Ideas for Bringing Memorial Day to the Classroom

Memorial Day is upon us.  Here are some ideas for bringing it to the classroom to remind students that it’s more than a three-day weekend and the unofficial start of summer!

Veteran’s History Project (from the Library of Congress)

Check out the Veteran’s History Project, where students can search the collection and learn about a veteran (or two or three . . . or ?).  After reading through different stories (each account has different resources — some audio, some copies of letters, official documents), students could creatively share/present their veteran and why that person’s service is important or they could write a poem or story based on one veteran or multiple veterans based on what they learned about them, their service, etc . . ..

This is a great way to incorporate the standards for using text as evidence, gathering information from sources, writing, etc . . .   You could even work with students to develop a question (yay inquiry!) about war or service or the importance of Memorial Day and let them use this source to help them answer that question.  They can search by war or by branch of service so you (or they) could narrow/expand this as broadly as you want.

If you’re World Literature, it might be interesting to look into Vietnam or Afghanistan.  Brit Literature folks should find plenty in World War I and II that they could perhaps connect to.  If you’re an American Literature teacher, you can tie this idea to the American Civil War, but check out Civil War Soldiers’ Stories instead.

United States War Memorials (from the

Check out this site called Military History, Memorials and Monuments that has links to sites about the various monuments and memorials in the United States.  This would be great with an over-arching question, “Why do we memorialize?” or “Why do we remember?”

After choosing a monument to research or read about, students could share what they learned with the class.  You could look at one or two memorials as a class and engage in a Socratic Seminar (see possible questions above) in which the memorials become the “text” that students reference in discussion.

If you’re aching for the literary-connection, there are poems about monuments and memorials, including Yusef Komunyakaa’s “Facing It” (Vietnam War Memorial) and Langston Hughes’s “Lincoln Memorial: Washington.”  Students could use these as mentor texts to write a poem about a memorial or monument of their own or as starting points for research, or for discussion or Socratic Seminar.  There are plenty of possibilities depending on what your students and you may want to do. 🙂

You could also use this information to invite students to design their own memorial in order to answer the question, “Why do (should) we memorialize?” (How?)

And if none of these ideas are moving you and you still want to do something, check out Teaching History’s list of Teaching Memorial Day resources.

Have an idea to share?  Shoot it to me in an email or leave it below in the comments!