Veterans Day not only highlights the importance of thanking those who protect our country, but it also gives teachers the chance to help students connect with the veterans in their lives. Understanding perspectives and learning from the experiences of others is essential for us to grow as readers and writers. Here are a few activities I use with my middle school students to help them think more deeply about the importance of Veterans Day.
Veteran’s Day is always on November 11th, but this year the federal holiday is on Friday, November 10, 2023. My favorite inspirational quote to use with my students during this time is from Ralph Waldo Emerson. To me, it sums up what our servicemen and servicewomen put into action on a daily basis. If you are short on planning time, use the quote below as a daily writing prompt and ask your students how it relates to the theme of Veterans Day.
I have had the good fortune of knowing many veterans. Friends, husbands of friends, and my stepdad are some of the veterans in my life. They have served in Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the Iraq War. While I know their stories can be hard, I love listening. I am grateful and indebted to each of them for their service to our country.
Over the last few years, my children have interviewed our family members for a variety of school assignments and projects. This inspired me to reach out to my stepdad to learn more about his life as a retired member of the military. I wanted to share something unique with my middle school classroom for Veterans Day, and hearing the experiences of a real person is much more engaging for my students compared to a generic reading passage.
My stepdad was in the Vietnam War, which was obviously one of the most controversial wars in U.S. history. While the war was fought from 1959–1975, his tours took place during 1966 and 1967. While I knew my stepdad was a Vietnam veteran, I had never taken the time to ask him questions about his experiences in the military. I knew he flew helicopters, but that was about all of the insight I had. It was amazing the perspective I gained after talking with him.
He shared that in the 50+ years that have passed, no one has asked him the questions I did, and he was grateful I asked them. I have to say that I am too! He is an inspiration. Hearing his story reminds me of why it is so essential that we take the time to thank our veterans for their selfless service and celebrate them every chance we get. We owe our freedom to their relentless bravery and sacrifice. Thank you, Pappa, and each and every one of the veterans who have proudly served our country!
Reader’s Theater Activity
If you enjoy my reader’s theater scripts, I created a Veterans Day script and lesson unit that is based on the interview I had with my stepdad. In addition to the script itself, there are worksheets with reader response questions, context clue word work, journal prompts, and more. You can buy and download the PDF by clicking the image below.
If you are searching for a unique activity to engage your middle school students, this Veteran’s Day Readers Theater Toolkit is a great resource to try.
Veteran Interview Activity
Another idea is to challenge your students to speak to the veterans in their lives. They have amazing stories of bravery and service. Even a simple phone interview can provide multiple writing prompts that students can use for both writing and student conversation activities.
I have found that most students enjoy learning about their family veterans, and they are proud to share the things they learned through the interview. You can download my Veteran Interview PDF Freebie for inspiration below.
Veterans have stories and experiences that our students can learn from in many ways. While we often focus on reading books as language arts teachers, hearing stories and asking questions help our students practice essential language skills. Encourage your students to talk to veterans. Their stories are incredible, and the lessons the next generation can learn during this time can go far beyond the typical reading and writing assignments.
Thank you, veterans! We are indebted to you, we pray for you, and we salute you!