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This Is My Simple Three-Day Lesson On 9/11 — Can You Help Me Make It Better?


This year I’m teaching two separate periods of U.S. History to English Language Learners, a double period of English to Beginning ELL’s, and one period of IB Theory Of Knowledge.

I thought I’d share my three-day 9/11 lesson plan and solicit feedback. I’m starting it tomorrow, but can always adjust quickly for good ideas!

I’m starting off tomorrow with having students do a K-W-L Chart on 9/11 (that is, the Know and What I Want To Know sections) — first individually, then sharing with a partner, and then we complete a class version. Next, we’ll look at a variety of resources from The Best Sites To Help Teach About 9/11 list. Students will take notes on the answers they learn to the questions they listed in the K-W-L chart. I’ll then assign homework, which is a list of questions they have to ask their parents/guardians. I’ve uploaded it here if you want use it or make changes, and will also share it in this post:

Please ask your parents or grandparents these two questions:

1. What do you remember about the terrorist attack in New York City ten years ago on September 11th?

2. What major acts of political and/or criminal violence do you remember in your native country? Please describe what happened.

How did it affect you and your family? How did it make you and them feel?

How did it affect our native country?

The next day I’ll ask students to share in partners — perhaps in a “round-robin” routine — what they learned.
It will be interesting to hear what families say about the Mexican drug war, the war in Southeast Asia and the war against the Hmong, terrorism in Pakistan and Chechnya, etc. I’ll then teach the concept of a Venn Diagram, and have students develop one noting the differences and similarities between 9/11 and the violence in their native countries.

Then, on the third day, students will convert the Venn Diagram into a compare/contrast essay.

What do you think? How could I make it better?

Note: I’ve made some additions to the lesson, which you can read about here.

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. For upper level students, perhaps an alternative history writing assignment in which they must write about what the world may be like if 9/11 hadn’t happened.

  2. I check your website every day and thank you for such a useful resource treasury.

    I have never posted before. This lesson makes me sad and wondering how and why we feel the need to translate an event of such incomprehensible violence and unmeasurable pain to Venn diagram tasks and formula driven essays? I understand the learning intentions on one level, but I wonder how educators might reconsider the pedagogy of history? How do we teach the horrors of the past as “learning” for today and tomorrow, especially when the past is still so immediate?

    • Karyn,

      I certainly didn’t mean to suggest that my lesson was designed to communicate a deep lesson about history, though I would love to hear ideas on how I could have done so — keeping in mind that my students are low Intermediate English Language Learners. I do think it does create an opportunity for my students to talk about the “incomprehensible violence and unmeasurable pain” that they and their families have experienced in their own lives. As a native New Yorker, as a son whose father once worked in the World Trade Center (but not at the time of the attack), and as an American, I deeply feel the pain of 9/11. And though I am skeptical of comparing pain — pain is pain — the fact that the number who died that day is far smaller than the number of people who have died in acts of political violence in the countries of my students. Your comment prompted to think a little more about this lesson and I think that this fact is another teaching and learning opportunity for both them and me. Tomorrow, I will also be asking them to talk about how the victims from their countries are remembered, to share the similarities and differences, and to particularly talk about what reasons they think are behind the differences.


  3. Thanks Larry, I agree, it is hard to think about or teach in the context of comparative pain; I have always felt challenged as a teacher when this is an underlying aspect of a history lesson. I like your idea of “remembrance” and how different acts/events are remembered and memorialized. Looking at this idea from the lens of other cultures could be especially powerful. Perhaps even the idea of whether or not “we” ever truly learn from the past and how that learning is manifested in future actions would be a useful discussion prompt.

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