Saturday, September 12, 2015

Remembering 9/11 with 5th Graders

Every year it is inspiring to have kids, who in these last few years, were not alive during that scary and important day 14 years ago, who sit and listen as well as participate freely in the conversations that come up.  They have heard a few things here and there from their families and maybe a movie they have seen.  But other than that, they do not know much more about 9/11 outside of the Twin Towers.  It is such an important job to teach them exactly what September 11th means to our country and to those who experienced it.  We must never forget and being a teacher is one of the biggest gifts on this day.

That being said, I have pulled inspiration from so many wonderfully amazing teachers I follow via blogs and Facebook and in the last couple years have finally come up with the perfect mix of lessons...while still sticking with the skills we must stand by. At the end of the morning, my kids walk away with brains bursting with information and feelings of what it all really means for America.

This post isn't anything different than others you may have seen on those teacher's blogs, but this is my way of contributing (using my district's requirements and strategies) to the lesson bank for others to pull from the way I have.  I hope this helps another teacher out there searching for the right mix!  

I always like to start with the infamous and FREE BrainPop video that is always featured each year on 9/11.  Thankfully, it provides a pretty neutral view into the entire day.  It is best for middle grade students and above, but I have some primary teacher friends who like to show the first part and shut it off when it gets to the history behind terrorism.

While my kids are viewing the video, they can jot down important details about the three attacks that they hear on this simple yet well done document I found via YoungTeacherLove a couple years ago. It was created by What the Teacher Wants and you can download it for free HERE.

Thank goodness for BrownBagTeacher (Catherine Reed) who posted this FREE close reading passage in which she goes into more detail about what happened after the attacks surrounding the way America changed.  It has a fantastic insight into what students need to know about the way we responded to the attacks and how America wouldn't let the act of terrorism destroy us.  She remained very neutral when she created it, which makes it perfect!  Also included is a main idea and details graphic organizer that I like to copy on the back of the passage.

We are a close reading district and so students worked hard to annotate the passage as they read it the first time by themselves.  For the second read I modeled for them and annotated so they could continue seeing how too many or not enough annotations can impede their understanding.

We have been working like crazy on learning to tell the difference between reasons and evidence when it comes to pulling details from text (a la Common Core).  They are getting sooooooooo good at this after practicing for the last week.  I loved that we were able to apply all that learning to this 9/11 passage because they had a lot more ownership with this information because of it!  

Once they had worked closely with the text and using a lot of RoundRobin discussions to complete the main idea and details (namely reasons and evidence), they identified the main idea.  What I love about working with the reasons and evidence first is they already know the  main idea by the time they are done working!  This is the first time since I started teaching 5th grade 10 years ago that kids grasp onto it so fast!  Woohoooooooo!!

Of course, working with Common Core also means they need to be able to summarize the information they've now read and worked with.  I found this summarizing paragraph frame a couple years ago on Promethean Planet (let me know if you know who it belongs to).  It has made summarizing a dream for my students who usually have a lot of trouble keeping it short and to the point.  It's such a great piece to start with and slowly pull away from after multiple practice opportunities.

Once they had built up their knowledge banks about September 11th, it was time to tell them my 9/11 story.  I usually tell it at the very beginning, but this year I forgot and saved it for last.  It still made a big impact on them and helped lead me into explaining their weekend homework assignment, which is to interview 2 people about their 9/11 story using the questions on the backside of the document above from What the Teacher Wants.

And last but not least was taking them on a virtual field trip through Google Earth to both the 9/11 Memorial and the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial.  Most of my students will never get a chance to see both memorials in person and this is such a fantastic chance for them to explore.  The last time I even went was only about 9 months after 9/11 when everything was still torn apart.  I am so glad BrownBagTeacher posted about this a couple years ago because ever since then it has really helped my students see how the day changed us and how we now remember what it meant for our country.  

Kids always love the way Google Earth slowly zooms into a location.  It gives them such a good sense of location outside of the 1-dimensional maps in our social studies text.

Before zooming in, my kids like to discuss how different it looks just from above.  They don't seem to realize what the city has done to the area to change it into this beautiful memorial.

They appreciated seeing all of the names as well as being able to virtually walk around the edge and see the water feature.  The only thing we were missing was the sound and feel of it.  But this is almost just as good!  Not only that, but they loved being able to look up and see the construction of the building that is between the old site of the Twin Towers.  Gotta love Google!

Unfortunately, you can't see a 2-D street view of the Pentagon Memorial, but there are many many photos left by visitors on Google Earth.  This was the first time I was able to actually see it as well and even I was blown away.

So on Monday, my kids are going to be bringing their interviews back in to share with each other and the class.  Some of them are choosing to create a poster to go with it as well.  It will be interesting to hear what stories were shared with them as well.

How do you incorporate the skills you must teach in your classroom along with making sure we help pass on the importance of remembering September 11?