How to Approach Teaching About September 11th in Upper Elementary

By Kirsten Hammond

As educators, we have a responsibility to ensure that our students not only grasp academic concepts but also understand the significance of pivotal moments in history. One such moment is the tragic events of September 11th, 2001.

In this blog post, we will explore the importance of teaching 9/11 to upper elementary students. I also share with you five kid-friendly activities to help facilitate understanding and remembrance.

The American Flag is an important symbol honoring those who have fallen on September 11th, 2001

Reflecting on September 11th: Why It Matters

Reflecting on the events of September 11th holds a special place in my heart. Each year, I made it a priority to discuss its significance with my students.

In 2021, the 20th anniversary of 9/11 stirred deep emotions within me. Not only was I commemorating the event’s milestone, but I was also struck by the realization that I, as a teacher, was discussing it with my fifth-grade students and sharing my own experience about the event as a fifth-grader in 2001.

As students progress through the grade levels, their teachers’ unique perspectives will enrich the discussions of this event. Whether a teacher experienced 9/11 as a college student, as a child, or even a first-year teacher, each of their teachers’ perspectives will add to the important of the day to students.

Teaching about September 11th goes beyond recollection; it’s about honoring the fallen and recognizing the heroes who emerged from the tragedy.

In upper elementary classrooms, students are old enough to grasp a basic understanding of event while appreciating the bravery displayed by individuals without having to dive into the major details.

Student-Friendly Activities to Teach September 11th


Start with BrainPOP’s straightforward video that discusses the events and reasons behind September 11th. It provides a clear overview that resonates with upper elementary students.

“Boatlift: An Untold Tale of 9/11 Resilience”

Show students the YouTube video “Boatlift,” which highlights unexpected heroism during 9/11. This captivating story showcases how heroism can emerge during challenging times.

“14 Cows for America” Book

Engage students with the children’s book “14 Cows for America,” which narrates the heartwarming story of people from Kenya giving cows to the United States after 9/11.

CNN 10

Each year, CNN 10 produces short videos about 9/11, providing interviews and stories that help students understand the events. These videos offer valuable insights into this event.

Patriot Day WebQuest

Explore a resource like the Patriot Day WebQuest to delve into the events of September 11th and how Patriot Day honors the heroes from this day. This interactive WebQuest deepens students’ understanding of the day’s significance.

one world trade center


Teaching 9/11 to upper elementary students is about connecting them with history and fostering empathy.

By sharing personal stories, engaging in meaningful activities, and providing your students with a platform for discussion, we can ensure that the memory of September 11th lives on and that its lessons continue to shape the hearts and minds of the next generation.

kirsten hammond

Kirsten is a former 3rd and 5th grade teacher who loves helping upper elementary teachers by creating resources and sharing ideas that are engaging, research-based, and TEKS-aligned. She is a work-from-home mama of 3 rambunctious little ones and loves running, true crime, and lots of coffee.

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