Plus a new 9/11 resource for distance learning
I never thought I’d say this, but I’m going to scale down my September 11 lesson plans this year. My students usually spend a solid week or more reading and responding to survivor accounts, historical articles, and other texts. We often watch an accompanying video, such as Episode 8: The Center of the World from New York: The Documentary.
Last year, I even designed a new poetry project that extended over four class periods and focused on artifacts found at Ground Zero.
However, due to the myriad challenges that 2020 has presented, I’m going to place less focus on the terror attacks this year. I feel that my students have experienced enough upsetting events this year… the COVID-19 pandemic, racial unrest, a tense political climate.
After all, 2021 will be the twenty-year anniversary of the attacks. That being the case, a more pronounced and thorough study of the attacks will be in order one year from now.
I’m still incorporating 9/11 into my lessons this year, however.
So, even though I don’t plan a major study of the event, I still plan to observe the September 11 anniversary by:
- I also plan to choose a September 11th article for next week’s Article of the Week assignments for both grades. One of these uses President Bush’s speech to the American people on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001 and the other is an “everything you always wanted to know” informative article from USA Today.
Regardless of how you intend to approach September 11 this year, I’ve provided links below to two of my 9/11-themed posts. Check out both of these posts below: 1) the top 9/11 resources I’ve used, and 2) my 9/11 artifact poetry project.
The above post includes lots of ideas and resources including nonfiction texts, a student-written poetry collection, the best documentary I’ve found on 9/11 (for 8th-12th graders) and a movie I showed my 6th-graders to build some prior knowledge by introducing them to the World Trade Center outside the context of the terror attacks.
This second post outlines the process (and learning standards) for an extended project where students recognize a clear connection between the disaster and a specific human life lost. They write one-word summaries from an excerpt from the book 102 Minutes and then, using photos and details about personal artifacts found at Ground Zero, compose an acrostic poem about the artifacts built around their one word.
Studying 9/11 is paramount to understanding much of our world today.
I think it’s so important for students to understand the profound impact of September 11, 2001. I absolutely know that kids are ignorant on so many aspects of the attacks: the perpetrators, the aftermath, the vulnerabilities, the human loss and heartache, the overwhelming need to unite that citizens across the nation embraced. It’s shocking to me that so many students simply relegate September 11 to the annals of far distant historical events.
A new 9/11 resource for distance learning
Lastly, since so many school districts are employing distance learning in some form this fall, here’s a link to a new presentation resource from a non-profit called 9/11 Tomorrow Together that you can investigate to teach 9/11 to your remote learners. Here’s a photo of a few slides from this resource:
According to the website, “We’ve created an outstanding lesson plan this year to help you “virtually” teach your students about 9/11 and the September 11 National Day of Service & Remembrance.” The site includes lesson plans and resources geared to both elementary and secondary students.
9/11 Tomorrow Together was originally founded by two friends, David Paine and Jay Winuk, who lost his brother Glenn Winuk in the attacks. “Glenn’s death, and the way he lived his life up to 9/11, helped inspire the idea of making 9/11 a day of service, unity and peace,” reads the organization’s “Our Nonprofit” page.
In closing, I share Paine’s and Winuk’s thoughts about the importance of including 9/11 studies into our school curriculum, even outside the traditional social studies classroom. Here’s how the two founders explain their goals:
“For many students today, 9/11 is just a day in history. Most of them were too young to remember the heartbreak or the subsequent period of hope and togetherness that changed our nation for a while. It’s up to you as an educator to teach them about the other side of 9/11. The side of goodness. The way people came together. The way empathy changed how we looked at each other. 9/11 was a historic inflection point for our society, one that carried with it very powerful lessons about the importance of inclusion and the value of diversity.”
The lessons of 9/11 are impactful and varied. Fortunately, many students are still intrigued and curious about the event that for so many of us is still a recent memory. It’s up to teachers to continue to include these lessons in our classrooms, in whatever capacity we feel we are able.
Thanks for reading! For more ELA resources, creative lesson plans, and teaching ideas, enter your email below. In return, you’ll receive this handout to teach your students how to write Treasured Object Poems, one of my favorite poetry activities for middle school and high school students.