September 11 Lesson

 Patriot's Day, or known by most in the U.S. as September 11, is one of the most difficult days to teach my students about because I'm emotional and this event happened before they were even born (I teach 2nd-- and holy cow that makes me feel old)! 

Each morning we start the day with an American song like America the Beautiful, The Star Spangeled Banner, or My Country Tis of Thee and then we say the pledge. I have found it extremely helpful to post the words on our promethean (like a smart board or mimio) nice and big so that the students can read along. It helps build fluency and we talk about the meaning of the words. This particular morning however, the words of the Star Spangeled Banner resonate so many different emotions and memories. They sink in. I talk to my students about what they think was happening while Francis  Scott Key was writing this song? What event do you think he was writing about?

Some students say things like, "The Fourth of July!" Or "I don't know because they talk really old." But after my explanation the majority of them get it. They all know that it's a special song to our nation. They know that it was written about a war that we persevered and won and waved our flag as a symbol that we were still there. And they are comforted knowing that they live in a place where we have a history of defending our freedoms. 

After our mini lesson on the Star Spangeled Banner, I made a KWL chart and asked the students to think about what they knew when I said the words 9/11, September 11th, or Patriot's Day. I was shocked at what they didn't know. One student thought the world had caught on fire and everyone died. Some thought tornadoes destroyed the Earth. At the ripe age of seven, most of their imaginations run wild! Some said that planes fell from the sky. 

Then I asked them what questions they had about 9/11, September 11th, or Patriot's Day? It was clear that they didn't know. They wanted to know more. They wanted to know all the details. 

I started my lesson off with the story A Man Who Walked Between Two Towers to give the students a little background about the World Trade Center. The story is awesome, the illustrations are beautiful, and the kids really enjoyed it. We talked about what people did in the towers and how high Phillipe Petit walked on the tight rope. 

Without video, a book, or music, I sat with my kids and shared my story of 9/11. They respectfully listened. It went something like this:

"I'll never forget that day. I was walking into my World History class late with a biscuit from Chick-fil-a. I was always late, but this day, I wanted to be inside quickly because I wasn't sure if I was safe out in the opened. My sister and I ran into the school after learning the news that the trade towers and pentagon were being attacked by planes. Some bad guys took over the pilots job and stole the planes in mid air! They tried flying the planes into important building. Four planes were hijacked. Two flew into the Twin Towers, one flew into The Pentagon, and one crashed near Camp David. The passengers heroically took down the hijackers. 

The World Trade Center was terrible since the buildings were so tall. People had trouble getting out, and many who were trapped lost their lives that day. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends and family of all were gone forever. Many police officers and firefighters also lost their lives trying to rescue those who were trapped. 

Today is the day remember all of those who lost their lives and honor them." 

We then listened to a story written by kids, September 12, the Day We Knew We Would be Alright. 

It brought tears to my eyes! Oh my, I had to turn away from the kids. They didn't see, but gosh it was hard. Afterwards, I asked them what they learned about 9/11. Here were their responses: 
-A man walked between two towers. 
-Airplanes attacked America. 
-Everything was alright. 

I know there is a significant amount of details that I left out in teaching my students, but at seven and eight years old, I don't want them to live a day in terror like my sisters and I did. I want them to know that like the Americans who fought in the Revolutionary War, we would still be there waving our flag, and things would continue moving on. We will continue to do great things and always work on being a better country. 

My kids got that. 

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