Teaching children about the importance of Remembrance Day
Remembrance Day, observed on the 11th of November each year, is a solemn occasion to honour the memory of those who sacrificed their lives during the two World Wars and other conflicts. It is a day to reflect on the past, remember the heroes who fought for our freedom, and ensure that their sacrifices are never forgotten. Teaching young children about the significance of Remembrance Day can be challenging but is essential to instill values of empathy, gratitude, and respect. In this blog, we will explore various resources and approaches to help primary school age children understand the importance of Remembrance Day.
One of the most effective ways to introduce the concept of Remembrance Day to young children is through age-appropriate literature. There are several beautifully illustrated children's books that focus on the themes of sacrifice, courage, and remembrance. Here are a couple of options:
- "Poppy Day” by Eliza Berison: This book is ideal for young audiences and aims at pre-school age up to Key Stage 1. “Poppy Day is a calm children's tale about a young child and his mother, learning and remembering the traditions of November 11th.”
- “Where The Poppies Now Grow” by Hilary Robinson: aimed at children, this book helps to introduce the idea of war and what it was like in the trenches… "sympathetic narrative poem uses repetition and rhythm to excellent effect ... gentle watercolour illustrations soften subject matter which could be distressing for young children." --The English Association
- For older children why not take a look at the powerful WW1 stories, “War Horse” by Michael Morpurgo and “War Game” by Michael Foreman, both of which are used in our Y6 Historical Fiction block.
Poppies and Symbolism
The red poppy is a symbol of Remembrance Day. It is used to honour the memory of the fallen soldiers and is often worn as a lapel pin or used in various crafts. Introduce the concept of the poppy to children and discuss its symbolism. Encourage them to create their own poppy crafts, which can be an engaging and hands-on way to teach them about the significance of Remembrance Day. You can find more about this, along with specific activities, via our units listed in the Topic resources section below.
Stories of Real Heroes
Sharing stories of real-life heroes can be a powerful way to help children relate to the concept of Remembrance Day. While it is important to be sensitive to the age-appropriateness of the stories, there are many child-friendly tales of bravery and sacrifice. For example, stories such as Private John Henry Parr, believed to be the first British soldier killed during the war, or tales of animals like "Sergeant Stubby," a heroic dog from World War I, can captivate children's imaginations and teach them about valour and selflessness.
Included in your Hamilton subscription is access to a number of topic units and session plans which will help you to teach about Remembrance Day, including cross-curricular work in English and art.
Key Stage 1 has access to our ‘Beyond Living Memory: Commemorating History’ units which include Remembrance Day and encourages children to think about their own lives and memories before moving on to learn about the poppy as a symbol of remembrance. The topic block also provides opportunities to explore how Remembrance Day is marked in Britain and in other countries.
Key Stage 2 can find lessons on Remembrance included in the World War 1 mini topic which helps them to understand why it is important to remember the fallen and to consider the impact of such events in our history. The final session of the block explores the meaning and significance of the main elements of a Remembrance Day service.
For a more in-depth study, try out the history-focused topic blocks in the World War 2 topic for Upper Key Stage 2. Here you can find sessions on the beginning and end of the war, as well as lessons about the Home Front, the Battle of Britain and Anne Frank.
Art and Creative Activities
Art is a powerful medium to convey emotions and messages. Encourage children to express their understanding of Remembrance Day through art and creative activities. For instance, you can organise art sessions where children create their own posters, paintings, or collages that reflect the themes of peace and remembrance. This allows children to channel their emotions and thoughts into a tangible form, making the lesson more personal and memorable.
Visit Local Memorials
If possible, taking a field trip to local war memorials can be a deeply moving experience for children. Seeing the physical monuments and reading the names of fallen soldiers can help them understand the real impact of war and the importance of remembrance. Many communities have annual Remembrance Day ceremonies that are open to the public and provide an opportunity for children to participate in honouring veterans and learning about the sacrifices made.
Discussion and Reflection
Encourage open discussions about Remembrance Day. Create a safe space where children can ask questions and share their thoughts and feelings. This not only helps them understand the historical significance but also promotes empathy and a deeper connection to the subject. Ask questions like "Why is it important to remember?" and "How can we show our gratitude to veterans?"
Teaching primary school age children about Remembrance Day instils values of empathy, gratitude, and respect. Utilising age-appropriate resources and engaging activities can help children grasp the significance of this important day. By fostering an environment of open discussion and reflection, we can ensure that the sacrifices of the past are never forgotten, and the lessons of history continue to shape a better future. Remembrance Day is not just about looking back; it's about inspiring the generations of tomorrow to create a more peaceful world.
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