4 Thought-Provoking Memorial Day Activities for Students
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4 Thought-Provoking Memorial Day Activities for Students

Newsela Editorial
May 13, 2024

Each year on the last Monday of May we celebrate Memorial Day to remember and mourn our nation’s service members who have died protecting our country. It can be hard to remember exactly what we’re commemorating on this holiday and find a respectful way to honor it. That’s why we’ve curated a group of Memorial Day activities for students to help you answer any questions they have about why we mark this day on the calendar:


Use ELA activities to learn more about the significance of Memorial Day

Why is Memorial Day so important? How is it different from other patriotic holidays? These might be questions your students think about as the holiday gets closer. With Newsela ELA, you can create engaging lessons that answer their questions and provide opportunities for reflection and discussion:

How is Memorial Day different from Veterans Day?

Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and Independence Day are all patriotic holidays we celebrate yearly. But aside from taking place in different months, how are they actually different? Help students uncover what makes these holidays unique by:

  • Reading about the origins of Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day.

  • Completing a triple Venn Diagram with evidence from the readings to note what the holidays have in common and how they’re different.

  • Using the Venn Diagram to create a short story or poem highlighting the three holidays' similarities and differences.

Visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Virtually)

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. lists the names of over 58,000 Americans who died in service during the war. But what students might not know is that creating this memorial caused controversy in remembering an already contentious war. Students can discover more about the creation of the memorial with resources and activities like:

  • A biography of artist Maya Lin, who embraced minimalism in her work, especially when creating the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

  • A video that explores why the design of the memorial was controversial, and how it eventually became known as “The Wall That Heals.”

  • A media organizer that students can complete on paper or online in Formative to compare and contrast how video and print sources share information about Maya Lin and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial differently.

Poems About War

Many students may not understand the experiences that service members have. Especially those who have seen combat. Use poetry to help them understand what service members who lost their lives may have gone through with selections like:

  • The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred Lord Tennyson

  • To The Colored Soldiers” by Irvin W. Underhill

  • Before the Battle” by Siegfried Sassoon

  • O Captain! My Captain!” by Walt Whitman

  • Dulce et Decorum est” by Wilfred Owen

Teach about the history of Memorial Day with social studies activities

When did we start celebrating Memorial Day? Is “celebrating” even the right word to use when talking about this holiday? Have students work individually or with a partner to dive into content that helps answer these questions and more:

  • Explore the origins and earliest observances of the holiday.

  • Discover the different monuments and locations dedicated to memorializing fallen service members throughout the U.S.

  • See what items people leave at these memorial locations—and where they go next.

Keep the conversation going with more content and activities on Newsela

With multiple holidays throughout the year that remember our service members, veterans, and national independence, there are plenty of opportunities to create lessons and activities around these topics in your classroom with Newsela’s products.

If you’re not a Newsela ELA or Newsela Social Studies customer yet, you can sign up for Newsela Lite and try our premium differentiated content and activities for free. As a Newsela Lite subscriber, you can sign up for a free trial of our premium products to access even more great resources to engage your students and enhance your lessons.

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