Lessons on the events of 9/11 are not included in social studies standards for more than half of American classrooms. As we approach the 10th anniversary of the attacks on September 11, students will be hearing many stories about the tragedy on the Internet, radio or television, around the dinner table, or possibly in conversations with friends. These students have spent most or all of their lives in an America where terrorism is a real threat, but how much do they know about it and have they ever been taught how to cope with it?
Whether students are old enough to remember the day of the attack or not, this upcoming anniversary presents an opportunity to not only reflect on 9/11, but start discussions about bigger concepts like coping with a tragedy, healing, and community.
In the following activity, students will start a campaign to build a conscience classroom community that everyone wants to be a part of and be accountable for.
- Writing materials
- Elementary through middle school
- Students will discuss the behavior they do and do not want to see in class. After all students have shared their ideas, write the 5 most popular answers on poster board for the class to see so they can be reminded of the community they wanted to build.
Start a class discussion about behavior students would like to see, or not see, in the class. This can be something that they do personally or that they see other people do. Get students thinking about the best way they can operate as a community by asking questions like the following:
- What are a few goals you have for this semester? (Passing the class, showing up to class on time, asking more questions)
- What are a few things that get in the way of you reaching your goals?
- How can you overcome your obstacles?
- What is one thing you wish you could change in the classroom environment? (More respect from peers)
- What behaviors would you like to see practiced in class?
- What behaviors would you like to see not practiced in class?
- What is your ideal learning environment?
Give students time to think on their own about these questions. Then, have them write down the class rules they think should be implemented and respected by all the class. Answers might include:
- Arriving to class on time
- Raising your hand when you need to speak
- Being quiet when you take a seat
- Respecting people’s space and things
Have each student share their best proposed rules with the class. Choose the top 5 rules from the class and write them on poster board to hang somewhere in the classroom. Decide how the community will enforce their rules. Is it okay for one student to tell another that they aren’t following the community rules, or do they need to tell the teacher? How will students be accountable for sticking to the rules they created? Do they need to be told to respect the rules? When students share their ideas, if they sound accusatory, ask them how they can make the statement into a positive.
When students are given a say in developing the classroom rules they are more likely to follow them and keep their classmates in check. Developing a community in the classroom is just one way to make your classroom come together while teaching the importance and power of working with peers toward a common goal.