Lesson 2: How and what do people commemorate?


In this lesson pupils examine ‘national’ commemorations, before moving on to explore some local forms of commemoration.


  • Introduce pupils to different types of commemoration – See Resource 3 for examples.
  • Discuss the special ways in which a country remembers its dead.
  • Teacher guides discussion by selecting some examples of commemorating the dead in national tragedies and the public commemorations which follow them, for example,
    • the anniversary of the 1988 Lockerbie air crash or
    • the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
  • Pupils use the images to explore how some commemorations are celebrated publicly by whole countries and how these are sometimes called national commemorations, for example,
    • National Memorial Day in the US held on last Monday in May,
    • Holocaust Memorial Day on 26th January each year .
  • Ask pupils to suggest examples of other national days (e.g. May Day).
  • Draw attention to the fact that these commemorations are public and openly celebrated by everyone in the country.
  • Can pupils suggest other forms of public or national commemorations, e.g
    • the Hillsborough disaster commemorated in September 2012 in Liverpool, 23 years after the event.

By the end of the launch stage children will have made a list of five or six examples of national commemorations.


  • Teacher circulates a set of fourA4 topic cards to each group and explains the role of NGOs such as Oxfam or Amnesty International.
  • Children are asked to arrange each one of the commemorations from their list under one of the topic cards.
  • Each group then shares their ideas and begins to look for links between them.
    • Was there anything that the children found surprising?
    • Which of the four cards had the shortest list and why?
    • Which one had the longest list? Can pupils suggest why?


  • What have they found out about commemorations in other countries?
  • Did the activity help them to understand how commemorations are organised?
  • Do they feel national commemorations can be a good way for a country to remember certain events and people?
  • Should a national commemoration take place immediately after an event and how long should it be celebrated for?
  • Who should decide what a county commemorates?
  • Suggest words and phrases which describe a national commemoration. The agreed list might be displayed in the classroom.