Thursday, September 12, 2013

Teaching Elementary Students about 9/11

Yesterday was September 11th, a day that makes all American adults pause and remember. Most of you know that I teach 4th grade, that means that I am currently teaching students that were not alive in 2001. They only know the story of the World Trade Center Attacks as just that, a story. So the question is, how do we handle 9/11 with kids so young?

To start this conversation I ask my kiddos to tell me what they know about 9/11. We listen and talk. As the conversation turns into more questions than facts I play a video from BrainPOP. The video is normally the featured video on Sept. 11th, so even if you don't have a BrainPop subscription you can still show the video for free.

Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey
After the video the kids and I read the story Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey. The students and I talk about the book, and how normal people became heroes that day. Fair warning to read it first before you read it to your kids...I get choked up every year.

September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right
Then we read September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right. This book was written by a first grade class. It shares how the students knew everything would be okay. Many of you know that I am in a private school, so I am able to share with the kids that we can trust in God when bad things like this happen. I remind them that it isn't a surprise to God, and that even though we don't know why He allows bad things to happen we can trust that He will help us through it. It's a good lesson for me to remember too.

How do you explain 9/11 to your students? What are your favorite activities to do with your kiddos to help them deal with such a heavy topic?


  1. Great job that you talked about it with your class. My first greade daughter had a lot of questions when she got home yesterday and I was glad that her teacher had talked with them about it.

    I'm really glad that brainpop made a video (for free) for it. I normally don't do too much since it coincides with my groups not always starting (plus we had school-wide benchmarking (CBMs) to take care of.

    I'm going to have to get the September 12th book.

    thanks Bethany!
    Digital: Divide & Conquer

  2. I posted last night about this:). Yesterday was hard. Check out Boatlift on YouTube. It sounds as if it would go perfect with you book!

  3. I had no idea BrainPOP did a video about it! When I taught 4th grade, I always read "The Man Who Walked Between the Towers" for a more uplifting story about the towers, then we took some time to talk about it. Now I'm Title I and don't have kids quite yet, so I haven't done anything for it with my students. That September 12 book looks cute, and I'm very interested in the Fireboat book!

    Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late
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  4. Please check out my 9/11 post at "14 Cows for America" is another very uplifting story to use with kids. Thank you for sharing your resources. I am definitely going to look at "Fireboat" and "September 12th." Feel free to follow my blog at ~Stacy

  5. We watched the Brainpop video too. Then we used Tagxedo to make word clouds in the shape of America. It's tough but so very important to teach them about 9/11.

    iTeach 1:1

  6. Thank you for the resources. This has always been a challenging subject for me to approach with my students. I really appreciate this post!

    Fit to be Fourth
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  7. This is something I really struggled with this year. Thank you so much for your resources!

    Beach Teach