lessons and information on how Veterans Day differs from Memorial Day and proper flag-folding etiquette.
This middle and high school Veterans Day lesson plan spans approximately 50 minutes of class time. It starts with a discussion and pre-quiz about the topic and includes a short video from the History Channel and an interactive timeline on U.S. wars. The heart of the lesson plan, however, is a group exploration of the challenges veterans face today, including the risks and benefits of being a soldier.
Sometimes referred to as the “Forgotten War,” World War I is the subject of a series of interactive lessons produced in a collaboration between the Doughboy Foundation and Verizon, and available for free on Verizon Innovative Learning HQ. Resources include a virtual field trip with a 50-foot-tall interactive World War I timeline and lesson plans suitable for 7-12th graders.
Educators teaching Veterans Day will find a wealth of lesson plans, activities, games, and resources here that are broken down by grade level. In one activity students in grades K-12 view and then interpret Winslow Homer’s 1865 painting The Veteran in a New Field.
Teach your students about some of the symbols, songs, and pledges associated with the U.S. and their significance to veterans with this lesson for grades 3-5. The lesson is designed to be spread over two class sessions.
This no-cost virtual field trip for upper elementary and middle school students helps teachers and students around the world learn about the importance of service through the stories of two U.S. Congressman who served in the US military.
The Library of Congress maintains this collection of video interviews, documents, and writings that tell the firsthand stories of men and women who served despite being discriminated against based on their race, heritage, or gender. Exploring these resources with your students is a good way to examine the diversity of veteran experience and the ongoing fight for equality within the military. See this teacher’s guide to the collection for more details.
For those looking for more primary sources, this blog post from the Library of Congress details collections, projects, and other resources that teachers can use to get their students to actively learn about Veterans Day.
Teacher Planet offers educators a variety of resources for teaching Veterans Day ranging from lesson plans to worksheets and activities. For example, there is a lesson plan examining the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. and others looking at significant battles in U.S. history.
Teachers can choose from various lessons and activities that are designed for teaching Veterans Day, including this printable online Veterans Day scavenger hunt, and lessons such as honoring our veterans through poetry.
Your students can read about the endof World War I, which inspired Veterans Day, as well as get an immediate sense of what life and public opinion was like during past wars by exploring various digital newspaper archives. See Tech & Learning’s recent newspaper archive guidefor more information.
Some students may be tempted to write, “Veteran’s Day” or “Veterans’ Day,” both are incorrect. Grammar Girl explains why in this lesson on singular and plural possessives. This can be a short and timely lesson in grammar around Veterans Day.
Listen to An Interview About Veterans
To better understand the difficulties that veterans today face, your students can listen to an NPR interview with author Tim O’Brien, conducted 20 years after the publication of The Things They Carried, O’Brien’s celebrated book about soldiers in the Vietnam War. You can then discuss the interview and/or read an excerpt from O’Brien’s book.