Teaching about Veterans Day in special education

On November 11 we celebrate Veterans Day. For most classrooms, this is an important, but not so challenging holiday to address. But, as with all things in special education, we need to take a different approach. We cannot assume our students have the previous knowledge, or even vocabulary to fully appreciate the meaning of this day. So, how can you go about making sure your students fully understand and appreciate the importance of Veterans Day? Let’s take a closer look. At the end of this post, I have a writing prompt you can download for free to use with your students on November 11.

1. Examine the history

I like to make sure my students have an appreciation of where traditions and celebrations came from. This is also true for Veterans day. Of course, I like to make a book. It doesn’t have to be super fancy, and it should be at the reading and comprehension level of your students.

If making a book does not fit with your time frame, how about a video? A quick search on YouTube will bring up lots of short video options that will teach your students about the history of this holiday.

Here are some good ones I found:

  • https://youtu.be/ymCa1eB_qLA
  • https://youtu.be/oqgrkeZZe3g
  • https://youtu.be/c-qxrCRfcS4
  • https://youtu.be/mWD4Oy6fKlo

2. Address the vocabulary

Many of your students may not understand what a veteran truly is. It is a word that may be unfamiliar and hold little to no meaning for them. For this reason, I decided to create a whole second book to deepen their understanding of the word veteran. I knew this would also benefit me when it came to teaching about Memorial day in May.

Don’t forget a vocabulary board! These are so valuable. Once you and your students get used to using them, you will feel lost without it. A vocabulary board is simply a set of picture symbols that relate directly to the topic you are teaching. Students can then use those symbols in class discussions, activities, and even assessments. Don’t be fooled into thinking your students don’t need them or are too advanced. When learning new information, we want to remove as many barriers as possible, and communication is a big one for this population. Struggling to find the right word when asking or answering a question is quickly eliminated with the use of a vocabulary board. If you put the time in once, you can use them year after year.

This is also the perfect time to get a student’s family involved. Perhaps there is someone in their family who is a veteran. That familiarity will help deepen the student’s understanding of this word and how it impacts them personally. I came up with an easy family involvement activity that was very popular with my students. All you have to do, is just reach out and ask parents if there is a veteran in the family they would like to have honored in a classroom ceremony. Parents will hopefully talk about this with their child, and then send in a star with that family member’s name and picture of possible. All of those stars will end up decorating your classroom door the first half on November.

Family Involvement Activity

3. Reinforce with lots of activities

We all know our students need a lot of repetition (preferably with variety) to fully master new material. There was no way my students could learn and remember everything I wanted them to about this holiday with only one day’s worth of lessons.

First, I reinforced the content of the books I had written through allowing students to “take notes” on the important points. Since most of my students were non-readers, and almost none of them could write legibly, I found circle maps, using pictures, was the best way for them to independently record this information. I always had 2 versions available. One circle map would be errorless. Students just needed to cut out the pictures and place them in the circle. The other circle map had wrong answers (or distractors) mixed in. This was perfect for my older and higher level students.

Circle map

I like to integrate a theme into as many subjects as possible to help students with generalization. So, we did some patterns in math that used common picture symbols from unit.

Simple pattern worksheets

I also wanted to reinforce calendar and number skills. So simply being able to find the correct date (November 11) on a calendar was a perfect addition to my lesson plan.

Color in the correct date

I am not always a big “arts and craft” person, but we did add some to this unit, and my kiddos loved doing them. I had one for my students who were able to cut and paste on their own, and one for students who could not.

easier art project

By now, you know I love writing prompts. They are an errorless way for students to freely communicate something they have learned about the material. You can get this writing prompt for free by clicking the button below.

Writing prompt, download below

4. Assessment

Preassesesment was hopefully the very first step in your process. I love giving my assessment to students prior to starting a unit. That way, not only do I have a clear understanding of what they know, but I also have a way to measure their growth. This unit was short, so I opted for a simple close worksheet. It worked great.

Assessment: close worksheet

I truly believe with this format, your students will not only have some cute artwork to take home, but will have a deeper and more personal connection to this holiday. Of course you can get my entire unit on Veterans Day. Just click HERE to check it out.

Download here
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