Writing and Designing a Commemorative Story Map

The VEDay75 Lesson Plans are developed by Craig Brumwell.

Big Idea

Story maps are effective commemorations because they connect narratives, events and places through digital mapping and rich media using interactive tools to co-create, peer review, iterate and share content to a wide online audience.

Inquiry Question

How can we commemorate Canadians who participated in the Northwest Europe Campaign and the Liberation of the Netherlands?

Overall Description

In this lesson, students use the resources and assets from the VEDay 75 Defining Moments Canada website to research, write and design a story map for one of 6 Canadian soldiers and the Dutch cities they helped to liberate. Students will analyze their research using the historical thinking concept of cause and consequence, write their story using the 7 Sentence Story Structure, then create a storyboard from which to build their story map in Lesson 4.

Time Needed

80-120 minutes

Competencies and Skills


Minds On – The 7 Sentence Story Structure

The 7 Sentence Story Structure is a simple method to help students construct a story using 7 sentences to define  distinct sections within a story. Each of the 7 sentences is worded in familiar “story book” language to help students organize their search for information. Each section of the structure includes multiple questions that help guide them in the development of their story.

In the following activity, students re-organize the information from the George Pollard’s Last Stand story map into the 7 Sentence Story Structure to prepare them to create their own story maps using the same framework.

When all groups are done, review their responses as a class. Emphasize that when they make their own story maps, they are not limited to the guiding questions under each of the 7 sections.


Peter Seixas and Tom Morton in their book, The Big 6: Historical Thinking Concepts, describe that students must know enough about a period in question to make connections between then and now. In doing so they, they build narratives of their own where significance emerges.

One way that students can develop the historical thinking concept of significance is by deconstructing an historical account. In the process, they recognize how events, people or developments occupy a meaningful place in a narrative.

In the following activities, students examine this construction process by: identifying large questions or issues in a narrative, describing the plot, and identifying the particular role of people, events or developments (Seixas & Morton, 2013, p.21).


Denos, M., Case, R., Seixas, P. C., & Clark, P. (2006). Teaching about historical thinking: a professional resource to help teach six interrelated concepts central to students ability to think critically about history. Vancouver, BC: Critical Thinking Consortium.

Seixas, P., & Morton, T. (2013). The big six historical thinking concepts. Toronto: Nelson Education.


Activity 1 – Exploring the Construction of a Historical Narrative

In order for students to recognize the significance of the contribution of Canadians fighting against Nazi Germany in Europe in the larger narrative of the Victory Campaign, they must examine the events and developments of the last 11 months of the war in context.

Write the following on the board:

“…because it was important, it was right, and mostly, because the alternative was unthinkable.”

Mike Bechtold, historian.

Ask students to determine what question is being answered and to whom it refers  (Canadians who chose to join the fight against Nazi Germany).

This assessment for learning will help to determine the extent to which students understand what was at stake for the world if the Nazis had won the war and the gravity with which Canadians perceived such a future.

Watch CBC video: CBC The National: Mona Parsons: Forgotten Hero


Ask students to identify the overarching questions or issues presented in the video, then  discuss the following question with a partner:

What is the big question or issue that the Mona Parson story addresses?

Review their responses as a class, focusing on ones like the struggle against tyranny or resistance to occupation.

For the next activity, show students how to navigate to Project 44’s Mona Parson Story Map from the Defining Moments Canada website on their computers or mobile devices using the 7 Sentence Story Structure.

Activity 2 – Deconstructing the Mona Parsons Story Map

Handout Worksheet 1: Deconstructing the Mona Parsons Story Map. Ask students to list the events and developments of the story map using the 7 Sentence Story Structure:

How do you see defiance and resilience represented?

What was her role in the story? How did her role connect to the big question or issue?

Teachers Note: Take time to explore the concept of defiance and resilience. Defiance – or standing-up to an unjust authority – can take many forms. For the people of Europe living under Nazi oppression, individual and groups acts of defiance included opposition or non-compliance to the rules and restrictions imposed on them. For Jewish families in hiding, it meant  practicing their religion in secret (spiritual defiance), or reading and learning from books banned by the Nazi’s (intellectual defiance). Resilience is the capacity to endure hardship, challenge and injustice. It implies strength of purpose and an ability to recover from adversity against the odds.

Mona Parsons displayed defiance by hiding and transporting downed Allied airmen, calmly accepting her death penalty verdict and surviving imprisonment in the face of her captors. She displayed resilience by enduring sickness, starvation and evading capture as she escaped across Germany back to the Netherlands. Her role in the story was a hero who worked as an operative in the Dutch resistance. Her story demonstrates how civilians fought back against Nazi occupation from within the Netherlands and how the struggle against oppression and tyranny became a call to action for Dutch citizens.

Discuss responses as a class. Extend the discussion by asking students how we see defiance and resilience in conflicts today.

Activity 3 – Context, Resources and Analysis

Students select one of Six VEDay Veteran Stories/Dutch city subject combinations for which they will research, write and design a story map of their own. The first step in the process involves students conducting research to gain the knowledge and context necessary to connect the people, events and developments of the period. The resources page of DMC VEDay 75 website includes:

  • 9-Part Thematic guide by historian, Mike Bechthold
  • The Six VEDay Veteran Stories
  • Digitized artifacts from the Canadian Research and Mapping Association: Project 44
    • Six overview soldier/city story maps
    • war diaries
    • Interactive maps
    • Aerial photographs
    • Digitized period maps

Go through the resources with the students. Instruct students to select their focus city and featured soldier from the 6 overview story maps, then research the main events and developments.

Handout Worksheet 2: Cause and Consequence Analysis. This activity helps students to make reasoned connections between causes and consequences.

Explain that just because an event happened before another (its antecedent), does not mean that it caused them or contributed to them. Likewise, not all events that occur after (subsequent to) another, are consequences of them.

Each main event or development in their story requires a separate sheet. Their task is to list the associated events, then determine whether it is antecedent, cause, consequence or subsequent. They respond to the questions below when they have completed the chart:

  • Rank your causes in order of their effect on development. Explain your reasoning.
  • Identify your consequences as direct or indirect, and intended or unintended. What does this say about the predictability of events and reactions during conflicts?


Designing a Story Map

Students should now be prepared to create a story map that addresses the question:

How can we commemorate Canadians who participated in the Northwest Europe Campaign and the Liberation of the Netherlands?

Their task is to write a story about one of the six VEDay veterans connected to a focus city in the Netherlands using the 7 Sentence Story Structure. In the process, they must:

  • Apply their understanding of historical narrative construction
  • Consider their analysis of the causes and consequences of events and developments
  • Use their new content knowledge
  • Select and apply appropriate assets

Handout Worksheet 3: Writing and Designing a Story Map to organize their story into the 7 Sentence Story Structure. Ask students to outline their story in point form on a new copy of Worksheet 1 as they did with the events in the Mona Parsons story map in Activity 2. Limit the text on each of the 7 sections to 6 bullet points on their outline or 100 words in paragraph form on their final storyboard.

Show students the following image as an example using the mind-mapping platform, Popplet:

Popplet can be used as an alternative to Worksheet 3. It is a free mind-mapping platform that can be used for storyboarding. It has expandable text boxes that hold text and images that can all be connected in a sequence. It can also allow students working in pairs or groups to contribute content remotely and collaborate with each other through comment call-outs.

In Lesson 4, students will peer-review each other’s storyboards, then build into story maps using the Creation Tool in Google Earth.


Worksheet 1 – Deconstructing the Mona Parsons Story Map

Worksheet 1 features the 7 Sentence Story Structure to be filled in by students as they deconstruct the story of Mona Parsons. Students will have to analyze Mona’s story and reflect on her role, as well as think critically about themes of resilience and defiance.

Worksheet 2 – Cause and Consequence Analysis

Students will be asked to distinguish between causes, antecedent events, consequence, and subsequent (after-the-fact) events using the Project 44 Liberation Story Map. Worksheet 2 will require students to identify and describe moments of significance in a Story Map of their choosing, and explain how those moments result in the development and outcome of events.

Worksheet 3 – Writing and Designing a Story Map

On Worksheet 3, students will write the story of one of the featured Canadian soldiers and their role in the liberation of a focus city in the Netherlands. Students will utilize the resources on the Defining Moments Canada page VEDay 75: Normandy to Netherlands and the Project 44 story maps to create a story map using the 7 sentence story structure.

Download Lesson 3: Writing and Designing a Commemorative Story Map in full.

The VEDay75 Lesson Plans are developed by, and courtesy of, Craig Brumwell.