I’ve always taught in school districts that do not get out of school until June, so I like to find ways to incorporate Memorial Day into my upper elementary instruction towards the end of the school year. If you’re still in school around Memorial Day or if you’re a homeschool teacher, you are probably looking for holiday-themed activities too. Luckily, there are lots of great Memorial Day reading comprehension activities you can use to teach students about the holiday as you review important reading skills.
If you’re looking for even more Memorial Day activities for kids, be sure to check out this video. In addition to reading comprehension activities, it also features math and career-based activities you can use around the end of May.
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Memorial Day Reading Comprehension Passage
One of my favorite ways to teach students about the history of a holiday is by having them read a passage. Then, students complete a variety of center activities to help them review and learn more about the topic of the passage. I created a Memorial Day reading passage all about the history and traditions associated with Memorial Day. Students read the passage with a partner and, then, we discuss what was read as a class.
Memorial Day Center Activities
I set up four stations around my classroom with Memorial Day reading comprehension activities that go with the passage. Students rotate through each station, completing the activities. It is best to leave a copy of the passage at the stations or have students carry the passage with them. This will give students something to reference while they work.
The first station is a cause and effect chart. Students
complete the graphic organizer by citing examples of cause and effect from the
Next, students create a Memorial Day reading comprehension
book. Rather than having the students respond to comprehension questions on a
worksheet, students respond to comprehension questions that are part of this
foldable book. Students can also color the pictures. When they are finished,
the book provides something fun they can take home and share with their
The third station has a word search activity. Now, I know what you may be thinking… word searches are not educational. I’ve heard this statement many times and it is only true if you choose not to make the word search educational. For my Memorial Day word search, students look for key terms from the passage. After finding each term, they must write a sentence about each term on a worksheet. Then, they must use at least five of the words to write a one-paragraph Memorial Day story.
The final station is all about honoring fallen soldiers. At
this station, students complete a worksheet where they brainstorm ways they can
honor soldiers who have sacrificed their lives in service to our country. If
time and resources allow, you can even take this activity a step further with a
STEM challenge. Encourage students to design and construct a model of a
memorial for fallen soldiers using only the materials you provide.
Memorial Day Books for Kids
There are also lots of great Memorial Day books that you can
use as read alouds on or around the holiday. Be sure to keep a tissue box close
by as you read these beautiful stories to your students!
- The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her
Tribute to Veterans by Barbara Walsh—This is a true story about a Georgia
teacher, Moina Belle Michael, who established the red poppy as the symbol used
to remember fallen soldiers during World War I. Thanks to Moina, the poppy
remains a symbol of remembrance today.
- The Wall by Eve Bunting—In this story, a boy and
his father visit the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. The two search for
the name of the boy’s grandfather on the wall. As they do, the boy learns about
the sacrifices soldiers make for their country.
- America’s White Table by Margot Theis Raven–
The White Table is set up in military dining halls as a symbol for fallen
soldiers. This story explains the significance of a white table ceremony and
teaches readers to appreciate the sacrifices made by servicemen and women.
- H is for Honor: A Military Family History by
Devin Scillian—With this story, kids learn about the branches of the military
as they walk through the alphabet. After reading, encourage students to create
their own military alphabet or create one as a class.
Letters for Soldiers
My last activity isn’t a Memorial Day reading comprehension activity, but it is still related to language arts. Having grown up in a military family, I know how much it means to the troops when they receive letters and care packages overseas. I use every patriotic holiday as an opportunity to have my students practice letter writing. Each student writes a friendly letter (using proper spelling and grammar, of course!) to a serviceman or woman deployed overseas. We also create a care package as a class. A few weeks before I mail the care package, I send a letter home to my students’ families. I ask them to donate items such as candy, iTunes gift cards, socks, and other small items the troops would appreciate.
You may be interested in writing letters or creating a care package, but aren’t sure who or where to mail them. If you do not know any servicemen or women, contact your local USO office. They can provide you with information about who and where to mail your letters and package. Another option is the organization A Million Thanks, which sends letters to deployed troops.
Memorial Day is a holiday many students know of because it signals the start of summer, but few students truly understand the significance of this important holiday. I hope you will incorporate some of these Memorial Day reading comprehension activities into your ELA instruction in May. Not only will your students have a greater understanding of the reasons why we celebrate the holiday, but they will also be able to practice reading skills in the process. Students enjoy these activities and learning about Memorial Day so much that they do not even realize they are learning!