Memorial Day Lesson Plan

By Annie Thornton 04.28.2016 blog

This two-day lesson plan demonstrates the importance of Memorial Day for students. It includes Channel One News videos and slideshows, as well as links to pertinent writing such as the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae and the story of the role of poppies as the Flower of Remembrance. Students will write two brief pieces, explaining the impact of World War I, and finally, a plan for celebrating Memorial Day and honoring fallen soldiers.

Day 1


Check for Understanding:

  • What was the main cause of World War I?
  • Why did so many nations enter the war?
  • How did World War I change the way we fight wars?
  • How many soldiers participated in World War I? How many soldiers died?

View Slideshow

Image Credit: Anton Holoborodko

World War I, which claimed the lives of 16 million people, officially ended in 1919 with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. Nearly a hundred years later, many of the world’s conflicts can be traced back to that war and its immediate aftermath.

Image Credit: University of Texas' Perry-Castañeda Library map collection

During WWI, the world’s great powers took sides against one another. On one side were the Central Powers: Germany, the Austro-Hungarian empire, and Ottoman empire. On the other side were the Allied Powers: Britain, France, and Russia. When the war ended, the defeated German, Austro-Hungarian, and Ottoman empires were in ruins.

Image Credit: SPC Ronald Shaw Jr., U.S. Army

The Allied Powers took advantage of their victory by redrawing the world map. Britain and France carved up the lands of the Ottoman Empire without consideration for religious or ethnic differences. They created the country of Iraq by joining Kurdish, Shiite, and Sunni provinces. Today, Iraq is violently splitting apart along those prewar lines.

Image Credit: Georg Pahl

The Treaty of Versailles required Germany to give up 10% of its land and pay the Allied Powers for the damages they suffered during the war. Historians believe that the humiliation and economic pain caused by these harsh terms led to the rise of the ultra-nationalist Nazis, who viewed Jews as foreigners they could blame for Germany’s decline.

Image Credit: United States Holocaust Museum

Even before WWII, Jews fleeing anti-Semitism in Europe had been migrating to the area then known as Palestine. They believed that they would only be safe in a Jewish homeland. After the Holocaust, the Nazi’s systematic slaughter of 6 million Jews, much of the world agreed.

Image Credit: Fred Csasznik

On May 14, 1948, with support from the United States, the Soviet Union, and other countries, the Jews living in Palestine declared that they were forming the State of Israel. Today, Israel is still in violent conflict with the Arabs displaced by its formation.

Image Credit: Anton Holoborodko

Although Russia was one of the victorious Allied Powers, it suffered 3 million casualties — more than any other country. Dissatisfaction with the war led to the Russian Revolution of 1917, the creation of the Soviet Union, and its Cold War with the United States. Today, the Soviet Union no longer exists, but experts see Russia’s current aggression against Ukraine as an extension of Cold War hostilities.

Turn and Talk

How did decisions made during the aftermath of WWI create future conflicts throughout the world?

Explanatory Writing

In a few paragraphs, describe the consequences of World War I that the world is still coping with today. How were future generations of American soldiers affected? Cite evidence from the story script and the Extend Slideshow.

Share student responses.


Day 2


The Flower of Remembrance

Check for Understanding:

  • Who are the “We” referred to in McCrae’s poem?
  • What are the “crosses, row on row” McCrae describes?
  • What is the reader asked to do in the poem’s final stanza?
  • How do you think the poem influenced Anna Guerin and Moina Michael? Explain.


Check for Understanding:

  • What do the poppies symbolize?
  • How have visitors reacted to the memorial?


  • Do you think this is a fitting tribute to memorialize those who lost their lives in battle? Why or why not?
  • What are some ways we remember or honor fallen soldiers throughout the United States?

Turn and Talk

Turn to a partner and discuss different ways we can best honor our fallen U.S. soldiers. Here are a few resources to help you get started:

Toll of U.S. War Dead

The Story Taps

Taps Performed at Arlington Cemetery

Department of Veterans Affairs Cemetery Listing

Flying the American Flag at half staff

How to fold a U.S. flag

Correct display of a U.S. flag

How to make felt poppies

Explanatory Writing

Work with your partner to develop a plan to honor U.S. soldiers who have lost their lives defending our country. Include who you’ll involve, what you’d like to do, where the plan will take place and all of the necessary details to complete your idea. Write down your memorial plan, including an explanation as to why you think this is a worthy tribute.


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