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A 9-11 Lesson from Tom Brokaw on "A Society Just Going About Their Business"

I wasn't going to do a 9-11 post. There would be too many, "here's a list
of 9-11 books" posts; I was sure. A post detailing my, "where were you" moment (teaching a 6th grade class) would hold little attention when compared to what others were doing (loading bombs onto fighter jets - like my husband). But then, I saw the New York Times/YouTube collaboration and stumbled upon Tom Brokow's reflection. Not his reflection on his own place in history, but his reflection on where he thought we would go and where we have gone.

My teacher wheels started spinning..... and I threw together this quick lesson plan with Mr. Brokaw's help:

Essential Question: "Should the terrorist acts on 9-11-2001 have changed America?"

Preview/Activation of Prior Knowledge Activity:
Because the students are now too young to remember, I would begin with some sort of
discussion/K-W-L/anticipation guide on what the students think/know about 9-11. Then, I would
show Tom's original broadcast:


Read for understanding activity:
I would follow the video with clarification/questioning (including the fact that Mr. Brokaw is an award-winning news reporter and his co-reporter, David Bloom, died in the war) whilst they add their thoughts to their anticipation guides.

Before reading Mr. Brokaw's New York Times op-ed piece written two weeks later: Into An Unknowable Future (click that link to print it), students will need some front-loading of vocabulary (discernible, immutable, gratuitous, titillating, bipartisan, cataclysmic). Remember: front loading vocabulary is a slippery slope; you can't just give them the definitions....

Working in groups/pairs have the students use the following questions as they read the article (make sure the vocabulary words are posted or easily accessible):
1. What are Mr. Brokaw's predictions and concerns for the future? (making generalizations/author's purpose)
2. How does Mr. Brokaw compare the attacks on 9-11 to past events in history? (making comparisons/inferences)

Once finished, gather common answers/thoughts on the reading to the board or chart paper. Discuss which of Mr. Brokaw's predictions and concerns came true and things that have happened that he did not foresee.

Culminating Activity:
After the students have discussed the op-ed piece thoroughly, show them Mr. Brokaw's video for the ten year anniversary reflecting on his original op-ed piece and what did not change that should have:



Assessment Activity: Hold a brief discussion clarifying any questions about the second video and/or any parts of the entire lesson. Using a rubric which requires the students to use the three sources and their notations, have the students write an essay on the essential question: "Should the terrorist acts on 9-11-2001 have changed America?"




I wrote this in 30 minutes and though I would love to give you a rubric, I am off to my bacon and eggs, my sunshiny day and my lack of sacrifice. Today, some military family will get a horrible dispatch so that I can do that.

P.S. Opened Sunday's newspaper to a Parade Magazine article from Mr. Brokaw that adds beautifully to this lesson: HERE


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© 2007-2011 Cheryl Vanatti for www.ReadingRumpus.com


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