Listening to their stories - Group project

Aim

To increase youth awareness and appreciation of Canadian efforts on D-Day and in the Battle of Normandy through primary (videos of Veterans) and secondary sources of information.

Objectives

Youth will be expected to:

  • demonstrate a basic understanding of the events surrounding D-Day and the Battle of Normandy;
  • gain an appreciation of the challenges faced by the Canadians who served on D-Day and in the Battle of Normandy;
  • understand the difference between primary and secondary sources of information and the pros and cons of each; and
  • develop an awareness of the importance of remembering the sacrifices and achievements of Canadian Veterans.

Target audience

This activity is suitable for ages 15 to 18.

Sequence of events and anticipated time frame [variable]

(This activity can be modified to fit available time.)

  • Introductory discussion [10 minutes]
  • Reading activity and discussion [30 minutes]
  • Guided viewing of the Heroes Remember D-Day video [20 minutes]
  • Group research projects and presentations on Veterans of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy [variable]
  • Wrap-up discussion [15 minutes]
  • Possible extension activity [variable]

Materials

Introductory discussion [15 minutes]

Begin a discussion about the Second World War. More than one million Canadians served in uniform during the conflict—that is more than the entire population of some provinces. Look at a world map and have youth locate the northern coast of France.

Explain that if you were to walk today on the beaches of Normandy, France, you would likely be struck by the serenity and beauty of the area. At places like Juno Beach, dogs play in the surf and sunbathers spread their towels on the sand in the summer. This part of France’s Normandy coast is popular with vacationers.

Explain that 75 years ago, there was a much different scene. There was an invasion, involving Canadians, to bring down the walls of Nazi Germany’s “Fortress Europe.”

Reading activity and discussion [30 minutes]

Provide each student with the information sheet Canada Remembers D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.

This handout will provide them with a background of the events that led up to D-Day and the planning that was involved in the massive assault, as well as an understanding of Canadians’ sacrifices and achievements in the greater Battle of Normandy. Follow up with a general discussion on what they have read. Use the Canadian War Museum’s interactive map Canada and the Normandy Invasion  to help explain where the Canadians landed on D-Day.

Once youth have a general understanding of the history of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, they are ready to begin studying videos of interviews with Veterans.

Guided viewing of the Heroes Remember D-Day video [30 minutes]

Explain to the youth the difference between primary sources (first-hand experience of an event such as diaries, memoirs, interviews, etc.) and secondary sources (reference books, post-event articles, bibliographies, etc.).

As an introduction to learning about a historical event through primary sources, such as personal accounts, tell the class that they will be watching short clips of interviews with Veterans who had different roles on D-Day. During the Heroes Remember D-Day video (approx. 12 minutes), the students will no doubt encounter words or phrases that are unfamiliar and some of the speech may be hard to understand. A transcript is provided on the site. Encourage the students to write down any words or phrases they do not know. Distribute the guided viewing question sheet to help them extract certain information from the video. Encourage them to read the questions before playing the video. They should not worry if they do not get all the answers. The class may want to watch the video twice.

Note: If you wish to avoid streaming the video over the Internet, right click on the video and choose “save video as” to load it directly onto your computer. This will avoid problems viewing over a network.

After viewing the video, review the answers to the question sheet. You may also wish to discuss any questions the students have about some of the terms or words they heard during the video.

Group research projects and presentations on Veterans of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy [variable]

Note: Some videos contain graphic descriptions of Veterans’ experiences. These clips are indicated on the group research and presentation instruction sheet. This activity is suitable for more mature youth.

Explain to the class that each group will learn of the experience of a Veteran who served either on D-Day or later during the Battle of Normandy. Just as with the guided group viewing activity, the youth will likely encounter terms, language and events with which they are not familiar. The group research and presentation instruction sheet will help guide them through the videos, research of topics and creation of their class presentation.

Divide the class into small groups of three or four students (there are nine Veterans in total). If the class is small and you will not be assigning all of the Veterans, it is best to choose at least one Veteran from each of the three branches of service (army, navy and air force).

Some groups will hear descriptions of the various roles of the Veterans during the war. Other groups will listen to eyewitness accounts of D-Day and other events during the Battle of Normandy. It is important to let the students know that some stories may be difficult to watch because of the tragic events, while other clips may have a humourous aspect to them. Their task will be to learn about D-Day and the Battle of Normandy through the Veterans’ experiences as well as secondary sources. They will then present to the class their favourite video clip and what they have learned through their research.

List of Veterans:

Wrap-up discussion [15 minutes]

Conclude the lesson with a class debrief. It could be an open group discussion or a facilitated discussion. You may wish to ask students what stood out for them throughout this activity.

Mention again that the videos are an oral history of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy (primary source) and that the handouts (or website articles, if they did further research) are written history (secondary source). Ask the class to share which way they prefer to learn about history, as well as the pros and cons of each.

The Veterans in the videos left behind their families and the safety of their homes because of their sense of duty and patriotism. Ask youth if they think that the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform during the Second World War were worth it. What do they imagine the French think about the Canadians who fought so hard and sacrificed so greatly to help liberate their country?

Do they think it is important to remember the Canadians who served in the Second World War even though the war has been over for almost 75 years? How can they best remember those who served?

Possible extension activity [variable]

Most Veterans who took part in the Second World War are now in their mid-nineties or older and a few are still visiting classrooms as guest speakers. This would be an exceptional opportunity to learn what it was like to serve in the cause of peace and freedom during the Second World War. There are also many younger Veterans of other conflicts and peacekeeping missions who are willing to share their experiences serving our country. For more information visit the Memory Project Speakers Bureau website.

 

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