Monday, July 24, 2023

How Do We Explain Difficult Topics?

Smoke at the Pentagon: Poems to Remember
tells the story of September 11, 2001 in Arlington, Virginia through a tapestry of poems. Each narrative poem discusses the terrorist attack on the Pentagon from the perspective of a young person. The narrators all have their own story of that day and its aftermath.  

Seven-year-old Henry waits for his mother. Almost all the other children have been picked up early from elementary school. He’s confused and aware that the adults around him have been crying. Henry says, “Grown-ups talk to each other, but not to kids.”

Read Henry's poem and discuss: How should adults explain frightening news events? Should they be direct with kids or should they try to protect them? What can adults do or say to make kids feel safe when current events are disturbing?

Sixteen-year-old Calista is taken aback when the little boy she is babysitting tells her he saw a hole in the Pentagon. Calista doesn’t know how to explain to a three year old something she doesn’t really understand herself.

Writing Prompt: Imagine someone younger asks you about a frightening news event. Would you explain it? Or change the subject? Write a dialogue between Calista and Dylan about what happened at the Pentagon on September 11th. Or if you prefer, write a dialogue between yourself and a younger sibling to explain a troubling news event.

For more activities and ideas for using Smoke at the Pentagon: Poems to Remember, please visit my website to download the full Teacher’s Guide.

BIO: Jacqueline Jules is the author of fifty books for young readers including the Zapato Power series, the Sofia Martinez series, My Name is Hamburger, The Porridge-Pot Goblin, Never Say a Mean Word Again, and Tag Your Dreams: Poems of Play and Persistence. The resources page of her website has many activities for educators and parents. Visit 

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