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September 11th, 2014

The 9/11 anniversary in the classroom


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Teaching the events and aftermath of 9/11 can be challenging because of the complex emotions it stirs up in both teacher and student and the sheer size of the topic. Keeping this in mind, we have provided a one-page background text for middle and high school students and a short list of resources for the classroom. Within the resource collections you will find articles, videos, lesson plans, interactive timelines, photo slideshows and other rich content to choose from to meet the needs of your own classroom.

Background for students

Thirteen years ago on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, members of the Islamic extremist group al-Qaeda hijacked four planes in a coordinated terrorist attack. Two planes crashed into the Twin Towers in downtown New York City, a third plane flew into the Pentagon building in Washington, D.C., and the final plane was brought down by passengers, who had become aware of the other attacks, in a field in Pennsylvania. 2,977 people died in the attacks, including civilians, military personnel in the Pentagon and the emergency fire fighters, police and medical workers who arrived at the scene.

In response to the attacks, President George W. Bush announced that any nation that supported terrorism or was found to be harboring terrorists would be considered an enemy of the United States. At that time, the government of Afghanistan was ruled by the Taliban, an extremist Muslim political movement, who refused to shut down known terrorist training camps or give up suspected terrorists to the United States. Within a month, the United States invaded Afghanistan and began a war against al-Qaeda, its leader Osama bin Laden and the Taliban government who protected them. U.S. special forces found and killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in the spring of 2011.

The attack had a profound impact on he United States and the rest of the world. The U.S. Congress designated Sept. 11 as “Patriot Day” to remember and honor those who died. On this day, flags are set to half-staff and many observe a moment of silence at 8:46 am, the time when the first plane hit the Twin Towers.

Recommended resources for the classroom

National September 11 Memorial & Museum  

  • An in-depth FAQ about the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, with particular attention to the Twin Towers and the 9/11 Memorial that stands in their place today.
  • Two interactive timelines that chronicle both the attacks and the Ground Zero recovery. Note: Both timelines incorporate videos and images from the attacks, so please view them first before sharing them with students who may be upset by the content.

PBS NewsHour 

  • This special ten year anniversary collection on 9/11 provides articles, videos and suggested resources from Frontline, NOVA and other PBS programs.

The Learning Network |Teaching and Learning with the New York Times

PBS Learning Media

  • Reflections on the 9/11 Memorial   In this short video from NOVA Online, visitors weigh in on the design and importance of the memorial. “It’s very moving, it’s graceful, and it’s also dignified.

Teaching Tolerance

  • In Remembrance: Teaching September 11  This collection of resources is recommended by the U.S. Department of Education and explores topics and events surrounding 9/11 as well as recommended strategies for educators on how to teach 9/11 in the classroom.

Share My Lesson

  • Remembering 9/11: Building Tolerance These lessons asks students to look not just at the events of 9/11 but at the following days and years. Students in explore the parts of a newspaper, the functions of a news article, and the importance of a free press in a democratic society.

Submit Your Student Voice

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