September 11th: Another Transliteracy Experience

Last year, the 5th grade participated in a series of experiences around September 11th.  We used transliteracy as a lens to plan these experiences so that across a full day, students were learning about September 11th in a non-linear, cross-platform way.  This year, we continued this idea and built upon it.  Both 5th grade teachers, our 5th grade spectrum teacher, and myself each planned an experience for students to rotate through.  The teachers also thought about the day as a whole and what they could add to the day to support the study of September 11th, which is a part of the 5th grade standards.

Students began their day in their homeroom morning meetings viewing a brief speech from Barack Obama declaring September 11th as a day of remembrance.  After students went to ELT and specials, we launched into our 4 experiences. Students spent 30 minutes at each experience with a 5 minute transition window.

Center Descriptions:

1) Learning more about the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City and the brave response of its citizens through a wonderful children’s book by Maira Kalman, Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of the John J. Harvey. This old fireboat which was first launched in 1931 was called into duty by the NYC fire department and volunteers responded so that water could be pumped to battle the raging fires of the Twin Towers. One teacher will read this book aloud (a very special book to her and her young grandson from a visit to the 9/11 Museum together in NYC) to students and they will be able to also watch news video of the John J. Harvey.
2) To help students learn more about how the nature of heroism, another teacher will share from two more books:, Messages to Ground Zero that includes how children responded in poems and letters about heroes of 9/11, and 14 Cows for America BY Carmen Deedy, about how the Maasai people of Africa responded to 9/11. They will respond with their own artistic rendering of a postage stamp celebrating heroes of 9/11.
3) A lesson about haiku poetry which will review the magic of the brief three-line poem with seventeen syllables to express a feeling or image and students will write their own Haiku for Heroes.
4) Technology sites on 9/11 and Wallwisher Reflection -Students will view multiple interactive websites, videos, oral histories, eyewitness accounts, and more in order to build a picture of the events of the day.  Students will have full choice of which sites they visit and how long they spend at each site.  After processing what they have seen, they will write a reflection, memory, wish, etc. on a collaborative Wallwisher wall.

During recess, students participated in an alternative recess picking up trash and offering their service to the school.  They closed their day by thinking about our local first responders and writing letters to thank them for their service in the community.

Once again, I was amazed to look around and see all of the ways that students were engaging with the events of September 11th.  Some students were listening to the 911 phone calls with the planes.  Some were looking at diagrams of the towers and what was located on each floor, including the impact zone.  Some were watching National Geographic video footage of the events of the day.  Some were looking at memorials created across the country.  Others were listening to oral histories of family members of victims and 9/11 survivors.  Each experience carried over to the next and inspired discussions and creations made in the other experiences.  For example, I noticed one student who had viewed images of people jumping from the twin towers and then used that image in her haiku that she wrote in another experience.

I continue to think that there is a lot to learn from this type of planning.  Students left the day talking and energized.  I have a feeling that they will go home and continue conversations with their families and hopefully continue to investigate the many resources available on 9/11.

We had a lot of press here at Barrow today, too.  UGA Grady Newsource will air a feature story at 5PM today.  You can watch live at or you can view the story later by visiting their website

The Athens Banner Herald will also feature our work in a story tomorrow, including the following haikus from some of our students.

th grade students at David C. Barrow Elementary School
Poems from 5

Hear the sound crashing
Innocent people crying
I hear, “Let’s roll.”
~by Tymarius~

It was so tragic
Lives were lost, people were missed
You’ll be remembered
~by Caroline~

It was a bad thing
Many heroes saved the day
They were great and brave
~by Brian~

The Tragic Day
Screams fill flaming streets
As sad tears roll down faces,
We watch the horror.
~by Emily~

So many lives lost
A lot of damage for us
So many heroes
~by Henry~

Chaos everywhere
Heroes save lives and risk them
Death of love and friends
~by Ryan~

I feel unhappy.
I feel like I wanted to help them.
I am very sad.
~by Jasiyah~

Insidious, mean
People dying, lives ending
A new beginning
~by Parker~

I didn’t realize
Passengers had lost their lives
People risked their lives
~by Joel M~

What they did was sad.
Those terrorists were so mean.
It was so, so sad.
~by DeMontre~

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One thought on “September 11th: Another Transliteracy Experience

  1. tanyamhudson says:

    Amazing. You always inspire me! I’ll be stealing some of these ideas from you next year.

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