Lesson Plan: Cover Stories

9/11/01 (Grades 6-12)

1. Display or distribute copies of The New Yorker cover entitled, 9/11/01.

2. Ask students to look at the cover and write down observations about shapes, colors, textures, the position of objects. If viewing on individual laptops or tablets, encourage them to use the zoom function.

3. Conduct a guided inquiry using the following questions: (note: each question has the same follow-up question designed to get students to support their responses with evidence).
-  What do you notice on this cover? What else do you see? (Repeat this question until all observations are made.)
-  Why do you think this color choice was made? What makes you say that?
-  How does the use of color convey the mood? What makes you say that?
-  When was this cover published?

4. Summarize student observations. Based on the historical context, what do you think the artist is trying to convey through the cover? What makes you say that?

5. Tell students that the cover was created by Françoise Mouly, the art editor of The New Yorker since 1993 and her husband, Art Spiegelman, the cartoonist known for the graphic memoir, "Maus." Share the following quote from Françoise Mouly.

"…I felt that images were suddenly powerless to help us understand what had happened. The only appropriate solution seemed to be to publish no cover image at all — an all-black cover. Then Art suggested adding the outlines of the two towers, black on black. So from no cover came a perfect image, which conveyed something about the unbearable loss of life, the sudden absence in our skyline, the abrupt tear in the fabric of reality.”

6. Compare the interpretations made by students to that of Françoise Mouly by referencing their observations that connect to the quote. Tell students that the editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick, considered using a photograph on the cover for the first time in the magazine’s history as a “precedent-breaking way to register such an immense historical event.”

7. Divide students into small groups and ask them to place themselves in the role of David Remnick. What message would you convey through the cover in the aftermath of 9/11? Would you use a photograph or an illustration to convey that message?

Courtesy of The New Yorker © Condé Nast

Additional resources on 9/11 and media:
Lesson Plan: A Lens Into 9/11
Lesson Plan: 9/11: Timeline of Terror
Article: The Uncredited Collaboration Behind The New Yorker's Iconic 9/11 Cover
Interactive: September 11 Attack Timeline
Public Program: Covering Catastrophe: Reporting on 9/11