Sunday, September 22, 2013

9/11 Mentor texts {Must Read Mentor Texts for Social Studies}

Hey there!

I know this post is coming after the fact, but I just wanted to share two books that I used on September 11th.

The first book is The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.

Here is the description from Amazon: In 1974, French aerialist Philippe Petit threw a tightrope between the two towers of the World Trade Center and spent an hour walking, dancing, and performing high-wire tricks a quarter mile in the sky. This picture book captures the poetry and magic of the event with a poetry of its own: lyrical words and lovely paintings that present the detail, daring, and--in two dramatic foldout spreads-- the vertiginous drama of Petit's feat.

This book is based on a true story, which automatically captures the class's attention!

I used this book on September 11th and I had my students do sticky notes to go along with the book.  They like to make a lot of predictions and they always have a lot of WOW moments!!  It's a very fun book for them and for me!!  

Now, when we were reading this book and doing sticky notes, I noticed a lot of students were predicting that Phillipe would be walking on the tight rope between the towers and then the planes would come and hit the towers.  They really weren't understanding that this happened a long time ago, even with picture clues AND with what the text was SAYING.  This was a little concerning.  

So, I decided to get this book:

I definitely had the feeling that my students did not know a lot about the events of September 11, 2001.  So, I thought pairing this with nonfiction may help with some misconceptions.

Now, I will say this.  

I was in my second year of teaching in Tennessee on September 11, 2001.  I can remember exactly where I was and what I was doing when a teacher pulled me from my classroom to tell me what was going on.  It is all very vivid for me.  There are a lot of emotions within me on September 11th every year.  And I wasn't even right there, in New York.

So, when this book came in the mail, it took me a day or so to read it.  And then I did.

I was struck by how very matter of fact it was.  It is very well written.  Yet, it was very nonfiction, if that makes sense?  Just the facts.

I found myself getting emotional.  But, I was emotional because I was alive when this happened and I could remember all of those feelings and fears associated with that day.  Looking at the pictures and remembering all of that, had me viewing the book in a different way.

It had me thinking about all of the other nonfiction books I have read about historical events.  We teach about the Revolutionary War and I started thinking, wow, I sit and read these nonfiction books without being very affected.  I don't get very emotional when I read other nonfiction books about historical events because it is about events that occurred long before my time.

Yet, I read this nonfiction book and it evoked a lot of strong emotions in me.  

It was important for me to relay that to my students.  Even though I was sharing the facts with them, it goes a lot deeper than just the facts.  I knew they couldn't connect to it because they weren't even alive yet.

I wrote a narrative that I shared with them about how I felt that day.  September 11, 2001.  I worked really hard to be very vivid in my writing and to really get across how I felt and how this tragedy affected me.  And I wasn't even there, right where it happened, so I shared how my experience was different from everyone else's but that it was very real to me and I wanted to make it real for them.  (I was also trying to model vivid writing.)  I wanted them to see my perspective.

We talked about the difference in my writing about the event and the nonfiction book we read.

It was a way to connect it to them so that when we start talking about the American Revolution, they will hopefully understand why we learn about these historical figures and why it's important to look at primary sources and see how George Washington was feeling why he felt that way (for example).  He was there.  It was important to him and affected him in ways we may not even know.  But we can dig deeper and see if we can make some inferences about it.  Because it's important to our country to understand.  Just like September 11, 2001 will forever be in our hearts.

So, this is what I did for September 11th (over a few days).  I just feel like it's so important to remember and share this with students.  My students already had misconceptions or just didn't even know what had happened.  I wanted them to know and to try to understand.  And, honestly, it helped to have the nonfiction book there so that I could answer questions without only giving my opinion.  When needed, I could just give the facts about the who and the why.  Especially because I still don't even understand the why.

I hope this was helpful and that you will take a look at these two books.  The Man Who Walked Between the Towers is always a favorite!

PS- September has 5 Sundays.  We were thinking next week you could link up any books for fall, Halloween, or October so we can all get some great ideas to use in the upcoming month!  :O)
Please Link Up!

Next week's linky- Books for Fall, Halloween, or October


  1. Wow! What a powerful lesson. I remember so much from that day too, even what I wore, the weather... everything. I admire how you shared your personal experience with your students through a writing lesson; I doubt they will ever forget it. Thanks for sharing these books- I agree that we should never forget to teach our students how profoundly 9/11 changed our country and even our daily lives.
    Creating a Thoughtful Classroom

  2. I love both of those moving. I also love sharing Fireboat and September 12 with my classes. They are two of my favorites to read that tell kids a little bit more about 9/11.

    Hunter's Teaching Tales
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  3. It does not seem that 9/11 was that long ago and I am always shocked when I realize the students I am teaching have no memory of that day. I was home on maternity leave watching the events live on MSNBC and will never forget that day. What a powerful lesson, both on 9/11 and the importance of remembering non-fiction events have a human element, that you shared with your students. Thanks for sharing this with all of us.

  4. Thank you for some great resources on such a sensitive topic.

    I remember that event all too well. It is still so difficult to talk about. You are so right about how nonfiction can affect us. I love how you connected these books to lessons on primary and secondary resources. I have this pinned for next year.

    Thank you!

    Fit to be Fourth
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  5. I saved The Man Who Walked Between the Towers for this week because we spent time last week with 14 Cows For America and a nonfiction passage from ReadWorks. They were so excited to hear the book this week even though it wasn't "really" about Sept 11 because they knew about the towers already.

    I was in my first year in college and was just waking up for class that morning... everyone in the dorm had their doors open with TVs on- we were all running to each other's rooms hugging and crying and actually even fearful to leave to go to class- even though it was hundreds of miles away. It was hard to watch, but hard not to watch. :(


  6. I love The Man Who Walked Between the Towers. I was just at a session with Gay Su Pinnell, and she used this text, as well as others, to show the diversity of biographies within the genre. Thanks so much for sharing how you use these text with your class.


  7. I just used The Man Who Walked Between the Towers this week with my fifth graders to discuss character traits. It's one of my favorites! I really like how you tried to make this event come alive by sharing your point of view. It's hard to really understand how serious this was when they weren't alive (or old enough) to experience it for themselves.

    Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late
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  8. I love how your wrote your own narrative to share with your students. I ventured into this topic last year (and plan on using this book this year when I can get to it) but you are right that the students have a lot of misconceptions. It is so emotional talking about it. On 9/11 I was teaching my second year of 6th grade and my teammate came over to tell me to turn on the TV. My room was full of 6th graders and we watched as the second plane flew into the twin towers. It is something I will never forget. :(
    Fourth Grade Flipper

  9. Thanks for sharing these books! It really is hard to teach about a topic that has impacted us in such a deep way. I always love finding books that will help me in the process!
    A Tall Drink of Water

  10. So powerful Amanda and I love how you extended your lesson with writing. That's the BEST writing-from your heart! And, you're absolutely puts a different perspective on history if we've lived it. I have The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, but I don't have September 11th Then and Now-sounds amazing! Adding it to my wish list! Thanks for sharing a wonderful post!
    Head Over Heels For Teaching

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