8 Picture Books to Honor and Remember September 11th

september 11th upper elementary activities

Being a classroom teacher I am naturally drawn to picture books. I love reading picture books to address and meet reading and writing standards, support social-emotional learning, address behavior issues, and help enhance content-area lessons. 

Picture books have helped me over the years get words across to students when sometimes my own words have failed. It is no surprise that picture books have become the cornerstone of September 11th lessons beginning with the first anniversary of September 11th in 2002.

I was in my second year of teaching on September 11, 2001. One minute I was beginning the first lesson of the day, a grammar lesson on using commas, and the next minute my principal was taking over my class and I was driving home to say goodbye to my husband, a NYPD officer, who was headed into the work.

Being a NYPD wife, New Yorker, and elementary school teacher made the next months extremely difficult.  The days were filled with high emotions both at school as both my students and colleagues all lost loved ones during the attacks. There was also no relief at home since my husband was working around the clock at Ground Zero. While talking in-depth about the events that took place that September day was something that did not take place in the classroom that year, I knew that I wanted to make sure
that on every anniversary September 11th was not just acknowledged, but was honored and remembered in the very best possible way.

With September 11th being such a delicate topic and part of history to discuss, especially with elementary students, turning to picture books was, and still is, a must for me. The following picture books are among my favorite books
to read during September.  They are perfect to read aloud to simply honor the day, spark meaningful discussions, or kick off social studies lessons in your classroom. Grab FREE activities to use with any of these books at the bottom of this post.

september 11th upper elementary activities
September Roses
By Jeanette Winter
This book is a beautiful short story offering one of many examples of kindness that took place in the wake of this horrible event.  Your students will be inspired to do random acts of kindness after listening to this sweet and true tale.

September 11th Then and Now By Peter Benoit
This book is a nonfiction short chapter book with real photographs that tells the informational side of the events that took place on September 11th. This book provides background knowledge for students and will help guide your classroom discussions and answer student questions.

This book is a flashback story to 1974 when Philippe Petit walked on tightropes between the towers in New York City. This book offers happy memories and a description of the towers when they were first built.

september 11th upper elementary activities
This story is one of my favorites. It is a story written in poetic form and tells a story of hope. This special chapel and community by the towers stood tall that day, literally and figuratively, helping others, while everything around them crumbled. Without many details of the events, the story is still told about what happened on 9/11. I highly recommend this book. (Note: Grab this from your local library. I have not been able to find this in any book store or online at a decent price.)

By Maira Kalman
This book tells the story of an old retired fire boat that came out of retirement to help the firemen and citizens of New York after the Twin Towers collapsed. This book is a positive tale that truly illustrates how the community came together after the attacks in New York and will inspire students to work together to help others.

september 11th upper elementary activities

By Don Brown
Written by a New Yorker who lost many friends during the attack, this book is a detailed and specific retelling of the events that took place on 9/11. I would recommend this book for students fifth grade and older.

September 11th 2001 
By Nancy Poffenberger
This book is a basic retelling of the events of September 11th with kid drawn and friendly illustrations. It provides an overview of the day without many specific events. Perfect for any grade.

By Carmen Agra Deedy
This book is a very gentle true story of one African man’s recollection of September 11th.  It truly brings to light how the whole world felt and also suffered for Americans after the events and tragic losses of the of 
September 11th.  Beautifully illustrated, this book shows how every person from all corners of the world wanted to give what they had to America. I love this one!

Remember September 11th in your classroom with one, or more of these picture books*. Today, September 11th is also known as Patriot Day. It is a great opportunity to not only honor the victims and heroes of the September 11th attacks, but to also honor our country, the freedoms that we have, and the people who make our country great. If you are looking for informational text to help support your lessons, you can see the formal activities I use with my students HERE.

Love using picture books in your classroom, too? 

Read about my favorite: 

You might be interested in this printable and digital resource:

september 11th picture books and activities upper elementary

*affiliate links: “Think Grow Giggle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.” (source: Section 5)


How to be Organized for Reading Conferences

organizational tips for reading conferences

I am often asked how I organize my materials, and what materials I bring along, when I hold reading conferences with my students during reading workshop

Having a designated reading conference toolbox or basket is a great way to be prepared, organized, and house all the materials that you need when you confer with students individually. By creating a toolbox or basket of the materials that you need ahead of time, you are able to use the time you have with students effectively, and not scrambling around looking for materials. Some of the materials in my toolbox are specific to a unit, so each time our unit or area of reading focus changes, I swap out those materials.

reading conference conferring guideHere is the low down on what is in my reading conference toolbox that I bring along to every reading conference I hold!

  1. Conferring Guide to stay on track
  2. Data Collection Forms or Notebook 
  3. Reader Take Away Cards
  4. Reading Strategy Teaching Points (Grab the set of teaching points that I use at the bottom of this post.)
  5. Previously Read Picture Book
  6. Previously Read Chapter Book
  7. Basic Supplies: pens, pencils, highlighters, sticky notes, book marks
  8. Reward Stickers for reader shutouts during mid workshop break

Be sure to bring along both a previously read picture book and a chapter book that was just recently read with the whole class during the unit you are currently in. These books are so important to bring with you as you can refer back to them when teaching and modeling with the student during your conference time. Since the book is familiar to them, they will be able to focus on the learning of the reading strategy you are teaching them, and NOT the comprehension of the book.

No matter what is in your reading conference toolbox, make sure it is items that will help you make the most of your one-on-one time with your students to discuss the books that they are reading and to help them grow as readers.

We are so excited to get this school year rolling and helping you focus on easy classroom management! Check out these other classroom management ideas for upper elementary!

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classroom management tips upper elementary


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