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Commemorating 9/11 and America’s Civic Values

Remember the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. You and your students can commemorate the day with this lesson that focuses on the civic values, which enabled the American people to respondas individuals and as a societyto those horrific events.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Explain the meaning of a variety of civic values
  • Recognize when people act according to these values
  • Compare and contrast contemporary and historical examples of these values
  • Evaluate the historical and contemporary significance of these values
  • Consider how to integrate these values into their own lives



Homework (Before Class)

Have students make a list of the positive character traits demonstrated by the people affected by the September 11 tragedy. They might consider the following: those who lost their lives, the family members of those who died, the firefighters and rescue workers in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, the passengers on Flight 93, the Mayor of New York, the President of the United States.

Warm-Up (5-10 minutes)

Using their homework responses as a starting point, have the class brainstorm a list of character traits. Explain and define as necessary. Point out to the students that these characteristics are not new but that since ancient times, individuals and societies have valued these traits. In addition, many great Americans-from the Founders to the present-have demonstrated these values in their private and public lives.

Group Work (10-15 minutes)

 Divide the class into 8 small groups of 3-4 students (or groups of no more than three) and give each group a Civic Value Quote Card Ask students to read the definitions and quotes individually (5 min.) As a group, students should discuss the quotes. Suggested questions:

  1. Paraphrase each quote and put it in your own words.
  2. List examples of a time in your own life when you acted according to this value. Why did you act that way? What were the results?
  3. List examples of a time in your own life when you failed to act according to this value. Why did you act that way? What were the results?
  4. List examples of people in your own lives or people you know who acted according to this value. Why did they act that way? What were the results?
  5. List examples of people in history who acted according to this value. Why? What were the results?
  6. Which people in the September 11 tragedy acted according to this value? Why did they act that way? What were the results of their actions?
  7. Why is it important for Americans to act according to this value?


Students should find a photograph and/or news article about the events of September 11 which illustrate the value discussed in class. Assessment options include:

  • Write a one paragraph explanation of why the chosen photo/article is an example of the value in action.
  • Write a 3-5 paragraph essay comparing the value in historical times (e.g., the courage or perseverance shown by the Founders) with the value as exemplified on September 11.
  • Write a poem or haiku expressing the value as demonstrated on September 11.
  • Write a Letter to the Editor encouraging people to act with this value.
  • Create a graphic display with quotes and photos/illustrations of the value as expressed historically and as shown on September 11.
  • Create and perform a song about the value as shown on September 11.


  1. After the initial small-group discussion, students jigsaw (re-group) and share their value and examples of that value with new group members.
  2. Extend activity over an eight-day period, with each day devoted to discussion of a different value.
  3. Students research one of the people cited on the Civic Value Quote Card and prepare a written or oral report for the class.
  4. Locate or research on-line a photo/article from September 2006 that illustrates a particular value and write a brief explanation.