The Lookout

How are you planning on teaching 9/11?

Liz Goodwin
The Lookout

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An appeal to educators in The Lookout audience: Are you planning on talking about the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks with your students? If so, we want to hear from you about how you plan to tackle the event in your classroom, and what techniques have or haven't worked for you in the past.

There are no national guidelines for teaching this recent and still raw part of our history, and most states don't hand down guidelines to teachers, either. Teachers are, for the most part, on their own as they decide how to explain the traumatic event and its ongoing fallout to their students. Some choose to forgo the discussion altogether, especially with younger children.

Even though there's no official guidance on handling the terrorist attacks in the classroom, teachers have found ways to share their best practices with each other. Several teachers shared with the New York Times' learning blog how they've approached talking about 9/11 with their students over the past nine anniversaries of the date. "Each year, I get thanks from kids who say that no one else mentioned 9/11 all day," said one Oregon teacher, who posts a list of the names of those who died in the attacks for the students to read.

The Department of Education put up several resources and curricula suggestions on Friday for the first time that teachers can access if they're looking for ideas. One sample lesson plan looks at how "ordinary people acted in extraordinary ways" after the attacks, and asks students to think about practicing good citizenship. The Morningside Center also has resources for teaching 9/11 to younger students.

But talking about the attacks can lead to tough and controversial discussions about the 6,000 American soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, and about issues relating to terrorism in general. A coloring book designed by a St. Louis man aimed at teaching kids about the events has sparked controversy, with Muslim groups saying it paints all Muslims as terrorists.

What is the right balance to strike in the classroom, and how can you make discussions of the attacks age-appropriate?

We'd love to hear from teachers about how you plan to tackle these questions this Sept. 11--and since we'll be posting your replies after this year's anniversary, we would like to hear how discussions of the 10-year commemoration of the attacks went in the classroom.

Please let us know what grade and subject you teach, if and how you have talked about the attacks, and why you've chosen the approach you did. Also let us know if your school, district, or state has given you official guidelines about how to approach the subject. We will then publish a selection of the responses on the blog. You can email us at teachingsept11@yahoo.com.

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