America Responds
Rescue workers raising the flag
Grieving man
Rescue workers
President and Mrs. Bush
Classroom Resources

Taming Terrorism
Grade Level: High School (9-12)
Estimated Time: Three one-hour sessions

Lesson Overview:
This lesson plan poses the question, "Who can stop international terrorism?" Students learn about different international agencies working to eliminate terrorism, study the recommendations of various international summits and conferences, and debate the effectiveness of various proposed measures.

Related National Standards from McREL:

  • Knows examples of world conflict or cooperation (e.g., countries in trade pacts, areas of the world with refugee problems)
  • Knows how and why people compete for control of Earth's surface (e.g., ethnic or national differences, desire for political control, economic inequalities)
  • Understands factors that contribute to cooperation or conflict within and between regions and countries
  • Understands efforts to improve political and social conditions around the world
  • Understands instances of political conflict and terrorism in modern society
  • Understands the effects that significant world political developments have on the United States (e.g., rise of nationalism; World Wars I and II; decline of colonialism; terrorism; the emergence of regional organizations such as the European Union)
  • Understands the role of ethnicity, cultural identity, and religious beliefs in shaping economic and political conflicts across the globe (e.g., why terrorist movements have proliferated and the extent of their impact on politics and society in various countries; the tensions and contradictions between globalizing trends of the world economy and assertions of traditional cultural identity and distinctiveness, including the challenges to the role of religion in contemporary society; the meaning of jihad and other Islamic beliefs that are relevant to military activity, how these compare to the Geneva Accords, and how such laws and principles apply to terrorist acts)


  • Computer(s) with Internet connection
  • Map and stickers or push pins
  • Pen, paper


  1. The attacks on September 11, 2001 in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh were among the most terrible terrorist attacks in the world, in terms of loss of life and the nature of the terrorists' crimes. Ask students to share what they know about these attacks. Why do they think the terrorists chose the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Why did the terrorists choose to hijack U.S. commercial airlines and use them as weapons? What should be the U.S. response?

  2. Ask students to think of other terrorist attacks they can remember, either at home or abroad. Do any of them approach the magnitude of this attack? What similarities exist in how the attacks were carried out?

  3. Have groups of students visit the following Web sites for more information about terrorist acts worldwide over the past five years. Have them create a timeline or map-based representation of terrorist activity.

  4. Using the above sites, and other sites like Frontline's Hunting bin Laden, ask students to create a concept web or outline describing characteristics shared by terrorist groups. What motivations do they share? How do they operate? How do they elude capture?

  5. Various organizations actively work to eliminate terrorism or have sponsored international gatherings about terrorism. Ask students to work in pairs or groups to learn more about various organizations and to summarize the work they've done to counter terrorism.

  6. Now, ask students to work in groups to examine the possible solutions to eradicate terrorism. Students may access different proposals and recommendations online; an abbreviated list follows. As students research one or more of these sites, ask them to paraphrase the main findings/recommendations.

  7. Ask students to work in groups, imagining they are an international delegation appearing at the United Nations, charged with establishing a platform or course of action for eradicating terrorism. From what they have just read, and from their own discussion, what five recommendations do they think make the most sense? Have them draw up a proposal listing their recommendations, and supporting each with a brief justification. Ask each group to share these with the class.

  8. As a class, evaluate the different proposals. Which one(s) make the most sense? Discuss the merits of each group's work. Students may also be interested in commentary at the Amnesty International Web site, which explores the balance between counter-terrorism tactics and individual freedoms (search using keyword "terrorism").

  9. In his speech to the nation on the evening of September 11, President Bush implied that the United States would pursue retaliation not just against terrorist groups themselves, but also against nations suspected of harboring or otherwise abetting terrorists. For more information about this, visit the PBS Online NewsHour panel discussion with several former government officials.

    What do students think of this policy? For example, what might happen if the U.S. were to launch air strikes against Afghanistan, because it suspects that Afghanistan is harboring a terrorist who is believed to have masterminded a terrorist attack against the U.S.? What are some likely consequences?

    Ask students to parepare an opinion essay about this question. Do students support military strikes and/or sanctions against countries suspected of harboring terrorists? Ask students to defend their opinions.

Student understanding should be assessed through:

  • contributions to class discussion
  • accurate chronology/representation of recent terrorist activity
  • concept web or outline describing motivations and common characteristics of terrorist groups
  • summary of an international agency's efforts to combat terrorism
  • group "top five" recommendations for eradicating terrorism, and justifications accompanying each recommendation
  • opinion essay about retaliation against nations suspected of harboring terrorists

PBS Primetime Coverage
PBS provided nightly coverage and analysis of the terrorist attacks on the United States with "America Responds."

Key PBS Resources:

Online NewsHour
Ongoing coverage and analysis.

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
Helping children cope.