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Lesson Plans Library 6-8 > U.S. History
Modern-Day America
Modern-Day America
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: U.S. History Duration: Two class periods

lesson plan support
Students will
  • Discuss the September 11th terrorist attacks and talk about how the victims should be remembered.
  • Research and present a famous American memorial from the 20th century.
  • Design a memorial for the World Trade Center site.
  1. After watching Modern-Day America , review what students know about the terrorist attacks of September 11th. Ask: Where did the attacks take place? Who carried out the attacks? Who were some of the victims who lost their lives at the World Trade Center that day?
  2. Next, ask students how they think police officers, firefighters, office workers, and other victims of the September 11th attacks should be remembered. Should there be a memorial? What would be the purpose of a memorial? Explain that memorials are being planned for each site of the September 11th attacks-the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. For the World Trade Center site, a competition was held for a design for a single memorial. Thousands of submissions were sent from 63 nations.
  3. Explain that students will work in groups to design a memorial for the World Trade Center site. First, they'll explore the designs and symbols behind some famous American memorials from the 20th century. Divide the class into nine small groups and assign each group one of the memorials below:
  4. Have the groups visit their memorials' Web site to learn more about the its design and meaning. They should pint any relevant pictures and answer the following questions:
    • What is the name of this memorial?
    • What event does it commemorate?
    • Describe the memorial's design-What elements does it include? Do each of these elements represent something significant? If so, what?
    • Do you think this memorial is successful? Why or why not?
  5. Have the groups present their memorials to the class. After the presentations, discuss the elements used in memorials, such as reflecting pools, engraved walls, sculptures or statues, gardens, fountains, and flames. Ask students: What were some of the most powerful symbols? Which memorials do you believe are most effective? Why?
  6. Working in the same groups, explain that students will use what they've learned about memorials and the terrorist attacks of September 11th to design a memorial for the World Trade Center site. They should begin by determining the purpose, audience, and overall message of the memorial they want to design. Then, they should select one or more elements or symbols to convey their intended message and develop a concept.
  7. Once the groups have agreed on a concept, have each student create one or more sketches. Have students share their sketches with the group and then select one of them-or combine elements from a few of them-to create a final design. Have the groups draw their final design on poster board and label, with brief annotations, the memorial's important elements.
  8. Have the groups present their designs, and hang the posters around the room. Then, show students the winning design for the World Trade Center memorial. It can be found, along with all the submissions, at

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points: Students researched their assigned memorial carefully and thoroughly; answered all the questions; demonstrated a strong understanding of the designs and symbols behind American memorials; designed a creative, thoughtful memorial for the World Trade Center site; were active in class discussions.
  • Two points: Students researched their assigned memorial; answered most of the questions; demonstrated a satisfactory understanding of the designs and symbols behind American memorials; showed an adequate amount of thought and consideration in their memorial design; participated in class discussions.
  • One point: Students had difficultly researching their assigned memorial; answered few of the questions; demonstrated a weak understanding of the designs and symbols behind American memorials; showed little thought or consideration in their memorial design; did not participate in class discussions.

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Definition:An object created by humans, usually for practical purposes
Context:Many personal artifacts have been returned to the families of those who died in the September 11th attacks.

Definition:The process by which institutions or businesses work together on an international scale
Context:Globalization has meant a huge increase in international trade.

Definition:Something that is handed down or remains from an ancestor, a predecessor, or the past
Context:Ronald Reagan's political legacy influenced subsequent presidents.

Definition:A person or group who uses violence to achieve goals, such as to intimidate or persuade for political reasons
Context:On September 11th, 2001, four airplane hijackings by terrorists caused incalculable death and destruction in the United States.

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Academic Standards

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • U.S. History: Era 10-Understands developments in foreign policy and domestic politics between the Nixon and Clinton presidencies; Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in the contemporary United States
  • Arts: Visual Arts-Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)
The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has developed national standards to provide guidelines for teaching social studies. To view the standards online, go to
This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards:

  • Time, Continuity, and Change
  • People, Places, and Environments
  • Power, Authority, and Governance
  • Science, Technology, and Society
  • Global Connections

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