3 Must Do Veterans Day Activities for Upper Elementary

veterans day programs elementary school

When I began my teaching career, my grandfather, a WWII veteran, asked me to make sure that my students always understood the difference between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. It seemed silly to me at the time because I grew up always knowing the difference between these two American holidays. I quickly learned that my students did not. Teaching students about Veterans Day became a passion of mine, and a day that I always looked forward to celebrating in the classroom.

Throughout the course of my career, and within the different districts that I worked in, Veterans Day was honored and celebrated quite differently. From having the day off to having a school-wide all-day celebration, and everything in between; I have done it all. 

With such varied experiences, I have found that I still rely on the same three activities to help students truly understand what Veterans Day is all about.

1. Comparing and Contrasting Veterans Day and Memorial Day

3 Must Do Veterans Day Activities for Upper ElementaryI always start discussing Veterans Day by comparing and contrasting it to Memorial Day using a large chart paper size Venn diagram. You can complete this organizer through information you share in your discussions, reading informational text on the two different holidays, or after a read aloud of the book, The Wall* , written by Even Bunting. This book tells the story of a man and his son looking for the grandfather's name on the Wall in Washington DC that honors military men and women who died in the Vietnam War. While at the Wall, the young boy sees an injured veteran. This lends itself perfectly to discussing how a Veteran is someone who is honored on Veterans Day and the grandfather who died in the war, is honored on Memorial Day.

Teacher Tip: Be sure to hold on to this Venn diagram and bring it back out again when Memorial Day comes around and revisit this conversation with your students. 

To further help students understand a day in the life of our military men and women, and the sacrifices they make, read aloud the picture book H is for Honor* the week of Veterans Day. 

Grab a free copy of the informational article and Venn diagram that I use with my students at the bottom of this post.

2. Focused Jigsaw Style Lessons

free veterans day activities
Students love to learn about our country's Military, its history, and our Veterans. One way to have focused Veterans Day lessons is to plan lessons about each military branch. Instead of doing all the lesson planning on your own, collaborate with your grade-level partner teachers. Each year, I teach a short 15-minute focused lesson about the Navy. This lesson includes a brief overview of the Navy, how Naval ships are named, and a hands-on measuring activity that has the kids working in groups using meter tape to measure the lengths of different Naval ships. (We go outside if weather permitting or take our measuring to the hallway if it is too cold.) While I am teaching this lesson, each of my colleagues is teaching their classes a short lesson on a different branch of the military. We then rotate our students through each classroom so that every student participates in a variety of focused lessons about each branch of the military. The kids love traveling to different classrooms and learning all about our military and honoring the brave work that they do. By the end of the rotation, they have had several Veterans Day lessons and learned about each branch of the military.

3. Community Service Projects

3 Must Do Veterans Day Activities for Upper ElementaryOf all the activities that I have done with students on Veterans Day, I have found that community service projects that connect students with local Veterans are the most meaningful. Some ideas that I have implemented include:
  • Sending student written letters or cards to local veterans
  • Sending student created "forever flowers" in red and white and blue like the ones pictured here
  • Hosting a Veterans Day assembly and inviting local veterans. Have students sing American songs in honor the veterans. 
Any community service idea that you come up with that connects students to veterans is a great way to show students how they can give back to the men and women who give so much to protect us. Ask students for their ideas, too! They often have the best ideas when it comes to community service projects.

Spending time learning about Veterans Day and our American military shows students how much we value and appreciate the bravery of our Armed Forces. Reach out the families of your students to find out if anyone has anyone has Veterans in their families. If they do, you might choose to have your students write letters and cards of gratitude to them, too! 

You might be interested in reading: 6 Autumn Picture Books for Upper Elementary Students

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free Veterans Day Activities for Upper Elementary

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3 Easy Halloween Writing Activities for Upper Elementary

halloween writing prompts

There is nothing more motivating to upper elementary students than the holidays!

I love to use special days throughout the year to engage students across content areas. We read holiday and seasonal picture books, practice close reading strategies with nonfiction holiday passages, play holiday games during math, and of course, you can find holiday writing activities adorning the walls.

There is no holiday or season more exciting to students than Halloween! Here are my favorite writing activities to do with students to harness all of their Halloween excitement into focused learning opportunities.

Haunted Haiku Writing
Fall themed alternative: Harvest Haiku 

Haiku poems are focused on one narrow topic and written with exactly 17 syllables. 

Since haiku poetry follows a strict pattern, all students, including struggling writers, see this form of poetry as an attainable task that they will finish successfully. 

Have students write a Halloween haiku about any Halloween topic they like, or create a brainstormed list of topics together as a class such as: candy corn, bats, spiders, costumes, and ghosts. Teacher tip: Write each topic from your brainstormed list on small pieces of paper and place them into a basket. Next,  have students select a topic from the basket. This will not only ensure a variety of topics will be written about, but also helps students to get to work writing their haiku immediately! 

(Grab a free Halloween haiku template to use with your students at the bottom of this post.)

How to Carve a Pumpkin Writing
Fall themed alternative: How to Enjoy Fall

"How-To" writing is the most engaging of the writing genres, yet it is also the most forgotten! 

Students love to be the expert and write "how-to" pieces! If you want to write Halloween how-to's students can write the steps of carving a pumpkin. If you want to write seasonal how-to's, students can write the steps of any fall activity, like leaf pile jumping or making candied apples.  Keep this project simple by using lined paper and plain white paper. Have students fold the plain white paper into eighths and label each box 1-8. Next, have students illustrate each step to carving a pumpkin in the boxes to illustrate their written piece. 

What I love about procedural writing is that it provides students with the opportunity to not only write about how to do something but illustrate how to do it, too. This makes an adorable and informative bulletin board for fall!

Persuasive Writing Teacher Halloween Costume
Fall themed alternative: Book Character Day 

This is my favorite Halloween writing project and is perfect to complete with students as early as the first week of October. 

The concept is simple: students must pick a costume for you to wear on Halloween and write a persuasive writing essay to convince you to pick their costume idea. What I love about this persuasive writing prompt is that you can turn this into as big or as small of a project as you want. I have used this prompt as a simple morning journal entry and I have also done an elaborate writing project complete with bulletin board display of student's writing and illustrations of me in their costume (which are priceless). This is a highly motivating project for all students and makes a great introduction to persuasive writing, as well as adorable bulletin board display.

Teacher tip: Read aloud students' writing pieces anonymously and allow students to vote on what costume they want you to wear!

Whether you want to welcome Halloween or fall into your classroom, engage your students with high interest and holiday and seasonally themed writing activities. Not only will your students love it and be highly engaged, but you will love the writing that they produce!

Looking for more high-interest Halloween and Fall activities for your classroom like these
Print and Digital Differentiated
Halloween Math Games?

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Looking for more Halloween activities to engage your upper elementary students? Check out the activities below:

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