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Teaching Veterans Day: Best Free Lessons and Activities

veterans day
(Image credit: Photo by Samuel Branch on Unsplash)

Veterans Day takes place on November 11 every year. The date marks the end of World War I, which occurred on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. Originally called Armistice Day, the holiday’s name was changed to Veterans Day in 1954. The day honors veterans both living and dead, and Veterans Day provides a great opportunity to teach about American history and culture. 

When using these resources for teaching Veterans Day, remember many students have family members who served in the armed forces and that discussions of combat require sensitivity. 

PBS Lesson Plan: Veterans Day and the Meaning of Sacrifice

This 45 minute teaching Veterans Day lesson plan for middle and high school students includes links to videos, quizzes, and tips on leading discussion activities aimed at helping students understand the history of the day and its ongoing importance. 

NEA: Veterans Day in The Classroom

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.

Scholastic: Veterans Day and Patriotism

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. 

Discovery Education -- U.S. – Why We Serve.

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. 

Veterans’ Stories: Struggles for Participation

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. 

Library of Congress: Primary Sources

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: Veterans Day Lessons

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. 

The Teacher’s Corner: Veterans Day Resources

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

Interview a Veteran

Older students can take the Veterans Day activities outside the classroom by starting an oral history project with local veterans.  Here is an article discussing how two Illinois high school teachers did just that with their students a few years ago. 

Read About Veterans in Historic Newspapers

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. 

Why Is There No Apostrophe in Veterans Day?

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. 

Erik Ofgang

Erik Ofgang is a journalist, author and educator. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, The Atlantic and Associated Press. He currently teaches at Western Connecticut State University’s MFA program. While a staff writer at Connecticut Magazine he won a Society of Professional Journalism Award for his education reporting. He is interested in how humans learn and how technology can make that more effective.