Every year we move farther away from the horrific day that was September 11, 2001. As a fourth grade teacher, I struggle with how to teach my students, who were born years after this terrible time, about 9/11.
How far do I go? Elementary students are a wonderful blend of bravado and vulnerability, so I want them to understand how the 9/11 events shaped America’s history and changed how we, as Americans, view the world. But I also don’t want to scare or distress them.There are many terrible times in our country’s history that our students need to learn about: war, depression, famines, flu epidemics to name a few.
Yet 9/11 is different. It’s fresh in our memories and evokes strong visceral emotions. I want my students to understand how the events of September 11, 2001, impacted our everyday lives and changed the way we do many things.
An excellent tool that I use to introduce/review the events of that day is the video made by Nickelodeon on the tenth anniversary of the attacks. Journalist Linda Ellerbee narrates the sequence of events, leaving out the scariest visuals, and then young people ask questions and receive answers from historians. We then have a class discussion answering questions and correcting any misinformation that my kids may have. The video can be found at: http://www.podcast.tv/video-episodes/what-happened-the-story-of-september-11-2001-15862017.html
After the events on 9/11, Americans drew together as a result of this shared tragedy. If I teach this effectively, my students will realize that we are fortunate to live in a country that embraces democracy, encourages different points of view, and has the heart to embrace diversity in our population. They will understand that while we live in the United States, we are citizens of the entire world.