Education:9/11/2001: Collapse of the World Trade Center



9/11/2001: Collapse of the World Trade Center


9-12th grade

3-4 class periods

On September 11, 2001 terrorists attacked the United States and killed nearly 3000 US citizens. The two tallest buildings in Manhattan were destroyed and that has led to numerous scientific inquiries into how the building structure failed and collapsed under immense heat and pressure.









Common Core State Standards

WHST.9-10.1d Establish and maintain a formal style and objective tone while attending to the norms and conventions of the discipline in which they are writing.

WHST.9-10.1e Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from or supports the argument presented.

WHST.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.

WHST.9-10.2a Introduce a topic and organize ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.

WHST.9-10.2b Develop the topic with well-chosen, relevant, and sufficient facts, extended definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples appropriate to the audience’s knowledge of the topic.

WHST.9-10.2c Use varied transitions and sentence structures to link the major sections of the text, create cohesion, and clarify the relationships among ideas and concepts.

WHST.9-10.2d Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to manage the complexity of the topic and convey a style appropriate to the discipline and context as well as to the expertise of likely readers.

WHST.9-10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience.

WHST.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.

WHST.9-10.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question) or solve a problem; narrow or broaden the inquiry when appropriate; synthesize multiple sources on the subject, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.

WHST.11-12.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.


Students will be able to evaluate some of the reasons for the collapse of the WTC and how that has led to changes in the building codes. Furthermore, students will be able to identify how engineering and architectural designs have paved the way for modern, taller and safer skyscrapers.


  • Website list: see resources list below
  • Film on the 9/11 attacks
  • Resources on the collapse
  • Essay Handout
  • Computers with internet access

Anticipatory Set

  1. Show students the documentary on the 9/11 attacks
  2. Discuss with students what it’s like inside a large building
  3. Discuss with students the process of building a skyscraper
  4. Discuss with students the effect of fire on metal


On day one:

1. Show the documentary on 9/11


b. Create a handout of reflective questions you feel pertains best to your students to answer while watching the film

2. Periodically pause the movie to discuss events and emotions

3. Tell students to go home to discuss the film with their parents and share their responses

On day two:

4. Start the class by having students share their parents experiences of 9/11

5. Have students explore the following sites and information about the collapse of the WTC







6. Place students in groups of 3 or 4 and investigate each of the sites. They have to answer the following questions amongst themselves:

a. Offer reasons why the towers fell in the manner they did

b. Why didn’t the towers collapse immediately after being struck by the plane?

c. What is redundant design?

d. How were the towers designed?

e. What temperature does steel melt? What happened to the steel in the towers?

f. What does pancaked mean with the collapse?

g. What have we learned from the collapse of the towers that will improve construction and safety in the future? Come up with recommendations for building stronger skyscrapers.

7. For homework, have students come up with an outline for design recommendations for building construction.

On Day three:

8. Debrief with the students the questions from day 2 and set the stage for an essay.

9. Give students a handout with the following essay prompt:

a. After researching the content on the collapse of the WTC, write a 500-1000 word essay that identifies the problem of the collapse of the towers and argues for a solution to building stronger skyscrapers. Support your position with evidence from your research, film and discussion. Give examples from past or current events or issues to illustrate and clarify your position.

b. After students are done with their essay, they will peer edit each other’s essays.

1. To close the lesson, the teacher leads a discussion on their essays and where the future of skyscraper construction should progress.


  • Tap into the students prior knowledge pertaining to 9/11
  • For students who are kinesthetic and visual, they will be able to watch a film and use the internet to engage their learning modes
  • For ESL students, provide Spanish translation of the material. Using Spanish language newspapers can also aid ESL learners.
  • The teacher can lead discussions, and walk through the websites for student clarifications.
  • If students are having difficulty with the assignment, students can have extended time.


  1. Class discussion
  2. Essay
  3. Peer Edit

Vocabulary List