America has had plenty of tragedies that are not easy to explain to our children. 9/11 is one of those events, but it is also an important part of American history. Will you be teaching about September 11th this year?
If you are thinking about how to approach the topic with your BIG KIDS, I have found that sharing my story from that day is a good starting point. Most adults remember where they were when the Twin Towers fell, and students your history of the event offers a unique viewpoint.
In 2001, I was in my 4th year as an educator and I was teaching 6th grade students. For whatever reason, I remember students were transitioning into the classroom from the gifted program. One student said, “Did you see a plane hit the World Trade Center?” In my mind I thought, “That is a terrible accident.” I turned on the classroom TV to see if there was some crazy story, and my students and I observed the second plane hitting the second tower. The entire series of events was incomprehensible…so many emotions and questions hit us all at the same moment.
The rest of the school day was a blur. Many parents were racing to school to pick up their children as they heard of two additional crashes into the Pentagon and Flight 93 into the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. An announcement came over at school to call the office if anything was needed, and our district superintendent at the time, Mrs. Rider, came into each class to check on each teacher.
I made it through the day teaching, but it was stressful knowing that my mom, my sister, or my best friend Julie were on an airplane in the air somewhere as they all flew heavily for their jobs. It was very STRESSFUL until emails and phone calls came of safety. All after-school activities were cancelled and the we all went home to watch the news for hours on end, searching for clues and answers as to how something like this could happen.
I was lucky to have not lost anyone. I do remember the utter sadness of one of my 6th graders, as September 11, 2001, was his eleventh birthday. I remember him saying how the day would always be ruined! I do hope he has been able to have some happy birthdays since…
After watching all of the coverage from that day, I am always determined to share some of what we witnessed as Americans with my students. I have found some fantastic resources that I feel are particularly appropriate and help with their understanding of this horrific day that many have a hard time going back to re-live.
We discuss what we KNOW about 9/11 using a T-Chart. As the years go by, it is less and less. Students list things like: planes were hijacked, the Twin Towers/World Trade Center feel down, many people died, etc. After watching the video clip and reading a Reader’s Theater we complete the LEARNED side of the organizer to share ideas we have learned today and if we feel more informed about 9/11.
You can use this video which focuses on the timeline of events of that day, and the impact it had on the people of New York. It is hard to find videos that do not have profanity as the raw footage of that day was very emotional. I’m sure other video resources have been produced since, but make sure you pre-screen them for classroom appropriateness.
I am always grateful that I take time to Remember 9/11 with my students. They walk away having a bit more of an understanding of that day! Thank you military, firefighters, police officers, safety officials, and all those lost and impacted everywhere! We will never forget you!
If you are looking for an age-appropriate lesson plan share with middle school students, you can grab my reader’s theater toolkit here…