I remember 9/11 like it was yesterday! Sitting in my 10th-grade government class and I remember watching the 2nd plane hit the tower on the TV. I distinctly remember the classroom phone ringing calling my classmates out of school because their parents worked in the World Trade Center. I still twitch when I hear the phone ring in my classroom today. We lost 10 people in my town on that day. Every year since that day, I swore to myself that I would teach 9/11 no matter what subject I was teaching.
This year I am lucky that I have a 9/11 fire chief, inspirational speaker, and rescue worker as a guest speaker on September 9th. Chief Daly is an amazing, emotional, and powerful speaker who speaks about life lessons and what he took away from that day. His life lessons always resonate with my students. Chief Daly shares the true legacy of 9/11; a legacy of courage, compassion and the power of the indomitable human spirit. There were thousands of individual acts of leadership, commitment, and selflessness. He also shares his unique life experiences and the lessons he has learned from them.
On the night of September 10th, I will assign my students an interview where they will interview an adult about 9/11. All of my students were born after 9/11. It’s crazy to be teaching about 9/11 as a historical event.
Teaching 9/11 Lesson
I first start the class with an amazingly powerful and sad video telling the story of 9/11/01. I then go into the history of events using a great timeline to tell the story of events. I am shocked that my kids often don’t know the history. The timeline traces the history of attacks on the World Trade Center, Al Qaeda attacks around the world, the Afghanistan and the Iraq War, as well as the death of Osama Bin Laden.
After the timeline, I have them do a gallery walk of different newspaper headlines from the week’s post 9/11. I knew I wanted to be a history teacher in high school. I asked every family member who lived around the country to get me their local and state newspaper. I have about 90 newspapers laminated, which makes for such a powerful lesson. As they walk around the room I have them write down a headline, new story, or image that tells a powerful story from that day. If you don’t have the physical newspapers you could certainly print the page covers. We then come together and discuss the news of the week and what stuck with them from the newspapers.
We then analyze political cartoons on 9/11. The cartoons are controversial and interesting about that day. My kids could always use political cartoon practice. To see the cartoons click on the assignment listed below. You might also like reading how I taught the Insurrection on January 6th, 2020!
I then conclude the class by having the kid’s pair share the interview assignment about 9/11. After they share with a group I then ask if anyone could share their interviews with the whole class. It’s usually an amazing powerful lesson because we live right on the train line to NYC so my students’ families were directly connected to that day.
If you would like a copy of this full lesson click here.