Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Teaching 9/11 with Sensitivity

Let's be is no small task to teach students about September 11, 2001 without scaring them, becoming too political, or burdening them with unnecessary details. Regardless, I still feel that this day in U.S. history is one that can be sensitively discussed with children. So, I decided to take this topic on in my own classroom last year. Although my fourth graders were not alive when 9/11 happened, they were deeply curious and interested as we explored the events surrounding September 11th together. I wanted to share what we did that made this unit so successful in hopes that you might be inspired to tackle this topic in your own classroom.

To begin, I wrote September 11, 2001 on the board and held a class discussion to see what students knew about that particular date. Most of them were pretty clueless, but a few knew something vague about planes crashing.

From there, I passed out a text about Sept. 11th for students to read. I specifically chose a text that was complex, because I knew we were going to revisit it a couple of times.  After they read the text, I asked the students text dependent questions and modeled how to code the text for specific things-main idea, key details, unknown words and confusing parts. I also had them talk to each other as we discussed the most important events of September 11th.

Students then wrote notes on a graphic organizer using the information they had learned.   

After that, we took a closer look at the vocabulary (unknown) words and confusing parts that we coded in the text. The students looked for evidence in the text, illustrations, or other sources to define the words and understand the confusing parts. We held a partner discussion on these points as well. 

During our next lesson, I presented a second text for students to read and we compared the two texts as a class. I asked further text dependent questions and students looked for connections between the texts. We discussed these ideas as a class and then students added this additional information to their notes. 

Here are some of the additional text resources on this topic that I enjoy using. 
Helpful resources on
Here is a video that we watched as well...

Once students finished adding information to their notes, I assigned a writing task by giving them a writing prompt related to the information they synthesized about September 11th. I modeled how to use the notes to formulate ideas that supported the prompt.

After completing the writing assignment, students worked on an art project to reflect on September 11th and the many acts of service given on that day.  Their writing and art projects were later displayed on a bulletin board.

We sell a fabulous bundle that includes September 11th texts, text dependent questions, text coding poster, graphic organizer, writing prompts, writing paper, reflective art activity suggestion, and detailed lesson plans so you can easily and sensitively teach about 9/11 in your classroom. We have lesson plan bundles for 1-3rd grade and 4-6th grade. Both versions include grade appropriate activities and discussion points as well as differentiated text options. Click on the image below to visit our TPT store.