Four Ideas to Honor September 11

As a born and raised New Yorker, September 11 is a day that remains close to my heart. People say that every generation has a time when they can remember the exact moment of where they were and how they felt when something happened. The moment I found out what happened will forever be etched in my memory. 


    At the time, I was a 411 operator for cell phones. People would dial 411, well before they were able to Google, to ask for directions, a phone number, or the location of a place. This is where people called in to ask us to call place in the World Trade Center to tell them what was happening outside the Twin Towers. 


Twenty years later, it is still important to recognize this tragedy in classrooms around America and the world. The events of 9/11 took thousands of people away from their loved ones and should never be forgotten. 

September 11 lesson ideas and remembrance activities

Topics surrounding 9/11 can be difficult to talk about. Terrorism may be a topic that you find difficult to talk about with your students, especially younger ones. Whenever there is a difficult topic to broach to my students, I always turn to Brainpop to see what they have. Their video on September 11 is FREE. It is about 5 minutes in length and delicately explains the events in a kid-friendly way.


You can extend the free video by using the following materials, which are also included

  • discussing important vocabulary words such as debris, civilian or aftermath,
  • utilizing a KWL graphic organizer,
  • digging deeper into the event with related readings on statistics, culture, and health and safety,
  • assigning a review or graded challenge.
Often, dark times bring out heroes. September 11 started as a beautiful day in New York that was marred by tragic events. If focusing on the terrorist attacks makes you feel uncomfortable in the classroom, try focusing on the heroes instead.
    “The Man in the Red Bandanna” is a video about one of the heroes of 9/11. Welles Crowther worked in the World Trade Center, but on September 11, he became a hero when he saved people by helping them out of the Twin Towers.
    After students watch the 13-minute video, they will complete activities that focus on symbolism and heroism. Discussion questions will yield heartfelt classroom conversations on personality traits and the makings of a hero.
    While the events surrounding this lesson are tragic, I love using this activity at the beginning of the year because many social-emotional learning aspects are naturally incorporated into this lesson. Forming connections and allowing students to talk from the heart will create memorable classroom memories.

Paying Tribute to Fallen Heroes

Twenty years later, we are still losing first responders due to the long-term effects of 9/11. Paying tribute to those that lost and continue to lose their life way too early should be done to honor their memories and heroic accomplishments.
    This lesson developed by the 9/11 Memorial Museum will introduce basic facts about terrorism to your students and ways to memorialize and pay tribute to our fallen heroes.
    Students will discuss the cover of the New Yorker magazine and then watch a video at the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. This activity has a strong focus on respect and honoring others.
When discussing September 11 with older students, you may feel comfortable giving them a timeline of the events that led to September 11. Tackling terrorism can be difficult, but this reading gives students factual information in a student-friendly way.
Students will learn:
  • about Al-Qaeda
  • how the attacks happened
  • how Americans helped one another
  • changes made to the United States of America after the attacks
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