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Lesson Extension 3
Commemoration and Choices

Lesson Focus:
How the commemoration of events can strengthen and build community

Extension to:
Lesson 4: "Events as a Catalyst/Trigger for Response or Non-Response"
Lesson 5: "The World Responds"

Lesson Objectives:

  • Students will understand what it means to commemorate an event and how commemoration can help people honor and remember a significant event.
  • Students will recognize how commemorating an event can strengthen a community and bring people together.
  • Students will understand that choices they make can affect change in their communities.

Curriculum Areas: Social Studies

Time Required: 40 minutes, plus homework time

Materials Needed: Copies of "Understanding Commemoration" reproducible (PDF); board and markers/chalk; pens and pencils

Key Concepts: There are many different types of events that people experience, observe, or hear about. People must respond to any event, and the event can present them with choices. The consequences of these choices can shape individuals and communities. Commemoration is a way to honor the memory of a specific event, and presents an opportunity for people to assess the choices made in response to the event, and the consequences.

Lesson Background: When an event occurs, people make choices as to how to respond. People's choices have consequences, and these consequences can have far-reaching effects that can strengthen a community, weaken a community, or leave it unchanged. Commemoration is a way for people to remember and honor a significant event, to reflect upon the choices they have made in response to the event, and to make further choices that affect not only their lives but also the lives of others. The choices people make, both large and small, may not seem important at the time, but little by little personal choices form an individual, shape a community, and ultimately can define a nation.

What You Will Do:

  • Help your students begin to understand what commemoration is by reviewing an event that affected many people. (See definition of event below.) This can be something that affects an entire nation or nations, such as the tsunami in Southeast Asia in 2004, the events of 9/11/2001, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, or something on a smaller scale that affects a region or local community. Discuss the event with your students. Ask them how they think people may have responded to the event (e.g., shock, fear, sadness) and some choices made in response to the event (donations, showed support for others, etc.). Write these responses on the board.
  • Explain to students that events cause people to make choices. After 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, for example, people throughout the United States and around the world chose to come together to offer help and support to people affected by these events. For example, some people donated money, food, and clothing; they found different ways that they could show support and honor for those who had experienced loss. For some examples, have students read articles on Scholastic News Online, such as "Read for Relief", which reports on responses made after Hurricane Katrina, and "Kids Make a Difference", which describes responses made after 9/11. Discuss with students: What were the choices people made in response to these events? What do you think were the consequences (far-reaching effects) of those choices?
  • Now review with students the meaning of the word commemorate (see definition below). Ask students what they think the word means and write down definitions on the board. Have students make suggestions about how people typically commemorate an event (e.g., monuments, statues, songs, reenactments, etc.). Explain that people use commemorations to remember and honor an event or person of significance. This is also a time to reflect upon choices made in response to the event and the consequences of those choices.
  • Return to the significant event that you chose in the beginning of the lesson. Review the list of responses and choices people made as a result of the event. Encourage students to think of any other responses or choices. Guide students to think about the consequences and far-reaching effects of these choices. How does commemorating the event provide an opportunity to reflect upon those choices and consequences?
  • After you have completed the discussion, divide the class into groups of four or five students. Distribute the "Understanding Commemoration" Reproducible and instruct the groups to complete Part 1.
  • After each group has completed Part 1, ask for volunteers to read their answers aloud. Briefly discuss the answers to Part 1 with the class. Then instruct students to complete Part 2 of the reproducible for homework and write about an event that your class, school, or local community can commemorate. Point out that they can write about worldwide events, national events, or local events that have impacted your community.

Ask for volunteers to read their essays to the class. Encourage students to ask questions to each other about what they have written. Remind them that significant events have effects that last long after the event is over. Tell students that the choices people make in responding to these events also changes over time.

Extension: Researching Commemorations
Have students research different types of commemorations in their community, nation, and throughout the world. What event(s) or person(s) are honored or remembered by the commemoration? What choices did people make in response to the event, and what were the consequences? How did these choices strengthen, or not strengthen, the communities or nations affected by the event?

Answers to Reproducible:

  1. To honor a person or an event
  2. Answers will vary but may include: so we don't forget the event, to honor those who died, etc.
  3. Answers will vary but may include: monuments, statues, songs, etc.
  4. Answers will vary but may include: donating money, volunteering, sending clothes and other items to charities, etc.; answers will vary

Key Definitions

  • commemorate (verb) to remember or honor a significant event or person
  • event (noun) something that happens, especially something interesting or important

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