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Graphic depictions of The 9/11 Report

15 Sep

In Modern History, my year eleven students and I have been talking a lot about the factors that shape representations of particular historical events (see, for example, my previous posts here, here and here).

With the end of term fast approaching, I had to make some harsh decisions about what to show my students.  This resource, The 9/11 Report: a Graphic Adaptation, is one of those things I unfortunately will not get to show my students.  It is really interesting as it seeks to mediate the dense language of a report written about 9/11 by translating that report into a graphic novel.  On the one hand, this makes the report accessible, but it also seems (at times) a tad irreverent.

Audience, purpose and representation

15 Sep

Representation of events is shaped by intended audience, purpose and perspectives.

It was this idea that I hoped to convey to my year 11 Modern History students in a recent lessons.  In order to illustrate this point we first read an extract from a book designed for primary school students (September 11 by Mary Englar).  We discussed how that text was constructed (tone, language, objectivity, emotion etc), how this construction was influenced by the intended audience and how the author’s purpose was apparent in the method of construction .  We then watched a documentary called 102 Minutes that Changed America.  This documentary cobbles together eye-witness footage, thus capturing reactions as well as images of the destruction (see previous post: Real terror in reel time).   By comparing these we were clearly able to see how audience and purpose shaped representation and editorial choices.


For a lower literacy class, Englar’s text could have been been substituted with this short video.  Unlike 102 Minutes which is often explicit in capturing every detail of the attacks, the video is careful to describe events leading up to the planes hitting the towers, omit depictions of the planes hitting the towers, and to show only the smoke billowing from the towers after the attack.


Studying History through film

11 Sep

Some other September 11 films that seem to have potential include:

All these films would need to be contextualised.

In relation to The Falling Man, for example, I would first show my students the famous photograph.  I would give them a few minutes to write about what they see and how they feel when they see it.  We would discuss.  I would then give them extracts from The Falling Man’ essay, using those as stimulus for a discussion about the different ways in which people perceive the decision to jump from the towers.

For Remembering 9/11, I would be inclined to situate that film as part of a lesson sequence focusing on the different ways of remembering and acknowledging the past.  I would be interested in beginning the unit with a series of shorter stimulus, for example: looking at the artistic responses to 9/11, and also the poem ‘The Names’ which was written by the United States Poet Laureate after the attacks.

Watching a film: Real terror in reel time

11 Sep

It is nearing the end of term, and with it, the end of year 11.  For many of the students in my Modern History class, this also means that the last few lessons of Modern History are fast approaching.

As a teacher, I am thus faced with a class of disengaged students.  The solution?  Show a film!

Over the next two lessons, I will be showing my year elevens 102 Minutes that Changed America.


The documentary cobbles together eyewitness footage in order to capture the events of, and reactions to, the 9/11 attacks.   The same footage can be accessed through the History Channel website.  There, you can pick a vantage point and access footage peculiar to that view.

The footage is fairly confronting.  Accordingly, I am electing to first familiarise my students with events by reading from the children’s text September 11 (We the People) .  I will follow this with a discussion.  Then, my students will read the review of 102 Minutes that Changed America published in the New York Times in order to understand that what they will be reviewing is, indeed, “real terror in real time.”

It is working!

30 Aug

I blogged the other day about my grand plan to introduce blogging in my year eleven class.  I was super excited about it, but also a bit worried that students would not engage.  They are engaging!  Not all of them… but those that are have really interesting things to say.  I am also loving that many of my quieter students – those uncomfortable with participating in class discussion – are expressing clear and considered viewpoints in the comments section of our blog.   While I am not ready to call this a success (one third of students participating does not justify this), I am feeling cautiously optimistic.

Comical explanation

28 Aug

Earlier today I told my year eleven class that we would be blogging.  It met with a more enthusiastic reception than I had expected!

They will have to complete their first blog related task for homework tomorrow.  Accordingly, I had to post the task today.  As part of the task explanation, I created a short comic strip using this nifty tool from Make Beliefs Comix.  I used the comic strip to illustrate that people’s perspectives shape how they characterise others.  While it is super annoying that one cannot save creations to PDF, taking a screen shot worked just fine!

The comic strip, which is intended to visually represent the notion that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, is below:

Comic strip - one man's terrorist,,,

Blogging to build literacy

27 Aug

I am currently on practicum at a school which has, as part of its management plan for the year, a big literacy drive.  The emphasis is on improving students’ reading and writing skills.  For my year 8 History class, we are addressing literacy through focused reading activities and short writing tasks.  Today, for example, we looked at a poem as one of our historical sources.

Addressing literacy in year 11, however, had me stumped.  Not least of all because the unit of work which I will be teaching is the final unit for the academic year and has no formal assessment.  My solution is to create a class blog.  This blog will include a range of resources to supplement classroom learning.  It will also provide a forum for students to reflect on their learning and ask questions.  In order to encourage student participation, I have designed the blog such that content is public, but student comments are on password protected pages.  My hope is that I can sell this idea to students by explaining that it is a quicker and more immediate method of engagement than essay writing.

If it is well received by year 11, I will implement a similar system for my year 10 class.  In fact, I have started collating materials already!  My hope is that the blog will provide a range of additional access points for students of varied needs and interest.


Conveying America’s immediate response to the events of 9/11

20 Aug

I am still on the lookout for interesting resources on 9/11 that will help students to understand how America responded to the attacks.

The front pages of newspapers vividly frame key images with headlines which speak to national fear, anger and also a desire for revenge.  George W. Bush’s speech also touches on these themes.

I have also stumbled upon some poetry written in the aftermath of the attacks.  Depending on the nature of the class, reading one of the poems and getting students to identify perspectives and meaning might be an appropriate way in to the topic.  Poems that are on the shortlist include:  ‘If Only’ by Adam Quin and ‘Tomorrow’ by Michael Brett.

Perhaps, I could divide students into groups, giving each a different type of stimulus (one group could get a poem, another a US newspaper front page, another a UK newspaper front page etc).  The task would be to identify the key ideas raised in your source and explain why these are to be considered the most significant.  Students would then discover points of commonality and difference, using these as sparks to stimulate debate.

Some lines about timelines

16 Aug

A few days ago I blogged about a possible pre-test activity which required students to think about the events that pre-dated and flowed from September 11.  While researching to see if there is any commentary on the likely success (or failure) of such an activity, I came across a number of interesting 9/11 timelines.  Examples include: a September 11 Attack Timeline, a timeline created by the BBC depicting just the events that occurred on 9/11, extracts from Jacobson and Colon’s 9/11 comic book, and 9/11 +ME, a fascinating rendition of a timeline produced for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Time to talk timelines

10 Aug

Before commencing teaching, it is important to gauge students’ knowledge.

I will soon be teaching a senior school History class for three weeks and am busy brainstorming ways to test students’ pre-learning knowledge.   So far, the best I have come up with is a mix and match style timeline in which students are given a jumbled list of key events and explanations and they have to match these and then order them appropriately on a timeline.  I suspect that most students in my class will know a lot about the key event set for study (namely, 9/11).  However, I think they probably know more general information than specifics.  Also, I think many students will be less clear on the events that predate, flow from and are thus inextricably linked to the events that happened on the now infamous day.

After students have completed this task, we will run it as a class, debating and exploring the choices made.  I imagine a situation in which we can create a giant timeline down one wall of the classroom.  Students can be given opportunities to move from their seats and physically rearrange my laminated/cardboard timeline as part of a collaborative project.  This timeline will function as a resource to be referred to for the duration of the unit.

The timeline can also be used as the basis of group projects, with each small group required to thoroughly research and investigate key sections of the timeline.  Groups could then be rejigged allowing each student to function as a subject expert.  A full class debrief would round out these activities.