Friday, May 6, 2016

Meaningful Ways for Students to Observe Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day

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Holiday celebrations in the classroom can be epic, don't you think? I see so many creative lesson ideas, crafts, and activities for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine's Day, and other big-time holidays that you could probably dedicate a whole month for each of them!

When the school year runs from August to May, though, there are some major holidays just don't get the love they deserve, especially a few important patriotic observances in the USA. If we are to encourage citizenship and a responsibility to preserve freedom among our students, Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day definitely deserve some attention from us as part of the curriculum. Even though school might not be session on the days they're observed, we can still teach our students how to honor them, which is where the featured freebie in this week's blog post comes in.

One of the first resources I ever shared on Teachers Pay Teachers was an free activity called "What Do You Know About Veterans' Day?" It was a simple 5-question quiz that was meant to activate prior knowledge or supplement a reading or discussion about the holiday. From there, I created the similar activities for seven other patriotic holidays, including Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day, that I've also shared for free with teachers. In recent weeks, I've started to update these older resources and even beef them up with more content to make them even more attractive and useful to teachers. The major addition to them is a printable list of ways that students can thoughtfully observe the holidays. Believe me. I love a big, fun family cookout and jaw-dropping fireworks show just as much as anyone else, but there are so many deeper, more personal opportunities to connect to these holidays that we can share with our students. After all, isn't that our goal--to empower our students to do something meaningful with the knowledge they have? 

So here are some ideas to encourage students to thoughtfully participate in Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day on their own and with their families and friends. You can download these along with the 5-question quizzes for each holiday using the link that follows or by clicking on the images. Everything is free! 

Memorial Day

Thank a veteran or active service member.
Maybe you have a family or friend who has served or is serving in the military. Take a moment to say “thank you” for his or her service.

Visit a war memorial or statue.
Statues and memorials honoring fallen military men and women are found in many cities. Visit one. Take time to reflect on the sacrifices men and women throughout history made to protect the country’s freedom—and your own.

Attend a Memorial Day ceremony or service.
Many towns, cities, and organizations hold ceremonies to remember the ultimate sacrifices paid by servicemen and women. Go listen to special speakers, music, and tributes honoring fallen military men and women.

Attend a Memorial Day parade.
Show your gratitude to servicemen and women by attending a parade. Wave, salute, or just silently consider the sacrifices these men and women and others have made on your behalf.

Volunteer to decorate military graves.
A Memorial Day tradition is to place American flags on the graves of military men and women. Contact a local cemetery to find out who does this and get in touch with the organization to volunteer.

Read a book or watch a film about Memorial Day
Learn more about the history of this solemn day by reading a book or watching a film about it. Share what you learn with family and friends. 

Flag Day

Display an American flag.
Whether it’s a large one hung from a flag pole, a small one displayed in a window, or tiny one pinned to your shirt, you can honor the Stars and Stripes by exhibiting a flag.

Read the Flag Code.
Do you know that there are special rules about how to handle and observe the flag? Read up on the Flag Code, which explains how to care for and show respect to the American flag.

Attend a Flag Day ceremony.
Many organizations hold ceremonies to mark the birthday of the American flag. Pay tribute by listening to special speakers and patriotic music that honors the flag.

Wear red, white, and blue.
This one is easy! Dress in patriotic colors to match the colors of the American flag. Research the meaning of each color on the flag.

Enter an art, music, or essay contest about the flag.
Research some opportunities to creatively honor the flag through art, music, or writing.

Listen to the Star-Spangled Banner (and read the lyrics).
Do you know that there is more than one verse in the national anthem? Read all the verses and listen to a recording of it. Reflect on what the flag meant to Francis Scott Key when he wrote this song in 1814 and what it means to you today. 

Independence Day

Display an American flag.
Commemorate the birthday of the United States by showing a symbol of it—big or small!

Read the Declaration of Independence.
This short but important document officially created the United States as a new and separate nation, no longer under the rule of a king who mistreated his colonial subjects. Read about the rights endowed to all people that are the basis of the freedoms we have.

Read what happened to the signers of the Declaration.
The decision to separate from Great Britain was not an easy one for many colonists. Patriots and their families risked much and faced danger for voicing their beliefs. Research some of the names on the Declaration of Independence to find out what these men endured after putting their names on this document.

Attend an Independence Day parade.
Join family, neighbors, and other community members to the celebrate the United States’ independence as you enjoy music, floats—and maybe even a little candy!

Reflect on how freedom impacts your life.
Most of us have never experienced oppression in the way that the American colonists did or the way that even people today in countries with little to no freedoms do. Think about how your life has been impacted by the freedom in this country and how you can preserve freedom for future generations.

Attend a fireworks display.
Independence Day is an event to celebrate by taking part in fun activities like fireworks. If you’re lucky, you may even get to hear a patriotic soundtrack as you watch the show!

You can download these printable lists along with the quizzes here.

Do you have suggestions to add? Leave a comment!

Meaningful Ways for Students to Observe Memorial Day, Flag Day, and Independence Day

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