Remembering September 11th in the Classroom

Every beginning of September I feel it start to weigh on my mind. How am I going to talk to my students about September 11th? While this day, frozen in time, still feels fresh and raw to me, I have to recognize that the students I have now were not alive.
Remembering September 11th in the Classroom-Seven ways to open discussion in the elementary classroom.
The reality is that some students may not even have heard of it before. While it is a solemn day, I do still think that it is worth time in our upper elementary classrooms to discuss it, absorb it, and remember it.

Everyone is going to have different comfort levels on this subject, and to be honest I was in my fifth year of teaching before I stopped crying when we discussed it, because it is tough. It will continue to be tough, but just because it's tough doesn't mean that we shouldn't do it.

Here are a few ideas of how to traverse the tough landscape, but ultimately it is up to you to decided how you handle it in your classroom.
  1. As your students what they already know. I like to start of this way, because I have found that students have vastly different knowledge of the event year to year, and I also think it is better for them to hear it from one another.
  2. Read The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. This book is about a famous tightrope walker who did exactly as the title suggests. It ends with a reference to September 11th and opens the floor to discussion.
  3.                                                            
  4. Watch a YouTube video such as the one below. This works well if you are like me and have a tough time getting through reading a book because you may or may not cry at any moment. Of course, you can always choose to read Fireboat yourself too.
  5. BrainPop has a poignant video on September 11th as well which leads to good discussion.
  6. Invite local heroes to come speak or eat lunch with your students. By inviting the local police, firefighters, and EMS into your school students get to thank them as well as develop a healthy relationship with their community. You could write letters ahead of time, or just have a discussion.
  7. Create a collaborative piece of artwork such as this one by Art with Jenny K. The collaboration students will use really embodies what the day is all about. 
  8. Read September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be Alright a book written by a class of Missouri first graders that is all about hope. This one is especially appropriate for younger grades as well. 
Some other books that I usually make available in the classroom include: 
(affiliate links)

If you have other ideas on how to approach this subject with students, I would love to hear about them in the comments!
Remembering September 11th in the Classroom-Seven ways to open discussion in the elementary classroom.

8 comments:

  1. This day still makes me cry! I also think it is important to talk about how America changed after this horrific event, and why so many adults take it so personally.

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    1. Honesty time, I cried writing the post. I think that it is so vital that students understand, but it shouldn't be a scary thing, our world is already scary enough.

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  2. I still cry every time I talk about it or even think about it.

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  3. Every year I read "September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be Alright" to my Kindergartners. I also read the book "Bravemole". "Bravemole" tells the events of September 11th in a fictional was that does not scare the young children. It gives me a chance to discuss how everyone can be a real hero when the need arises.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the suggestion Sally. I will have to check out Bravemole.

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  4. There is a weird announcement that pops up at the very end of the video. A man comes on and says "we get naked with the truth for children of all ages"????? Did you realize that??

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for bringing this to my attention, I never heard it in the past. I have replaced it with a different version.

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