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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- BrainPop has a poignant video on September 11th as well which leads to good discussion.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
If you have other ideas on how to approach this subject with students, I would love to hear about them in the comments!