For most students, Memorial Day means a three-day weekend, one last mini-break before the end of the school year. But the last Monday in May is the perfect opportunity to use class time to honor the men and women who lost their lives in war.
Here are some of the best lesson plan resources for Memorial Day, along with some engaging multimedia resources. It's not always easy to capture student attention late in the school year, but hopefully these resources help. For starters, here's a brief video from The History Channel that looks at the origins of the holiday. In addition, you might also want to check out History.com's Memorial Day resource page.
Fun, Insightful Memorial Day Multimedia
- 7 Things You Didn’t Know About Memorial Day From Time: If you have some extra time, these interesting, little-known facts about Memorial Day are worth a read. Another great source for background on the holiday, check out this CNN resource which explains the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day.
- Why Do We Celebrate Memorial Day?: The Smithsonian's National Museum of American History published this interesting profile on the origins of Memorial Day. This is just one Smithsonian resource related to the holiday. Also be sure to check out "July 1942: United We Stand," a resource looking at magazine designs during World War II, as well as the Smithsonian's History Explorer site, where you can search for additional resources and lesson plans.
- Veterans History Project From Library of Congress: Here, students can listen to and explore personal accounts of war from U.S. veterans. The collection has many dynamic uses in the classroom, from sources for essays and research, to giving a broader perspective on military conflicts.
- Take A Virtual Tour of the National Museum of the Marine Corps: Here's a super, interactive tour of the Marine Corps museum in Virginia. The easy-to-navigate tour features 360-degree views of many of the exhibits, along with narrative text and related media. Other engaging virtual military museum tours include:
- Memorial Day Activities for Kids From FamilyEducation.com: In this roundup from Family Education, there are plenty of engaging Memorial Day learning resources for younger kids, including crafts, coloring pages, and quizzes.
Classroom Ideas for Remembering and Honoring Veterans
- The NEA's Memorial Day Lesson Plans: Phil Nast, a retired educator and freelance writer, provides some curriculum ideas for exploring the meaning behind the holiday in this National Education Association resource. There are collections for elementary, middle, and high school students, and each roundup features ideas for lesson plans, activities, projects, and a list of relevant materials.
- Engaging WWII Lesson Plans: The National World War II Museum in New Orleans produced this extensive collection of lesson plans. The lessons are arranged by topics, including "STEM," the "Home Front," and "The War in the Pacific," and they're designed mostly for students in middle and high school. Each plan includes related media, discussion questions, and a downloadable PDF version.
- ReadWriteThink's Memorial Day Collection: This collection offers a lot of inspiration. Here, you'll find Memorial Day-themed activities, links to useful websites, and six ELA lesson plans.
- Primary Sources for Memorial Day Reflection: This PBS LearningMedia resource offers links to primary sources, as well as quick ideas for incorporating primary sources into the classroom.
- Lesson Plans, Sources, and Ideas for Memorial Day: Produced by Education World, this collection offers a ton of great ideas to teaching students about history. The Memorial Day web scavenger hunt is a fun way to engage students. Plus, there are great ideas for small group or whole class activities.
- Memorial Day in the Classroom: The National Constitution Center produced several useful Memorial Day resources, available at the bottom of the page, that mostly center around wartime artwork. One fresh idea, Comparing and Contrasting Photography and Painting in War Art, is available as a free PDF. This lesson encourages students to analyze artwork from the Center’s Art of the American Solider online gallery.
- Memorial Day History Lessons From TeachingHistory.org: There are some great teaching and learning resources here, with plenty to help teachers and students dive into learning about veterans, war, and its effect on the world.