Remembrance Sunday in November is an important date in the British calendar and sees ceremonies held across the country to remember those who have died in war. For schools, the idea of remembrance links to the national curriculum in both history and citizenship. An assembly held close to Remembrance Sunday can be an opportunity to get every child at school thinking about the subject of remembrance - and what it means today.
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Include some traditional elements
Certain aspects of public remembrance have become traditional since the day was first marked in 1919. The poppy symbolises remembrance in the United Kingdom so you could ask each child to wear one to the Remembrance Day assembly; the money the Royal British Legion collects from poppy sales is put to good use helping injured servicemen. During assembly, a teacher or pupil could recite some war poetry, such as John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields.” Most public services of remembrance also include a reading of “The Exhortation” by Laurence Binyon, with everyone present repeating the final line, “We will remember them.” You could also ask the children to observe a minute’s silence in memory of the war dead.
Read out names on a local war memorial
Reading out names listed on a memorial was common practice when memorials were unveiled and at Remembrance services in the 1920s, and can be a very moving part of the ceremony. If your school has its own memorial, or there is a suitable memorial locally, a teacher or group of children could read out names as part of the assembly. Obviously the age of the children involved and the number of names on the memorial are both factors in whether this is practical in the context of a school assembly, but reading the names can emphasise that among those being remembered were real people with a connection to your locality.
Associated research projects
It can be difficult for children to grasp abstract ideas about war and remembrance, but allowing them do their own research on those who have died can improve their understanding. Build a research project around your school memorial or any other local war memorial to find out about the soldiers named on it. The War Memorials Trust’s helpsheet (warmemorials.org) will help you identify locally held sources of information that students can use. Allow children to present their work as part of the Remembrance Day assembly.
Have a guest speaker
Hearing an ex-soldier or another person who has experienced war speak can make a Remembrance Day assembly particularly memorable for children. Contact your local Royal British Legion branch to see if any members would be prepared to talk - check the central Legion website (britishlegion.org.uk) to find the branch closest to you. Ex-soldiers are not all old men; most British veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are in their 20s and 30s. Alternatively, the Holocaust Memorial Trust can help find speakers who experienced the Holocaust or the genocide in Rwanda.
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- Royal British Legion: Learning Pack 2012
- Royal British Legion: Remembrance Sunday
- “The Silence of Memory: Armistice Day, 1919-1946”; Adrian Gregory PhD
- War Memorials Trust: Researching The Names On A Local War Memorial
- Royal British Legion: Royal British Legion Branches
- Holocaust Memorial Trust: Organisations Providing Speakers