September 11th is quickly becoming a forgotten tragedy in many students’ minds. The students we teach in elementary schools today were not even alive on this day in 2001.
However, I still spend September 11th (or the week after if it falls on a Sunday) remembering the day. I like to focus heavily on the heroes of the day and how people came together, instead of the tragedy and the fear.
With this in mind, I created a September 11th lesson that uses paired read alouds to teach about heroes often overlooked: boats and the crew of those boats.
This post includes affiliate links if you wish to purchase the books mentioned in this post.
I use these two books for my lesson focus:
Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey by Maira Kalman
Saved by the Boats: The Heroic Sea Evacuation of September 11 by Julie Gassman
Both of these books focus on how boats (and their crew) were also heroes during 9/11. Fireboat tells the story of the John J. Harvey, a fire boat that no longer put out fires on the piers. After the attacks of 9/11, firetrucks were unable to pump water, so the Harvey came out of retirement and worked day and night for four days helping control the fires.
Saved by the Boats, on the other hand, tells the story of how passenger boats, large and small, carried survivors to safety, despite the risk of another attack.
Both books are extremely touching and describe how the crew worked tirelessly to either put out the fires or get the survivors to safety. Since these books share so many similarities, they are perfect for a paired reading lesson.
For the lesson, provide the students a focus before reading each book. Ask students to listen for and jot down notes about how the boats and their crew were heroes on 9/11. Both books are relatively quick reads, so you could read them both in one lesson. I follow this sequence:
- Read Fireboat and take notes and discuss how the Harvey and its crew were heroes.
- Read Saved by the Boats and take notes and discuss how the boats in this book and their crew were also heroes.
- Have a class discussion comparing and contrasting the boats and how they helped in different ways. The students should refer back to their notes during this discussion.
- Have the students integrate their notes from both read alouds to write about how boats were used to save lives following the tragedy of 9/11.
I created a printable for my students to use when recording their notes while they listen to me read. The printable also has all the directions mentioned in the sequence I shared above.
In the free download, there are two versions of this printable: one if you are using sticky notes and one if you are not.
Depending on your grade level, your students could write a paragraph integrating their notes from both books or even a complete essay. If you choose to have them write an essay, this lesson could easily be your reading and writing lessons for the week of (or after) 9/11. There are so many other reading skills that can be taught and discussed with these two books as well, including themes, connection between events, etc.
If you would like more paired passages, click here to see all of the sets I have in my store. I actually have a paired passage resource with the topic of 9/11 that I also use the week of 9/11. You can find that resource by clicking here. This resource is a great option if you want a September 11th lesson but do not have the books available.
Click on the image below to download the free printable student recording sheet (as well as example answers) to try this September 11th lesson in your own classroom.