More Than Just a History Lesson

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, we are likely to recollect exactly where and when we were during the news of the terrorist attacks. This has happened time and time again with other generations and tragic events. I remember my parents saying the same thing about JFK or the Kent State shootings. You simply don’t forget days that change the world you know.

Photo from FaceMePLS, via Creative Commons license

Many of our students do not know life as it was before 9/11.  Many were not even alive in 2001. This year’s seniors were only 7 or 8 years old at the time of the attack.  Some may remember the footage on TV, the reactions of adults around them, and the feelings of anxiety and fear. However, the majority of our students see this event as another day in history. September 11th is a day that they’ve heard about but neither remember nor fully understand.

Perhaps you have already found a way to incorporate Patriot Day into your plans.  Because 9/11 falls on a Sunday, you will need to plan activities for the Friday before or the week after. There isn’t much time to pull ideas together so here are a few quick suggestions:

For younger children:

  • Share a story: Choose from a list of Children’s Books about 9/11.
  • Sing patriotic songs
  • Talk about everyday heroes, firefighters, and policemen
  • Have a Red, White, and Blue day

For middle school and high school:

  • Interpret poetry: Read and analyze Poems written after 9/11.
  • Distinguish between fact and opinion: Students write down five things they know about 9/11.  Upon sharing, sort their ideas as either fact or opinion.
  • Compare and contrast: Find similarities and differences with historic events such as Pearl Harbor.
  • Develop interviewing, note taking, and reporting skills: Students brainstorm a list of questions and interview an adult that remembers that day.  Students will then report back to the class.
  • Create with multimedia: Students incorporate music and photos to create videos about 9/11.
  • Study primary sources: Skype with a classroom in New York City to learn about their experiences.
  • Explore symbolism: Look at the 9/11 Memorial and the Pentagon Memorial. Discuss the symbolism in the design.  Have students create their own memorials.
  • Examine cause and effect: Look at the effects of 9/11 on the economy, gas prices, and security.
  • Discuss the use of propaganda in the War on Terrorism.
  • For even more ideas….Teachable Moments is a website with numerous activities for the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, as well as for other current national and world events that promote social responsibility.

They say that history repeats itself, and 9/11 is certainly a day we do not want to see repeated.  What can we do as educators so our students learn from this tragedy? What is the best way to make this event relevant to today? What if you aren’t a history teacher? What if your curriculum is so full you feel you can’t take any time away from your subject area?  What if you don’t?

Everyday, both in the classroom and in the world around us, we are presented with teachable moments and we must make the most of them.  Use the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 as a way to help students understand, never forget, and grow up to be proud citizens of the United States of America.


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