This lesson was updated on November 11, 2022. It was originally published in 2014.
Use this PBS NewsHour lesson plan to help students understand the significance of Veterans Day and the meaning of sacrifice. Students will identify important veterans in their lives, examine an interactive timeline of military history and study issues facing veterans today. For a google doc version of this lesson, click here.
World history, government and civics, U.S. history, geography
One 50-minute class
Middle and high school
Warning: Due to the large number of students who either have friends or family that serve in the armed forces please take care and be sensitive when discussing Veterans Day.
2. Watch “Bet You Didn’t Know — Veterans Day” from the History Channel (below) as a class.
3. Watch Student Reporting Labs’ Veterans Day video featuring students from military families living here in the U.S. and around the world.
Background on U.S. Wars
Share this interactive timeline with students and watch videos associated with U.S. wars. You may choose the wars your class knows the least about or play what you have time for. Click on the timeline to scroll through to each event, and click on the images above the timeline to watch short videos on the war.
Main activity — special issues for today’s veterans
- As a class, brainstorm the risks and benefits of being a soldier today and write answers on the board. Let the class know that they are going to take a closer look at some of the issues that veterans face today and how these challenges are being treated.
- Read to students: With new medical and life-saving technology more troops are surviving traumatic injuries that would have sealed their fate just decades ago. The effects of the increase in soldiers dealing with severe injuries such as losing limbs, traumatic brain injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has taxed the Veterans Administration (V.A.) at unprecedented levels leaving response time to disability claims anywhere from months to years. Further, both an increase in an aging veteran population as well as female veterans brings new challenges to the V.A. Let’s look more in depth at the issues facing today’s veterans.
Part 1 – Waiting for benefits
- Watch the above video clip, “Veterans’ Disability Delayed.”
- Read the Center for Investigative Reporting article “For Disabled Veterans Awaiting Benefits Decisions, Location Matters” by Aaron Glantz.
Part 2 — How phantom limbs are successfully being treated today
Watch the TED Talk “3 clues to understanding your brain” by VS Ramachandran (in particular, highlight the excerpt from 9:15-17:45).
Part 3 — Unique challenges that women veterans face
Watch the PBS NewsHour report “Women Veterans Face Unique Obstacles, Needs.”
Part 4 – Veterans and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- What is PTSD? How does it manifest in veterans? Read the story of one veteran.
- How is PTSD diagnosed? Look at the Diagnostic Statistical Manual V Criteria for PTSD or Self-Report Questionnaire for PTSD.
- How is it treated? Hear about treatment options from the Veterans Association.
- Write a Veterans Day thank you note. Use this lesson plan to help your students identify and understand important veterans in their life.
- Write an argument to either support or reject claims that veterans today face challenges that veterans in the past did not using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
- Choose one of the wars that was featured on the interactive timeline and write three short narrative-snap shots including one day in the life of that veteran before, during, and after the war using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.
By Katie Gould, former NewsHour teacher resource producer. (A special thanks to my grandfather, Joe Sidor, pictured in the writing prompts section, for his many years of service as a Marine during World War II, his work in China after World War II and the Korean War.)
An additional thank you to Susan Dickson for contributing photographs for the story.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.1 Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.7.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.8.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.7.7 Compare and contrast a text to an audio, video, or multimedia version of the text, analyzing each medium’s portrayal of the subject (e.g., how the delivery of a speech affects the impact of the words).
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.8.7 Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
- CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.11-12.2 Determine two or more central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text, including how they interact and build on one another to provide a complex analysis; provide an objective summary of the text.