Last Thursday, I was conferencing with a student about “I Survived the Attacks on 9/11” As the student was summarizing the book, he said, “Ms. W, it was really crazy. The planes crashed into the World Trade Center and a ton of people died. It was really scary. I am so glad it was just a book.”
*pause, deep breath* “I know it is really crazy, but this book is Historical Fiction. It is based in truth. 2001 was before you were born, but these attacks actually happened. It was very scary and a lot of lives were forever changed on that day.”
So today, September 11th, I taught about 9/11. For better or worse, I taught it. Although it was not in my teaching ‘game plan’ or our district curriculum map, I made it fit. At some point as teachers we have to say, “Our teaching must be relevant.” Yes, teaching perfect verbs is important (well…….), but so is the day that dramatically changed our country. This is a day that changed the way our students live, and they should know it is not just a crazy plot for a book.
Since, we are just beginning our learning about main idea and key details, I wrote a nonfiction article about how 9/11 changed America. You may grab the article here for free. Before delving into literature, I needed to lay the foundation – what was 9/11?
We watched most of the FREE BrainPop video of September 11th. Note – I skipped the section from 3:30 – 4:45.
Then, we read an article about how America has changed since 9/11. After reading the article individually, we worked as a class to ‘map’ the article. We started with the topic (the attacks of 9/11), moved to the main idea (the attacks on 9/11 changed America), and focused on the key details the article used to support the main idea.
At the end of one of my classes we had a few moments, so we went to Google Earth and viewed live images of the Twin Towers Memorial, as well as, the Pentagon Memorial. Honestly, I am glad this moment only happened with one class. It was probably the most emotional part of the day. We pulled up the Twin Towers memorial and saw all the names of those who died in the towers engraved in the stone. It was overwhelming – for me and the students – and for a little bit, we just sat, taking in the moment.
Overall, it was a wonderful day. I am so glad we took the time to integrate my standards (main idea) and September 11th. While the world just became a little more real for my students, I feel blessed to have a classroom of learners who are engaged and eager enough to want to learn more about their world.
Note – At no point did I go into specific or gory details about the attacks. This lesson was more of an overview of the attacks and how our world changed as a result of them. While I did field questions from students, I felt very comfortable referring many questions to their parents. Please, believe me – as a first-year teacher, I have no desire to start fires.
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