Remembrance Day Essay Ideas

Remembrance is an act of humanity and it is about humanity. At Facing History and Ourselves, we often ask ourselves, How do we help students (and ourselves) to remember more than names, dates, and battles? How do we help students to connect to the humanity: the people behind the names, the lives, ideas, and cultures lost, and the legacies that extend beyond the signing of a treaty that signals the end of war?

With Remembrance Day, November 11th, just around the corner, many of us are asking our students to create meaningful ways to remember those who survived, served, or died in war. At Facing History, we often think about remembrance because it is such an important part of a journey into the study of historical atrocities and genocides. Not only do we feel the moral obligation to remember past atrocities, we also want to help our students to remember the past in a meaningful way that connects to them personally—in head, heart, and moral being. We want to honour the memories of those fallen—or murdered—in a way that builds a better tomorrow.

 

Here are several lesson ideas to explore on Remembrance Day and during the week to deepen students' learning:

1. Bring Firsthand Stories and Voices to Life using Reader's Theatre

 


Educators at a Facing History and Ourselves seminar performing a Reader's Theatre piece

Choose a few moments from texts such as a diaries, interviews, or other firsthand accounts from war that give students insight into the experiences—the everyday life experiences of individuals, or the experiences of individuals through critical moments in history. You can choose texts that represent different aspects of conflict (i.e. love, loss), roles (soldier, political leader, resister, or spouse), or times (beginning, middle, end) in a war.

Reader’s Theatre is an effective way to help students engage in primary text and historical perspective. Through this strategy, students process dilemmas experienced by individuals in a text. In this activity, groups of students are assigned a small portion of the text to present to their peers. As opposed to presenting skits of the plot, Reader’s Theatre asks students to create a performance that reveals a message, theme, or conflict represented by the text. Find additional diary excerpts or readings related to 21st century genocides.

2. Bring Testimony into Your Classroom


Holocaust survivor Nate Leipciger giving his testimony to students. Photo credit Nick Kozak

At the crux of learning about the history of genocide is hearing testimony from those who were targeted and survived. Meeting a survivor gives students the opportunity to encounter history personally.

Although the victims of the genocides surrounding World War I and World War II are not typically the focus of Remembrance Day, their voices and stories can help us go deeper into thinking about war: When and why do we enter into war? What can happen those who are vulnerable, under the cover of war? How does war take a toll on the norms of a nation? Can soldiers play humanitarian roles in war?

You can find survivor testimonies on our website, or through websites such as the Shoah Foundation's IWitness site. One way to ask students to debrief these testimonies is through a 3-2-1:

In a journal, write:
3 things that you heard/ learned in the testimony
2 things that you connected with
1 thing you will do, or stop doing in response to hearing the testimony

When we debriefed survivor Max Eisen's testimony at a Peel District school during Holocaust Education Week, we asked students to share their connections with each other, and then to share one on a large post-it note to give to Mr. Eisen. Students themselves placed their notes on the banner provided to spell HOPE.

The Woodlands' create a banner of personal reflections for Mr. Eisen following his testimony. Photo credit: student, The Woodlands.

3. Read and Create Poetry

Facing History teacher Ashley Watts used poems this year to help her students think about how our collective Canadian identity is shaped by the World Wars. First she introduced the poem "In Flanders Fields" to students using Reader's Theatre, then she gave groups additional poems to perform using the same teaching strategy. The poems she chose give voice to Canadians who survived the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, Japanese internment during WWII, and contemporary refugees of war.

Another suggestion is to try Found Poetry. Found poems are created through the careful selection and organization of words and phrases from existing text. Writing found poems provides a structured way for students to review material and synthesize their learning.

4. Create a Memorial and Stand in Honour of Those it Commemorates

Students can synthesize what they have learned about a historical moment, an individual, group of individuals, or even an idea through the creation of a memorial. The poppy is one enduring symbol of our remembrance for those who fought and died during the Great Wars. We can explore what this symbol represents today as we wear our pins, and what other memorials exist that help us to remember. What other events, individuals, or groups should we remember? What is the best way to remember?

Creating memorials allows for rich differentiation, as students can create their memorials in so many ways: songs, poems, films, paintings, photographs, wordles, or physical monuments are just a few examples.

Facing History teacher Clint Lovell and his class in Barrie, ON honoured the sacrifice of Canadians who gave their lives by creating and laying out crosses for each of the 80 men from Barrie who did not return from WWI. You can read about their work here in the Barrie Examiner.


Facing History educator Clint Lovell and his students laying down crosses to commemorate fallen soldiers from Barrie, ON during WWI. Photograph originally published in the Barrie Examiner. Credit: Bob Bruton

5. Exploring the Aftermath of Conflict Through Photography

As Sara Terry, the director of The Aftermath Project states, if we do not examine the aftermath of a conflict, we are only learning half the story. The Aftermath Project encourages students to ask questions about what happens after a conflict - how do people rebuild? How does a society learn to heal or move forward? What are the responsibilities of citizens to bring justice and remembrance? What is the price of peace?

Within this resource you can find fantastic photographs, strategies and questions to explore these and other questions—and to inspire students to ask their own questions. If you are looking for an additional photographic collection you could use, try the World Press Photo Exhibitions.Remembrance Day reminds us that we must remember those who lost their lives in war—as well as those who worked to bring peace, rebuild their lives, our communities, and our nations after war.

Remembrance Day also reminds us of our responsibility to learn from our past. We must remember because it is through remembrance of the tragedies of war that meaningful and informed action takes place to end further conflict. We must remember because remembrance of the past is intertwined with a responsibility to bring justice to those who are wronged, to repair the world—Tikkun Olam—and to create safeguards for the future.

Beyond Remembrance Day, how will you continue to help your students understand our role as Canadians in conflicts past and present? How will you help your students remember so that those who suffered did not do so in vain?


~~Remembrance day is the Anniversary of the official end of World War 1 hostilities on November 11th, 1918. World War 1 was a massive conflict, it was played out over the globe! But particularly Europe, Where troops from Canada supported the Allied forces.


World war 1 resulted in the loss of loads of people. Both civilian and military. Many more were badly injured, All left was emotional scars to the servicemen, Who has experienced it, And in the communities who had lost there sons, brothers, uncles, fathers, and even grandfathers.


November 11th is called Remembrance day in Canada, but it can be called something different in other countries. Theres Remembrance day, Armistic day, or poppy day.

Like in New Zealand its called Armistic day. Did you know, in the UK, the sunday closest to November 11th is called ‘Remembrance sunday’.

 

Remembrance day is symbolized by the artificial poppies that people wear. The symbol of remembrance comes from a poem written by John McCrae. The poem is called “In Flanders Fields” and describes the poppies growing in the flemish graveyards where soldiers were buried.

Poppies have long been used as a symbol of sleep, peace, and death: Sleep because of the common blood-red color of the red poppy in particular. In Greek and Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead.


The Flanders poppy has long been a part of Remembrance Day, the ritual that marks the Armistice of 11 November 1918, and is also increasingly being used as part of ANZAC dAY observances. During the First World War, red poppies were among the first plants to spring up in the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium. In soldiers' folklore, the vivid red of the poppy came from the blood of their comrades soaking the ground. The sight of poppies on the battlefield at Ypres in 1915 moved Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae to write the poem In Flanders fields. In English literature of the nineteenth century, poppies had symbolised sleep or a state of oblivion; in the literature of the First World War a new, more powerful symbolism was attached to the poppy – the sacrifice of shed blood.

 

Some people wonder, ‘Why did the war end?’. Well, it started like this.


The War of 1812 referred to as the "Second War of Independence" was a 32-month military conflict between the United States on one side, and on the other Great Britain, its colonies and its Indian allies in North America. The outcome resolved many issues which remained from the American war of Independance, but involved no boundary changes. The United States declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions brought about by Britain's continuing war with france, the impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion, outrage over insults to national honour after humiliations on the high seas, and possible American interest in annexing British North American territory which had been denied to them in the settlement ending the American Revolutionary War.

Now for the real question ‘Why did the war start?’


On June 18, America declared war on Britain. The war had many causes, but at the center of the conflict was the United Kingdom’s ongoing war with Napoleon’s France.

The war was fought from 1812 to 1815, although a peace treaty was signed in 1814. By the end of the war, 1,600 British and 2,260 American troops had died. Great Britain had been at war with France since 1793, and to impede neutral trade with France imposed a series of restrictions that the U.S. contested as illegal under international law. The Americans declared war on Britain on June 18, 1812 for a combination of reasons, including: outrage at the impressment (conscription) of American sailors into the British navy; frustration at British restraints on neutral trade; anger at alleged British military support for American Indians defending their tribal lands from encroaching American settlers; and a desire for territorial expansion of the Republic.

 

In Canada, Remembrance Day is a public holiday and federal statutory holiday, as well as a statutory holiday in all three territories and in six of the ten provinces Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec being the exceptions From 1921 to 1930, the Armistice Day Act provided that Thanksgiving would be observed on Armistice Day, which was fixed by statute on the Monday of the week in which 11 November fell. In 1931, the federal parliament adopted an act to amend the Armistice Day Act, providing that the day should be observed on 11 November and that the day should be known as "Remembrance Day".

The federal department of Veterans Affairs Canada states that the date is of "remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace"; specifically, the First and Second World Wars, the Korean War, and all conflicts since then in which members of the Canadian Forces have participated. The department runs a program called Canada Remembers with the mission of helping young and new Canadians, most of whom have never known war, "come to understand and appreciate what those who have served Canada in times of war, armed conflict and peace stand for and what they have sacrificed for their country”.

The arrival of the governor general is announced by a trumpeter sounding the "Alert", whereupon the viceroy is met by the Dominion President of the RCL and escorted to a dais to receive the Viceregal Salute, after which the national anthem,"O Canada", is played.


World War 1 was an extremely bloody war, with huge losses of life and little ground lost or won. Fought mostly by soldiers in trenches, World War 1 saw an estimated 10 million military deaths. While many hoped that World War 1 would be "the war to end all wars," in actuality, the concluding peace treaty set the stage for World War 2.


Germany didn't want to fight both Russia in the east and France in the west, so they enacted their long-standing Schlieffen Plan. The Schlieffen Plan was created by Alfred Graf von Schlieffen, who was the chief of the German general staff from 1891 to 1905.

Schlieffen believed that it would take about six weeks for Russia to mobilize their troops and supplies. So, if Germany placed a nominal number of soldiers in the east, the majority of Germany's soldiers and supplies could be used for a quick attack in the west.

Since Germany was facing this exact scenario of a two-front war at the beginning of World War 1, Germany decided to enact the Schlieffen Plan. While Russia continued to mobilize, Germany decided to attack France by going through neutral Belgium. Since Britain had a treaty with Belgium, the attack on Belgium officially brought Britain into the war.

While Germany was enacting its Schlieffen Plan, the French enacted their own prepared plan, called Plan XVII. This plan was created in 1913 and called for quick mobilization in response to a German attack through Belgium.

As German troops moved south into France and the French and British troops moved north to meet them, the massive armies met each other in a stalemate. By September 1914, neither side could force the other to move, so each side began to dig trenches. For the next four years, the troops would fight from these trenches.



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