Symbols of America

Title Date
Symbols of America 2008-09-01
Time Frame  DOK
2 Days Level 2
Objective Short Description
Students will:
- Use primary sources to learn about the events, victims, heroes, and emotions of September 11.
- Design a memorial to commemorate, honor, and remember this day in American history.  
This lesson plan addresses the following standards from the National Council for the Social Studies:
- Culture
- Time, Continuity and Change
- People, Places and Environments
- Individual Development and Identity
- Civic Ideals and Practices 
Grade Levels
Vocabulary Materials
- commemorate

Definition:To keep alive the memory of something or someone

Context:We can commemorate the lives of those lost in Vietnam by visiting the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

- hero

Definition:A person noted for feats of courage or nobility of purpose

Context:The New York City firefighters and police officers are considered heroes of September 11.

- memorial

Definition:Something intended to honor the memory of a person or event

Context:Mount Rushmore is a memorial to four U.S. Presidents who changed our nation for the better.

- monument

Definition:A structure, such as a building or sculpture, erected as a memorial

Context:The Washington Monument honors the life and ideals of President George Washington.

- primary source

Definition:A document or other evidence that reflects the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer.

Context:A photograph taken by someone who witnessed the attack on the World Trade Center is a primary source of information about the events of September 11.

- symbol

Definition:Something visible that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention

Context:The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom.

- computers with Internet access
- newspapers, magazines, or other primary sources
- large mural paper
- pencils, colored pencils, crayons. 
Grade Level Expectations   (view gles)
Related Links and Resources

Discovery Education Lesson Plan: Symbols of America

Links to 9/11 Primary Sources

9/11 Images

Lesson Plan
  1. Have the class list events that have occurred during their lives that would be important for future generations to remember. The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, will most likely be mentioned. You may want to review the events of that day, as well as stories of courage, heroism, and patriotism. Why do students think it is important for future generations to remember September 11?
  2. Divide the class into groups. Have the groups think of plans for memorials that commemorate the events, victims, heroes, and emotions of September 11. For younger students, you may want to focus on the heroism and patriotism.
  3. Explain that one way to learn about events or people is by reading primary sources. Describe a primary source as one that reflects the individual viewpoint of a participant or observer. Have students review primary sources about September 11: newspaper and magazine articles, photographs, essays, journals, interviews, Web resources, and television programs. A list of Web sites and additional resources can be found at
  4. Using information from these sources, have students create three lists about September 11: events, people, and emotions and ideas. Have students cite their sources accurately.
  5. Next, have the groups brainstorm the type of memorial that would best symbolize the details in their lists. Then have them begin their memorial plan.
  6. Their memorial plans should include the following:
  • A sketch of the design and a physical description, size specifications, colors, and building materials.
  • A proposed location for their memorial and an explanation for why this is the best location.
  • How their memorial captures the events and emotions of September 11.
  • Information from at least three primary sources that helped inspire the design.

Once students have completed their plans, they should present them to the class. If appropriate, have students discuss the merits of each group’s plan.

Instructional Strategies
  1. Begin the lesson by reviewing the definition of a symbol. What symbols of America does the program feature? In what ways can memorials symbolize people, ideas, or events? Ask students if they can name other symbols of American that were not included in the program.
  2. Have students share what they learned from the video about the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty. What does this statue symbolize to Americans, immigrants, and people elsewhere in the world? Why was it placed in New York Harbor? What do specific parts of the statue symbolize (its size, broken chains, torch, seven rays of light in the crown, the direction the statue faces, and the words on the tablet)? Discuss with students why people who design monuments give so much time and thought to symbolism.
  3. Explain to students that the Statue of Liberty symbolizes the idea of freedom, but monuments can also help us remember people and historical events. Have students list such examples of American structures. Using the examples in the list, have students brainstorm why it might be important for Americans to have monuments that symbolize people and events. Why do they think we visit these monuments?