Web Watch:
Resources for Talking with Students about the Events of September 11 and Beyond

Judith Green
Carol Dixon
Beth Yeager
Phoebe Hirsch-Dubin
Angela Whipple
Hsiu-Zu Ho


On the morning of September 11, the world changed for many of us. Once the impact of the visual images and the unfolding text of the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania became real, we began to think about how teachers would help students understand what was happening, what resources were available to help students understand and meet the new challenges facing them both at school and at home, and how we might help.

Our concerns related to the work we are currently undertaking to establish a Center for Teaching for Social Justice in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA. One of the goals of the center is to share work on ways of creating socially just classrooms by members (teachers and others) of the Santa Barbara Classroom Discourse Group. Members of this collaborative community have engaged students in studying about issues of social justice, genocide, and tolerance in ways that promote understanding and lead students to take responsible actions with others (Craviotto, Heras, & Espíndola, 1999; Fránquiz, 1999; Jennings & Green, 1999; Yeager, 1999; Yeager, Pattenaude, Fránquiz, & Jennings, 1999). This work provides detailed portraits of the ways in which teachers engage students in creating classrooms where social justice is both everyday practice and academic content across discipline areas (e.g., social sciences, literature, writing, and the arts).

Central to this approach are the concepts of taking action, understanding point of view, talking from evidence, and contrasting information from different sources, perspectives, and observed actions. The relationship between learning about these concepts and taking action is captured in the following quote from the Talmud:

To look is one thing.
To see what you look at is another.
To learn from what you understand is still something else.
But to act on what you learn is all that really matters.

This call to informed action is central to students’ work in classrooms where teachers strive to teach in socially just ways. It is also central to our own work.

Our approach to action in the days following September 11 has been two-fold. First, we decided to share, via the Internet, resources the center had developed, including a “Critical Web Guide to Sites for Social Justice” that grew out of Internet searches on the term “social justice.” (We found 1.5 million sites listed in January 2001 and 1.76 million on October 9, 2001.) The Web guide had been compiled originally to help teachers understand issues related to the Holocaust and the teaching of tolerance through historical study.

The second action involved a new search to identify those sites aimed specifically at helping children understand and respond to the events of September 11. At first, we searched on “terrorism and schooling.” For the most part this led to sites describing terrorism or schools for terrorism. However, when the search phrase was expanded to “talking with children and terrorism and schooling,” sites began to surface that had positive resources, provided clear guidelines for helping teachers, parents, and communities, and were supported by research or informed practice. These sites were often linked to related sites. In the days that followed, we also searched newspapers (both print and online) for connections and resources. We found that listservs to which we belonged provided further resources.

The following is a select sample of sites we identified. These sites represent a broad range of organizations and perspectives on ways of helping children understand and take action based on their understandings. The sites presented are deliberately diverse and therefore provide access to a range of perspectives within our complex society. Readers will want to consider carefully which are appropriate for their classrooms and students.

A fuller range of sites is listed at the Center for Teaching for Social Justice website. The center’s site also provides lists of books appropriate for use with children aged 3 to 18 and a place where students, teachers, and community leaders can share their voices. Main sections of the site include Articles, Books, Reviews; Media Resources; Support Sites (sites for helping children); Relief/Fundraisers; and Taking Action.


Sites for Helping Children Cope

The sites below are among those contributed by colleagues around the world. They represent a range of approaches and resources.

About Our Kids

This site from the Child Study Center at New York University has posted information on explaining war and terrorism to children, recognizing signs of trauma-related stress, and helping children cope with the recent events. Information is available in English and Spanish. Resources include a feature that encourages submission of children’s and teens’ artwork created in response to the terror attacks “to help raise awareness about the effects of traumatic events on children.” Articles available include “About Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” “Children and Grief,” “Coping with Trauma,” “Guidelines for Parents,” “Guidelines for Teachers,” “Preventing Bias and Hate in Children,” and “Talking to Children about Terrorism and Acts of War.”

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

The Children and Disasters page of this site offers links to a compilation of AAP resources and materials on disasters, bioterrorism, and providing psychological support to children.

American Psychological Association (APA)

The area of the APA site provides a range of resources covering such topics as Coping with Terrorism, Managing Traumatic Stress, Reactions and Guidelines for Children Following Trauma/Disaster, Resources on Coping with Traumatic Events, and Coping with the Aftermath of a Disaster.

Anti-Defamation League

This site provides resources for parents and teachers on what to tell children. It also provides resources on hate crimes, anti-semitism, violence, Holocaust studies, and other topics. Resources include “Empowering Children in the Aftermath of Hate,” “Discussing Hate and Violence with Your Children,” and “Preventing Scapegoating.”

Children Now

This site provides ways of making sense of what is happening so that we may go on with our daily lives. It pays special attention to resources for helping children, who are affected by what they see on the television news and hear being discussed around them. The Talking with Kids about Tough Issues campaign, cosponsored by Children Now and the Kaiser Family Foundation, offers some specific suggestions for talking with your children about terrorism. This site also includes forums on issues related to talking with children and how to help children who are struggling with difficult ideas.

Connect for Kids

Connect for Kids has compiled resources for parents, teachers, and community members to help children work through the events of September 11. Topics include Helping Kids Cope with Trauma, Helping Adults Cope with Trauma, Anti-Discrimination Resources, and Lesson Plans for Teachers.

Educators for Social Responsibility

Educators for Social Responsibility has developed a free guide called “Talking to Children about Violence and Other Sensitive and Complex Issues in the World.” They also provide suggested lessons plans, including one on security and insecurity and another on anti-Arab discrimination, to be taught over two or three class periods.

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) for Kids

The Resources for Parents and Teachers area of this site includes links to “How to Help Child Victims,” “A Children’s Mental Health Checklist,” “Disaster Behavior Quiz,” “How to Help Children after a Disaster: A Guidebook for Teachers,” and “School Intervention Following a Critical Incident.”

National Center for Bilingual Education (NCBE)

This site provides a page titled “Promoting Cultural Understanding in the Classroom and Community.” The resources provided support efforts to promote understanding and respect for cultural diversity. The center has compiled a list of resources to assist educators and others in preventing crosscultural misunderstanding and persecution within schools and communities as well as in promoting healing and respect for differences. The list includes three categories of resources: The Middle East, Islam and Arab Americans; talking to children and helping them cope with violence and death, and challenging stereotypes, intolerance, and racism.

National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)

Material provided here includes “Resources for Mental Health Professionals,” “Helping Children Cope with Loss, Death and Grief,” “Coping with Terrorism -- Helping Children with Special Needs,” “Children and Fear of War and Terrorism,” and “A National Tragedy -- Promoting Tolerance and Peace in Children.”

Teaching for Change

This site provides a wealth of resources for educators, including articles, links to other sites, questions and answers, and more.


Sites about Taking Action

The sites listed in this section provide information on where you and your students can go to take action. These sites present a broad range of possibilities and include groups that have a history of promoting peace.

9-11peace.org

This site has a range of ideas on small and large actions which individuals and groups can take, and welcomes ideas from site visitors. One resource is entitled “An Eye for an Eye Leaves Us All Blind.”

Helping.org

This site has links to all major charities, and to many smaller groups specific to providing relief to those most affected by the events of September 11.

MoveOn.org

This site is subtitled “Citizens Making a Difference.” One of the principle ways that site visitors may take action at this site is to join “ActionForum.com.” ActionForums are reader-rated discussion forums: Read comments from others and rate them on a scale of one to five stars, and then add your own ideas to the discussion.


Media Sites

These sites were recommended by people interested in finding a broad range of information and perspectives. Some represent positions not often taken in the mainstream U.S. media. The sites listed below generally present a critical examination of events happening in the world and may be helpful to those who seek to understand multiple points of view of world events. Each site presents information for teachers.

AlterNet

AlterNet is an online magazine and information resource where pressing issues are subject to examination and debate. It has posted a powerful animation on its home page that advocates for justice -- not blind revenge -- in response to the September 11 attacks.

American Library Association, Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC)

The ALSC has a list of books and resources for children and their parents and educators to consult in dealing with the tragedy of September 11.

Education Week

“Schools and Crisis: Selected Resources” at this site links to organizations and resources to help schools assist their students in this time of crisis.

The New York Times Learning Network

This site offers teachers a variety of lesson plans, developing in consultation with Bank Street College, that are based on New York Times photographs (Grades 3 to 5) and articles (Grades 6 to 12).

New York City imc (Independent Media Center)

This site provides information on responses in New York City.

Public Broadcasting System

Lesson plans available online from PBS include “A World at Peace” (for Grades 2 to 6), “Tolerance in Times of Trial” (for middle and high school students), and “Taming Terrorism” (for high school students).

Using Literature to Teach about Hate and Violence (Dan Hittelman, City University of New York)

This site lists a broad range of books that can be used by teachers, parents, and students. The site provides information on bibliotheraphy and links to related sites.


Conclusion

The positive responses in the months since September 11 grow daily. Teachers, parents, students, and community members can visit an increasing number of Internet sites that provide information, suggest ways of taking action, and offer potential lessons. Further, sites are beginning to include the voices of those directly involved. Please add your voice to the Center for Social Justice site and let us know how you have used these resources, which you found helpful, and which you did not. If you would like to contribute new links to our site lists, we encourage you to send them to us at socialjustice@education.ucsb.edu.

We offer this Web Watch in the spirit of these words from Margaret Meade: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” Please join us in taking actions for a better and more peaceful world.


References

Craviotto, E., Heras, A.I., Espíndola, J. (1999). Cultures of the fourth-grade bilingual classroom. Primary Voices, K-6, 7(3), 25-36.
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Fránquiz, M. (1999). Learning in transformative space. Journal of Classroom Interaction, 34(2), 30-57.
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Jennings, L., & Green, J. (1999). Locating democratic and transformative practices in classroom discourse. Journal of Classroom Interaction, 34(2), i-iv.
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Yeager, B. (1999). Constructing a community of inquirers. Primary Voices, K-6, 7(3), 37-52.
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Yeager, B., Pattenaude, I., Fránquiz, M., & Jennings, L. (1999). Rights, respect, and responsibility: Toward a theory of action in two bilingual classrooms. In J. Robinson (Ed.), Elementary voices: Teaching about genocide and intolerance (pp. 196-218). Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.
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About the Authors

Judith Green is a professor of education in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA. Her current research examines the social construction of knowledge in classrooms and issues of equity of access to academic knowledge across disciplines.

Carol Dixon is a senior lecturer and assistant dean of the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. Her current research interests relate to issues of access to academic literacy for linguistically and culturally diverse students.

Beth Yeager is a doctoral student in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, coordinator of the South Coast Writing Project Social Justice Network, and a part-time second-grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School. Over a period of 14 years, Beth, in collaboration with her colleagues Irene Pattenaude and Phoebe Hirsch-Dubin, developed a project for the teaching of complex issues in social justice and community responsibility that serves to guide her current work with the developing Center for the Teaching for Social Justice. Beth and Irene Pattenaude were corecipients of the 1999 Educator of the Year award from the Santa Barbara chapter of the Anti-Defamation League.

Phoebe Hirsch-Dubin is a bilingual fifth-grade teacher currently on leave from the Santa Barbara School District to pursue her doctorate at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education. She is conducting a research project at a Zapatista indigenous junior high school in Chiapas, Mexico.

Angela Whipple is a doctoral student in educational psychology at the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education and serves as webmaster for the Center for Teaching for Social Justice. Her research interests include adolescent developmental issues, academic achievement trajectories, homework, and computer technology.

Hsiu-Zu Ho is an associate professor of education and psychology at the Gervirtz Graduate School of Education. Her current research interests relate to crosscultural education and crosscultural psychology and include motivational factors, parental influences, academic achievement, multicultural literacy, and multicultural education.

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Citation: Green, J., Dixon, C., Yeager, B., Hirsch-Dubin, P., Whipple, A., & Ho, H.Z. (2001, December/January). Resources for talking with students about the events of September 11 and beyond. Reading Online, 5(5). Available: http://www.readingonline.org/articles/art_index.asp?HREF=green/index.html




Reading Online, www.readingonline.org
Posted December 2001
© 2001 International Reading Association, Inc.   ISSN 1096-1232