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Anzac Day

Anzac poppy.

"Lest we forget"

Observed on 25 April every year, Anzac Day commemorates all New Zealanders killed in war and also honours returned servicemen and women.

About Anzac Day 

War memorial.

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915.

This military campaign is often claimed to have played an important part in fostering New Zealand's sense of national identity.

Many New Zealanders feel a strong connection to this event, through family and whānau stories.

Anzac Day offers every New Zealander the chance to consider the impact of the First World War and remember those who served.

Curriculum connections 

NZC Curriculum icon.

Learning about the First World War and taking part in Anzac Day commemorations provides an opportunity for students to demonstrate the curriculum vision of being actively involved learners and the values of community and respect. Your students can explore conceptual understandings in the social sciences and make use of key competencies, especially thinking, and using language, symbols, and texts.

Within Te ao tangata |Social sciences including Aotearoa NZ’s histories, the refreshed NZ Curriculum, the context Ngā ahurea me te tuakiri kiritōpū | Culture and collective identity is a useful place to explore ANZAC Day and the remembrance and honouring of those involved in international conflicts.

How can you get involved?

Here are some ideas to help your students develop deeper understandings about Anzac Day and the First World War:

Lest We Forget floral display.

Anzac Day commemorations
Ask students to share their own experiences and knowledge of Anzac Day commemorations. The following resources could be used to help students understand how this special day is acknowledged: 

  • Dawn Parade presents a moving account of a child’s first experience of a dawn service. 
  • This sound clip features excerpts of a 1956 dawn service at St Faith's Church in Ohinemutu.
  • This sound clip features the last post from the same commemoration. 

You could use these questions to promote thinking and discussions: 

  • Why do we hold Anzac Day? 
  • Who has been to a dawn service? 
  • Who has participated in different kinds of commemorations such as wreath laying, a church service, or parade? 
  • Can you describe the event? The people, sounds, and what it felt like.
  • Why is Anzac Day important to many New Zealanders?
  • What ideas and values do you hold about this commemorative event?
  • How have Anzac Day commemorations changed over time?
  • What is the relevance of Anzac Day in today's world? 

Family history

Encourage your students to investigate their own family's experiences of the First World War. These questions could guide their inquiry:

  • Which of your relatives were involved in the war effort? 
  • What campaigns were they part of? 
  • What was the impact of their involvement on themselves, their families, and wider community? 
  • Which of your family members remained on the home front? 
  • What were their experiences of life during this time?

Students might have historical artefacts such as letters, medals, diaries, and uniforms that they could share. They could search and contribute to records about their family on the Auckland Museum online cenotaph.

Ask your students to research the Gallipoli campaign and explore why this particular event is considered a significant part of New Zealand history. You could use the First World War inquiry guides and resources to help students gain insights. NZ History offers a comprehensive section about Gallipoli that you could explore with your class. 

War memorials
War memorials are symbolic markers of war, loss, and remembrance. They communicate particular historical narratives and cultural values.

In 2020 we are not able to visit these due to being in lockdown. Try one of these ways to connect virtually with a war memorial near you. 

1. Use the New Zealand memorials register to find and view war memorials in or near your community. Choose a war memorial and explore the images provided and the description.

2. Read this article from the School Journal with your students - In Memory - First World War memorials

You could use the following questions to stimulate deeper thinking about memorials:

  • What did the creators of this memorial intend it to say?
  • What language, symbols, and text have been used?
  • How do these choices affect meaning and people's understanding and responses?

The Māori Battalion
Support students to research the history of the Māori Battalion and the perspectives of various iwi on Māori involvement in the World Wars.

Te Hokowhitu-a-Tū - The Māori Pioneer Battalion tells the story of the huge contribution made by the pioneer Māori Battalion, exploring the impact of their involvement and the racial discrimination they faced.

NZ History offers a comprehensive section on the increased involvement of Māori in the Second World War

Historic wars and modern-day conflict
Compare the First World War to a modern conflict. What are the similarities or differences? Is there anything stopping a World War from happening again? What can we learn from past events? How can remembering World Wars shape our future?

Instructional series 

Another great way to get your students involved in Anzac Day is to incorporate it into your reading and writing programme. Tāhūrangi offers a range of texts about Anzac Day and World War One. Levels 3 and 4 of the June 2014 School Journal have a focus on the First World War. Here is a selection of instructional texts that we have picked out for you:  

In Memory: First World War Memorials, School Journal Level 2, August 2018
This article explains the purpose of war memorials and, in particular, memorials created at the end of the First World War. It provides examples of different types of memorials, from obelisks, statues, arches, and gates to monuments that use features in the natural environment.

First World War Mascots: School Journal Level 2, June 2014
Many students will be familiar with the use of mascots by sports teams, but they may be surprised to learn that mascots have also been used in wars. This text describes mascots used by New Zealand soldiers in the First World War.

Torty the Lucky Tortoise: Junior Journal 48, 2014
This article shares the adventures of Torty, the tortoise rescued by a kiwi stretcher-bearer in Greece during World War One. This true story is told through a variety of text forms including two pages of graphic layout.

The Anzac Button: School Journal Level 2, February 2012
This is the story of a button that was sewn onto the jacket of a First World War soldier. After the war, the soldier returns to New Zealand and wears the jacket to annual Anzac Day parades.

Dawn Parade: Ready to Read, Shared Text 
This book presents a moving account of a child’s first experience of a dawn service. With his dad, Leo watches the marchers with their medals glinting, listens to the speeches and the “Last Post”, and joins in singing the national anthem.

Useful resources

Anzac Day 

Anzac Day activities

  • This page from New Zealand History Online provides a range of activities that teachers can use or adapt for their learners. Also included is an acknowledgement of the changed ANZAC Day commemorations in 2020, due to the COVID-19 lockdown, with ideas for learning at home.
  • New Zealand On Screen
    This Anzac Day collection brings together over forty titles covering Kiwis at war. Iconic documentaries and films tell stories of terrible cost, heroism, and kinship.

First World War 

  • Ngā Tapuwae New Zealand First World War trails
    Follow New Zealand soldiers on the Western Front as Ngā Tapuwae guides you through France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. Historical insights, audio stories, and interesting articles bring to life New Zealand’s experience on the Western Front.
  • New Zealand WW100
    The official New Zealand Government website about World War One commemorations covers local and international commemorative events, encourages the sharing of family stories, and looks in depth at the experiences of New Zealanders during the conflict.
  • First World War map 
    This map from New Zealand History Online locates events mentioned in the First World War timeline.

You might like ... 

Technology as a part of a cross-curriculum inquiry
This video from Technology Online describes how one teacher used Anzac Day and Anzac biscuits as a cross-curricular theme that led to rich learning.

social sciences

Updated on: 07 Apr 2020