Each year I struggle with a way to teach 9/11. While some school districts have made a place for it in the curriculum, many have not. I was surprised last year when some of my students did not know what 9/11 was. But then I thought, Wait…these kids were born after 9/11. Them not knowing makes sense – this is history we’re dealing with.
Teaching in Philadelphia, a city so close to New York, one may assume that students are more familiar with this monumental event in history. However, that is not the case, as my sixth graders quickly informed me last year. While some knew the basics of 9/11 and others knew quite a bit, many had questions. I soon found myself abandoning the day’s original lesson and Googling lesson plans appropriate for my students. Teaching 9/11 “off-the-cuff” is not ideal and I didn’t feel like it was something I should just wing.
So this year, I wanted to be prepared and work 9/11 into my curriculum. And not just for one day either. While there are a myriad of lesson plans out there, as a literacy teacher, I’m all about novels and working them into my curriculum in any way possible. So I was stoked when I heard that author Jewell Parker Rhodes penned a novel about 9/11 that is geared specifically toward middle school students.
Towers Falling, describes how Deja, a homeless girl living in Brooklyn, learns about 9/11. In the book, she befriends Ben and Sabeen, whose knowledge of 9/11 surpasses Deja’s unintentional ignorance of the subject. The story follows Deja and her friends as they work together on school projects about 9/11 in which their teachers encourage them to think critically. Along the way, the three children learn about history and that even though they are all different, they are also the same.
I love this book for many reasons – the diversity, how relatable it is for inner-city students and the realness the aftermath 9/11 still has on many people.
While I will always remember exactly what I was doing the moment I learned about the towers falling, I recognize that my students came into this world post-9/11. If this part of America’s history is not in your curriculum, I encourage you to check out this book and at the very least, read it aloud or share it with your students.
How do you teach 9/11 to your students? I’d love to hear about it!