Patriot Day, commonly referred to as 9/11, is observed on September 11th in remembrance of those who died as a result of terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001.

None of us like to think about the horrific images we may have seen that day or the terrible fear and pain the events caused on September 11th, but it is an important part of history that needs to be remembered.

Many early elementary teachers question what is appropriate to share with their students about the day and what its observance means.

Here are some things to think about when preparing to talk about September 11th with your students:

The Age of Your Students

Certainly, it is important to take into consideration the age of your students. Ask what they know from the start. Enough time has passed that you will likely have some children that don’t know anything about the day. However, others may have family members that were lost that day and they may know more than you would expect.

Avoid Fear Surrounding September 11th

There is no need to go into detail about all the horrible things that happened or the number of people killed; don’t show photos or videos to young children.

Keep it simple, remembering that you don’t want to scare them or make them feel unsafe. Talk about the brave people that went to help the injured that day. If children make statements of being afraid, you can tell them that lots of things are done to keep them safe every day by their parents, the police, etc. Choose examples that they can relate to, like lockdown drills at school and more security at airports.

Volunteer Opportunities

Talk about the things that people do to remember and honor those who died such as flying the American flag at half-staff. Some observe a moment of silence or prayer for those that lost their lives. Some people participate in some sort of community service. There are even virutal volunteer opportunities available.

Age-Appropriate Books

Preview picture books before you share them. Not every picture book is appropriate for your class. Look at reviews before choosing a book to see what age range is recommended. Read the book and carefully look at the illustrations prior to reading it to your class.

Here is a list of twelve books that you might want to use.

September 11th Then and Now
The Little Chapel That Stood

30000 Stitches
On That Day

This Very Tree
September 12th
Branches of Hope

September Roses
Heroes of September 11th
America Is Under Attack

Community Service

Think about an appropriate activity your students could do in remembrance of the day such as having students draw pictures and write thank you notes to firefighters and police officers in your neighborhood in thanks for keeping your community safe.

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Creation Castle

Heather is the author of Creation Castle. She has experience with general education, special education, and ESL students in kindergarten through fifth grade. She specializes in early elementary math and literacy, as well as organization.