Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Dealing with Tragedy in the Classroom
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Procedures for teachers is divided into three sections:
Prep -- Preparing for the lesson
Steps -- Conducting the lesson
Extension -- Additional Activities


  • The teacher will need to locate photographs or images of the proliferation of American flags. These can be obtained from newspapers, Web sites, or their own photos within the community.
  • Go to for photographs of people grieving and mourning their losses. There are many with American flags.

Media Components

Computer Resources:
You will need at least one computer with Internet access to complete this lesson. While many configurations will work, we recommend:
  • Modem: 28.8 Kbps or faster.
  • Browser: Netscape Navigator 3.0 or above or Internet Explorer 3.0 or above.
  • Macintosh computer: System 7.0 or above and at least 16 MB of RAM.
  • IBM-compatible computer: 386 or higher processor with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 3.1. Or, a 486/66 or Pentium with at least 16 MB of RAM, running Windows 95.

Bookmark the following sites:
  • Dr. Spock's Web site
    Find advice on how to talk to kids about tragedy and loss.

  • Google: Photographs
    See photographs from all over the world of people grieving and mourning the tragedy. There are many with American flags.

  •'s Web site
    Find advice about how to talk to kids about tragedy and loss.

  • Bergen Record Web site
    Find information (under "images" header in lower half of screen) on how to order the photograph of three firefighters hoisting the American flag.

    This site is for students to create virtual memorials for victims of the tragedy.

  • Youth Noise
    This is another site which allows students to create an online memorial.

  • KidsAid
    This site provides a safe place for kids to share and help each other deal with grief about any kind of loss.

  • American Red Cross Condolence Board
    Students can discuss the tragedy and post condolences on this Web site.

  • Liberty Unites
    The American Liberty Partnership has compiled a list of rescue and philanthropic organizations that need financial support in the wake of the nation's recent tragedies. The site also has a counter for the amount of money raised from online donations.

    Students need the following supplies:
  •  Scissors
  •  Glue
  •  Old magazines to cut up for collages
  •  Crayons
  •  Markers
  •  Construction paper
  •  A photograph from a magazine, newspaper or the Internet, showing someone carrying an American flag. The photo of three firefighters hoisting an American flag is especially good. The photograph, taken by Thomas E. Franklin of the Bergen Record, was featured on the cover of the September 24, 2001 edition of Newsweek and on the front page of The New York Post on September 13, 2001. See "Bookmarked sites" for ordering information.

Introductory Activity:

  • To introduce this lesson, show your students a photo from a magazine, newspaper, or the Internet showing someone carrying an American flag. All over the U.S., there are flags hanging in store windows, pasted to car windows, hanging from antennas, and hanging at half-mast.

  • Discuss the following questions with your students:
    • What do you see in the photo?
    • Why are so many people carrying American flags?
    • What happened that made people put up all of these flags?
    • What does the flag represent?
    • How do you think it makes people feel when they hold up a flag or see the American flag?
    • How does the American flag make you feel?
    Record their responses on a piece of chart paper.

    Learning Activities:

    The following activities offer a number of ways that children can reach out to those children and others who were directly affected by the terrorist attacks of September 11th. This lesson offers a range of different topics and activities to cater to the variety of coping mechanisms that each student may have.

    Activity One

    1. Many firefighters and police officers were lost in the blast. Many of these people had children. Ask students to write letters of condolence and draw pictures addressed to these children. Topics they can write about include:
    • sentiments of gratitude for what their parents did for the people of New York City
    • letters of condolence
    • simple offers to be their pen pals
    You can go to for a list of organizations where students can send their messages. For example, the New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund lists contact information for the International Association of Firefighters:, which may be able to provide contact information for the families of some of the victims.

    Activity Two

    1. Many firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses, construction workers, iron workers, emergency medical technicians, special search and rescue teams (and search dogs), National Guardsmen, FBI officials, members of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and others all helped in the rescue and recovery effort. These people (and search dogs) can be considered heroes. Ask students to write letters to these people, expressing their feelings of gratitude.

  • Before the students begin writing their letters of thanks, discuss the following questions:
    • What is a hero?
    • Why are all of these people considered heroes? What did they do for the victims?
    • What would you like to say to these people?
    You may want to have students write individual thank-you letters, or create a mural expressing thanks through words and images, from the entire class.

    As in the Activity One, has a helpful list of organizations where students can send their thanks.

    Activity Three

    Volunteering is another way for students to deal with the grief and trauma. In this activity students devise and implement a plan to help the people who have been affected by the terrorist attacks.

  • Start with a discussion about volunteerism. What is volunteerism? Why is it so important during times of crisis?

  • Ask students what they think they can do for those directly affected by the attacks. The students should come up with their own ideas. Some suggestions may include: running food and clothing drives; raising money to donate to families, or organizing toy drives.

  • From there, the students should decide what they want to do as a class and then begin the logistics of how to collect all of the supplies.

  • Go to for a list of organizations where students can donate the money/supplies they raise and collect. For example:
    • American Red Cross
    • New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund
    • New York Police and Firefighters Widows and Children's Benefit Fund
    • Survivors' Fund of the National Capital Region
    • September 11th Fund
    • Catholic Charities USA
    • New York State World Trade Center Relief Fund
    • Salvation Army
    • Twin Towers Fund
    • Americares
    • America's Second Harvest
    • WTC Police Disaster Relief Fund
    • United Jewish Communities

    Culminating Activity/Assessment:

    To bring closure to the unit, tell students that they will be creating a class-wide art project to share their ideas, feelings, fears, hopes, and thanks about the tragedy and those directly affected. Tell students that they will be creating a paper quilt, to express their feelings about the tragedy. Each student should create 1 square of the quilt.

  • Meet with the class and ask them what a quilt is? What are they used for? What do they look like? (You should try to elicit answers that address the nature of a group effort and the telling of a story or message.)

  • Introduce the idea that all of the students will contribute a square to the project. Usually, quilts are sewn and made out of material. Because of the age of the students, they will draw pictures and make collages instead.

  • Discuss what they want to do with the quilt once it is done. Will they want to donate it to a school, community center, fire station, police station, etc? Will they want to hang it in their own school?

    4. Once the students decide what they want to do with the quilt, discuss what types of images they want to include. You might suggest including images in memory of the people who died in the blast; or images of the incredible deeds of volunteers and rescuers. Before they begin work on the actual square, they should fill out the Organizer for Quilt Squares.

  • The students should then work on their squares. (10-inch by 10-inch squares would work well.) The teacher would be responsible for piecing all of the squares together.

  • Once the children finished their art pieces, they should write a paragraph to go along with the squares. Their paragraphs could be bound together to accompany their artwork. Another option would be to type up all of their comments and post them alongside the quilt.


  • Ask a member from a local charity organization to come in and discuss the importance and history of volunteerism.

  • Ask students to write a letter to a hero in their own life, e.g., a parent, teacher, or friend.

    Overview | Procedures for Teachers | Organizers for Students