9/11 Terrorist Attacks


Our 9/11 Attacks lesson plan teaches students about the events on September 11, 2001, in New York City and other places in the United States. Students learn about the various effects that these attacks had on the U.S.

Included with this lesson are some adjustments or additions that you can make if you’d like, found in the “Options for Lesson” section of the Classroom Procedure page. One of the optional additions to this lesson is to invite a person who followed the events of 9/11 to speak with your class about the day and the aftermath.

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What our 9/11 Terrorist Attacks lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: 9/11 Terrorist Attacks introduces students to the events on September 11, 2001, in New York City and other places in America. The lesson also discusses the effects of 9/11 on the U.S. and the world. Also included is information on the first responders, those who died, and the U.S. response to the attacks. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to define 9/11, identify and explain events on September 11, 2001, and their subsequent effect on the U.S. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. If you’re teaching older students, you can show them a full-length movie related to 9/11. For an additional activity, you could discuss some of the conspiracy theories about 9/11 with your students. Finally, you could invite a person who followed the events of 9/11 to speak with your class about the day and the aftermath.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.


What is Terrorism?

The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks lesson plan includes five content pages. The lesson begins by defining terrorism. Terrorism is the illegal use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. Terrorism includes harming or killing the citizens of a country and spreading fear. We call people who use terrorism terrorists.

Terrorist do not have a specific look, and can be any race, age, religion, gender, or come from anywhere in the world. Terrorists might live in the country where they’re performing the terrorism, or they might travel to another country.

Most terrorists want to change a country’s political system, protest against a political system, or express their disagreement with a group of people’s ideas or beliefs, religious or otherwise.

All civilizations have had terrorists, though we did not always call it by that name. During the early centuries, for example, groups of terrorists murdered their enemies to oust rulers, used assassins to execute political figures, and more. At that time, there was no mass media. They concentrated the terrorist acts in specific areas and were less likely to impact other people emotionally or mentally.

However, in more recent years, we’ve become more connected through transportation and communication. This helped enable the modern forms of terrorism that we see today.

Over the years, there have been many terrorist attacks all over the world. On September 11, 2001, the United States experienced one of the worst terrorist attacks in its history. We call this event 9/11 or the Nine-Eleven attacks.

September 11, 2001

Over 3,000 United States citizens died on September 11, 2001, when 19 men associated with a group called al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes and used them as weapons. These men were militants, which means they were willing to die for their cause. They knew they would likely die on 9/11 along with the people they killed.

The attackers were extreme (or out of the ordinary) Islamic terrorists. They came from Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations. We think that Osama bin Laden, a Saudi fugitive, and al-Qaeda likely financed the attack. They may have orchestrated the attack in retaliation for the U.S.’s support of Israel, their involvement in the Persian Gulf War, and their constant presence in the Middle East.

Some of the men who attacked moved to the United States more than a year before the attack and took flying lessons to learn how to take over the airplanes. Others came to the U.S. a few months beforehand. They smuggled knives and box cutters onto planes headed to California. They chose these planes because they would have a lot of fuel on board.

On the day of the attacks, these planes took off from different places on the East Coast. A few minutes later, the terrorists used their hidden weapons to take over the planes and turn them into guided missiles. Their targets were the World Trade Center Towers in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and either the White House or the U.S. Capitol Building. The World Trade Center Towers were the tallest buildings in the world at this time.

Timeline of the Attacks

The lesson includes a chart that shows the exact times the airplanes crashed. After the first attack, millions of people watched the events unfold live.

At 8:45 AM, American Airlines Flight 11 from Boston crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York. It left a huge, burning hole near the 80th floor and instantly killed hundreds of people both in the building and on the plane. It trapped hundreds of more people on the top floors. People initially thought it was an accident.

At 9:03 AM, United Airlines Flight 175 from Boston crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. The plane turned sharply as it hit the 60th floor, causing an explosion and scattering debris on nearby buildings and the streets below. Hundreds of people died or became trapped immediately. This was a clear indication that these were deliberate attacks.

At 9:37 AM, Flight 77 from Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., crashed into the Pentagon building outside of D.C. They circled D.C. before slamming into the west side of the building. The fire and subsequent collapse of part of the building killed 125 people in the building and 64 people on the plane.

At 10:03 AM, United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark, New Jersey crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. People believe that they intended to crash the plane into either the White House or Capitol, but some of the passengers broke down the door to the cockpit. The 45 people on the plane died when it crashed into the field.

Hundreds of people died instantly when the planes crashed. About an hour later, even more people died when the South Tower of the World Trade Center collapsed. The burning jet fuel melted the steel frame of the building. Less than 45 minutes later, the North Tower also collapsed with people still trapped inside. Almost 3,000 people died because the buildings collapsed.

343 firefighters and paramedics and 60 police officers also died trying to evacuate the people trapped on the higher floors of the buildings. They also treated 10,000 people for minor to severe injuries. Only six people who were inside the towers when they collapsed survived.

The Aftermath

At 7 PM that night, President George W. Bush returned to the White House and gave a message to Americans. The lesson plan includes this speech.

The United States then led an international effort to defeat the terrorists responsible for the attack. They destroyed Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network and eventually killed him in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, almost ten years after the attack.

People continue to fight against different terrorists to this day. Some terrorists are from other countries and some are born and raised in the United States. It’s important to not live in fear and to respect others. Someone might disagree with a country’s politics, have a different religion from other people, or have different opinions, but terrorism isn’t the answer to those problems.

You should treat the people in your home, school, and life with respect. If you feel scared or worried, talk to a parent or teacher and ask for help.


The 9/11 Terrorist Attacks lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


Students will work in groups to complete the activity worksheet. Each group will discuss each of the questions listed on the worksheet. Each student will then write down their own response before moving on to the next question. The groups will finally share their responses with the class.

Students can also work either alone or in pairs to complete the activity.


For the practice worksheet, students will first place the events of 9/11 in chronological order from 1 to 10. Next, they will define a few terms as they relate to 9/11 and will use each term in a sentence. Finally, they will name at least three things that the 9/11 flights had in common.


The homework assignment asks students to fill in the blanks in sentences using words from the word bank. Next, they will write down the meaning of different numbers as they relate to 9/11. Finally, they will determine whether five statements are true or false.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


Social Studies

State Educational Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.4.7, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.2, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.3, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.5.7, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.2, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6.4, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6.10

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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