While Sept. 11 will likely remain a day of thoughtful remembrance for the adults in a school building, it’s important to acknowledge that the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks has a different meaning for students, who likely know that is an important part of history, but do not know all the details or don’t completely understand its significance.
Many schools will use the anniversary as an opportunity to integrate instruction in social studies with 21st century skills such as global literacy. If you need direction in addressing the topic, review the numerous resources that are available online.
For example, to help students understand the events surrounding Sept. 11 and the aftermath, Pearson is offering teachers, students, and parents a free collection of online education lessons and activities. Remembering September 11, which is available at Pearson’s Online Learning Exchange, provides resources to help teach students about the impact of the event. For elementary classrooms, the online materials include downloadable lesson plans for teachers and corresponding whiteboard-ready presentations that explain Sept. 11 with a focus on the heroic efforts undertaken during the past 10 years to keep our nation secure.
The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) also provides recommendations for addressing the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, warning against what NASP calls “the anniversary effect”:
Extensive media coverage of the anniversary and memorial dedication will likely include footage of the attacks. Many children will be seeing these images for the first time. For others, a renewed focus on the tragedy can bring back the feelings they had when it occurred. This is particularly true for individuals who were personally impacted by the events. Additionally, greater attention to this frightening time for the country may contribute to an already heightened sense of anxiety related to our continued state of war, the troubled economy, and the recent rash of natural disasters.
NASP suggests that schools identify vulnerable students, let students’ needs guide a schoolwide approach and decision about whether a memorial is needed, caution against excessive exposure to negative images, and make time for class discussion.
As with any potentially sensitive subject, schools should exercise good judgment as they decide how to commemorate Sept. 11. Here are more resources to help you plan your school’s response:
- NAESP’s Report to Parents on coping with tragedy
- NASP resources, including parent-related handouts
- National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum offers teaching guides
- USA Today article about teaching Sept. 11 history
- Library of Congress American Memory project includes reflections about Sept. 11
- Educationworld.com compiles lessons and resources for teachers