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Lesson Plan

Responding to Tragedy: Then and Now

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Responding to Tragedy: Then and Now

Grades 8 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions, plus additional time in or out of class for composition of student poems
Lesson Author

Scott Filkins

Scott Filkins

Champaign, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



Though this lesson focuses on the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the activities can be used to help
students reflect on their responses to any tragedy from which they now have some distance. Students read and
discuss the personal responses of four different poets, focusing the relationships between language and
meaning. They then compose a poem of their own that includes a section addressing their initial responses to
the tragedy and their response to it in the present. Finally, they reflect on what they have learned by exposed to
the perspectives of their peers through reading their poems.

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In classrooms in Manhattan’s Lower East Side at the time of the World Trade Center attacks, DelliCarpini and
Gulla found they were able to help students begin sorting through their complicated emotional and intellectual
responses to the tragedy by "engaging [them] in activities that [brought] their personal stories into the
classroom" (p. 48). "By encouraging students to use their experiences in making important connections to
events and material," they contend, "teachers and learners can develop classroom environments where a variety
of explanations, answers, and interpretations are developed, discussed, and integrated into the curriculum" (p.


Further Reading

DelliCarpini, M., & Gulla, A. N. "Sharing Stories and Developing Multiple Perspectives in Post-9/11
."  English Journal 96(2): 47 – 51.

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