Commemorative Ceremonies

Students develop a ceremony to honor a person or commemorate an event in history

Commemorative Ceremonies


Is it important to remember the past and honor the actions of both heroes and those who lost their lives? Why?

After learning about the actions of a historical figure, current community hero, or event in history; students use factual information, stories, oral history interviews, images, music, multimedia and other materials to develop a commemorative ceremony.


Ask your students to try to define “commemorate.” Students can draw from personal experience as well as look up dictionary definitions.

To commemorate means to call to remember. Commemorating is not just the act of remembering, it is the act of asking others (and yourself) to remember. Why is it important to remember? Start a class discussion on this question.

You might also want to inspire and engage students by reading Peter W. Schroeder’s Six Million Paper Clips which tells the story of middle school students designing a memorial to the Holocaust.

Have students reflect on their own experience attending commemorative ceremonies. Encourage students to talk with family members about their feelings and experiences attending funerals, ceremonies, or celebrations for family members they have lost.

In community and civic life, commemorations often take the form of a formal ceremony. Let students know they will work as a class to design a commemorative ceremony for a historic event a person you are studying.

To ensure that all students have foundational knowledge about what a commemorative ceremony might look like, share examples of events, like this 2017 Memorial Ceremony for the events of 9/11.

What is the benefit of honoring the actions of people in the past or even heroes in the present? Challenge students to define the purpose, or purposes, for their ceremony. For example, they may come up with ideas like:

  1. Remember and honor
  2. Showcase and celebrate values
  3. Motivate to reflect or act
  4. Demonstrate gratitude

If possible, have students conduct interviews with people connected to or affected by the event or actions of this person before they begin the design process. This will help capture history from people who actually lived it and will help students gain additional perspectives.

As a class, brainstorm different pieces you may want to include in your ceremony. To make student thinking visible and create individual artifacts of learning, have each student brainstorm ideas using a Cluster organizer before discussing as a class, have each student use a cluster organizer to make their thinking visible and to produce an individual artifact of their learning.

image of cluster organizer

Try creating graphic organizers with your students in Wixie.

Learn more

When students share individual brainstorms, you will likely hear ideas like:

  1. speeches and remarks,
  2. poetry and music,
  3. moments of silence and candle lighting,
  4. emblems and logos, and
  5. storytelling.

Work as a class to develop an agenda for the ceremony.

Establish how long the ceremony should take. 15-20 minutes is a reasonable place to start.

Based on interests, experience, and talents, form small teams to work on each piece/performance that you have decided to include in the ceremony.

Let students know the final agenda may change depending on information they locate, artifacts they create, and the unique gifts of participants.


Have team members discuss their associations to the event and activate prior knowledge.

They may also need or want to conduct additional research using both primary and secondary resources. Students can create a t-chart to summarize key facts and details and create an artifact of their learning.

If you want to provide students with additional scaffolds, share examples of commemorative artifacts, such as:

  1. Poem - "The Names" by Billy Collins
  2. Song - "Where Were You" by Alan Jackson
  3. Collection - Library of Congress

If you have concerns about assessing group work or evaluating student work when they are completing different tasks, consider asking all students to write a poem to demonstrate understanding.

As students begin developing the materials, artifacts, and performances for the ceremony, remind students that individuals bring unique perspectives and feelings, so there is not a single “correct” way to create an artifact or ceremony.

Students should also be encouraged, or even tasked with, identifying past experiences and talents individuals bring to the project.

All ceremonies will also look different because they reflect the experiences, research, and perspective of their unique community.

Peer Feedback and editing between small groups can be done throughout the process to promote deep thinking and reflection.

Have each team share their final work with the entire the class. Work as a whole group to determine if you want or need to adjust the agenda based on what the components have become.


This is an opportunity for students to share and perform their work and demonstrate how their contribution (speeches, songs, poems, interviews, images, multimedia) connects to the community beyond it.

Student work should culminate in a ceremony at your school, your community (even better) or online for an even greater audience. Make sure to secure auditorium space, permits, or online platforms so that your students can see firsthand how their efforts have impacted their community and beyond.

You may also want to curate artifacts they have created such as poems and oral history interviews so the resources can be accessed by others in different times and different places. You can find inspiration for what these collections might look like at the Library of Congress’s September 11, 2001, Documentary Project.

After the ceremony is complete, ask students to individually reflect on, and discuss as a class, the significance and importance of commemorating this event or person.


Student work on commemorative ceremony design can and should be evaluated on many different levels. How you evaluate student work will depend on your comfort with evaluating group work as well as evaluating different products and performances created by students in your class.

If student work focuses on a single event or person you are studying, all poetry, music, memorials, logos, or speeches can be evaluated for research (notes) and knowledge. If you prefer, consider having every student create at least one of the same artifacts, such as a speech or poem.

Using criteria you have established together about what a ceremony should entail, evaluate students on how well their words, music, visuals, and rituals inform others about the event and honor the memory of those involved.

How well team members collaborate is essential to the success of their ceremony. You can evaluate individual students for contributions to their team in areas like leading, listening, organizing tasks, distributing work, and taking advantage of team member talents.

As they are working, conduct formative assessments to evaluate each team’s knowledge of the person or event and how they are tackling issues pertaining to honoring individuals. Be sure to listen in on their discussions and identify any misconceptions and observe how each team member evaluates his or her peer’s ideas with concrete examples and evidence.


Peter W. Schroeder. Six Million Paper Clips: The Making Of A Children's Holocaust Memorial. ISBN-10: 158013176X

TIME - NYC 9/11 Memorial Ceremony - 2017


Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts

Anchor Standards for Reading

1. Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.

3. Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.

6. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.

Anchor Standards for Writing

2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

4. Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

8. Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening

1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

5. Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

National Council for Social Studies - C3 Framework

Dimension 1: Developing Questions and Planning Inquiries
D1.3.6-8. Explain points of agreement experts have about interpretations and applications of disciplinary concepts and ideas associated with a supporting question.
D1.3.9-12. Explain points of agreement and disagreement experts have about interpretations and applications of disciplinary concepts and ideas associated with a supporting question.
D1.5.6-8. Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of views represented in the sources.
D1.5.9-12. Determine the kinds of sources that will be helpful in answering compelling and supporting questions, taking into consideration multiple points of view represented in the sources, the types of sources available, and the potential uses of the sources.

Dimension 2: Civics and History
D2.Civ.10.6-8. Explain the relevance of personal interests and perspectives, civic virtues, and democratic principles when people address issues and problems in government and civil society.
D2.Civ.10.9-12. Analyze the impact and the appropriate roles of personal interests and perspectives on the application of civic virtues, democratic principles, constitutional rights, and human rights.
D2.His.3.6-8. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to analyze why they, and the developments they shaped, are seen as historically significant.
D2.His.3.9-12. Use questions generated about individuals and groups to assess how the significance of their actions changes over time and is shaped by the historical context.
D2.His.4.6-8. Analyze multiple factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.
D2.His.4.9-12. Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.
D2.His.5.6-8. Explain how and why perspectives of people have changed over time.
D2.His.5.9-12. Analyze how historical contexts shaped and continue to shape people’s perspectives.
D2.His.6.6-8. Analyze how people’s perspectives influenced what information is available in the historical sources they created.
D2.His.6.9-12. Analyze the ways in which the perspectives of those writing history shaped the history that they produced.
D2.His.7.9-12. Explain how the perspectives of people in the present shape interpretations of the past.
D2.His.10.6-8. Detect possible limitations in the historical record based on evidence collected from different kinds of historical sources.
D2.His.10.9-12. Detect possible limitations in various kinds of historical evidence and differing secondary interpretations.
D2.His.13.6-8. Evaluate the relevancy and utility of a historical source based on information such as maker, date, place of origin, intended audience, and purpose.
D2.His.13.9-12. Critique the appropriateness of the historical sources used in a secondary interpretation.
D2.His.14.6-8. Explain multiple causes and effects of events and developments in the past.
D2.His.14.9-12. Analyze multiple and complex causes and effects of events in the past.

Dimension 3: Gathering and Evaluating Sources and Developing Claims and Using Evidence
D3.1.6-8. Gather relevant information from multiple sources while using the origin, authority, structure, context, and corroborative value of the sources to guide the selection.
D3.1.9-12. Gather relevant information from multiple sources representing a wide range of views while using the origin, authority, structure, context, and corroborative value of the sources to guide the selection.
D3.2.6-8. Evaluate the credibility of a source by determining its relevance and intended use.
D3.2.9-12. Evaluate the credibility of a source by examining how experts value the source.

Dimension 4: Communicating and Critiquing Conclusions
D4.3.6-8. Present adaptations of arguments and explanations on topics of interest to others to reach audiences and venues outside the classroom using print and oral technologies (e.g., posters, essays, letters, debates, speeches, reports, and maps) and digital technologies (e.g., Internet, social media, and digital documentary).
D4.3.9-12. Present adaptations of arguments and explanations that feature evocative ideas and perspectives on issues and topics to reach a range of audiences and venues outside the classroom using print and oral technologies (e.g., posters, essays, letters, debates, speeches, reports, and maps) and digital technologies (e.g., Internet, social media, and digital documentary).

ISTE Standards for Students 2016:

3. Knowledge Constructor
Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others. Students:

a. plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.

b. evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.

c. curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.

6. Creative Communicator
Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals. Students:

a. choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.

b. create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

d. publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

Dr. Rose Reissman

by Dr. Rose Reissman

Dr. Rose Reissman is a veteran ELA and literacy educator. She is the ISTE 2020 Spotlight Literacy Practice Winner. Dr. Reissman founded the Writing Institute at Ditmas IS 62, which serves as the Writing Institute Data Analysis Center with rubrics, polls, quantitative data review/reporting and sampling responses maintained for each project. Her work at Ditmas IS 62 is supported by Principal Marielena Santiago, AP Michelle Buitrago, Ditmas Writing Institute Site Director Amanda Xavier, Ditmas Life site supervisor Mr. Angelo Carideo, and Ditmas Publications Supervisor Mr. Michael Downes. The Writing Institute materials have been used at over 280 schools.

Melinda Kolk

by Melinda Kolk

Melinda Kolk (@melindak) is the Editor of Creative Educator and the author of Teaching with Clay Animation. She has been helping educators implement project-based learning and creative technologies like clay animation into classroom teaching and learning for the past 15 years.

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