3 lesson plans for science, math, and media literacy
As the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, students come into class with misconceptions about the outbreak – and teachers try to figure out how to best explain the facts and debunk rumors.
Some teachers have made COVID-19 a focus of their teaching.
Discussing the origin and effects of a new virus easily lends itself to science class. But teachers in other subjects – such as algebra, statistics, and media literacy – have also found ways to address the topic.
Designing a lesson around the outbreak could be a helpful way to answer students’ questions and allay fears, said Stephen Brock, professor and coordinator of the school psychology program at California State University in Sacramento.
And if students have misconceptions about the virus or its spread, providing more information could help children better assess the threat, he said.
At Fisher’s Junior High School in Indiana, math teacher Alison Strole had her students compare coronavirus to other viruses that have caused epidemics in the past as part of a lesson on COVID-19.
Seeing the coronavirus was less contagious and caused fewer deaths than some of these diseases was helpful for her students, said Strole, who teaches 7th and 8th grades.
“I felt like they realized, ‘Yes, this is something we should take seriously.’ But neither should it be feared as much as some of them, ”she said.
Education Week has summarized three teacher hours on the virus. See what they do below.
Alison Strole, middle school math teacher
Fishers Junior High School, Fishers, Ind.
Every day, Strole’s students watch CNN 10, an educational news show. After the coronavirus story was on the program again and again for a few weeks, Strole had the idea to bring the topic into a class.
It started with an activity by online class provider Mathalicious that asked students to write an equation that predicts the spread of a fictional pandemic. “It fits in perfectly with what we’re doing at exponential growth,” said Strole.
Then she added her own extension to the lesson: Analyzing Real World Health Organization Coronavirus Data. She drew daily data on confirmed global cases, and then her class loaded the information into a graphing calculator.
Her students compared the exponential equation pattern to the coronavirus chart and discussed why a fictional pandemic might look different from a real outbreak. They also talked about why a virus might grow faster in the beginning if people don’t know it exists and haven’t made containment efforts.
Students connected to the news, Strole said. One brought up Li Wenliang, the doctor who tried to issue a warning about the spread of the coronavirus in China at the beginning of the outbreak and then died from the virus last month. After seeing the rapid growth in the graphs, Strole’s students said they had a much better understanding of why an early response to the virus was so important.
William Reed, high school science and math teacher
Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy, Chicago
Reed’s lesson, posted on the National Science Teaching Association’s blog, links coronavirus to next generation science standards. Students ask questions about the virus and evaluate scientific sources of information, activities that fall under NGSS Science and Engineering Practices.
But the lesson doesn’t just stay with the science behind the virus. Reed also speaks about the racism and xenophobia that have been directed against people of Asian descent since the outbreak began.
Students watch a news video about this alignment, and then are asked to respond to the prompt, “Based on what you know about the novel coronavirus from this lesson, explain why prejudice against people of Chinese or Asian descent living in Countries living outside of China, occur has no scientific basis. “
When students have questions about the world, this is an opportunity for teachers to involve them in academic research, Reed wrote on a separate blog for NSTA. “What better way to arouse the interest of the students than to draw on current headlines?”
Kathleen Currie Smith, library media specialist; and Sean Law, math teacher
Ledyard High School, Ledyard, Conn.
Last month, Currie Smith and Law began planning a class on how statistics are presented on the news. The library’s media specialist and math teacher (who are also cousins) often work together on activities that combine media literacy and data analysis.
Currie Smith saw the opportunity for an exciting class when she heard students talk about COVID-19. “They were just choking headlines that they saw on the news,” she said. Digging through the data behind the stories “was a way to really evaluate what they saw on their social media feeds”.
In the lesson, Currie Smith and Law asked students to share the headlines they see on their phones, then asked them what emotions those headlines evoked. They noted that some news sources cited data to back up the information they shared, while others did not. And they introduced students to resources they could use to review claims for themselves, like the dashboard created by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, which tracks global cases, death rates, and recovery rates.
Using data from Johns Hopkins, Law asked students to calculate the likelihood of infection in different countries. The sight of the math put the students’ fears into perspective – and the headlines they’d just shared – Law said.
Students admitted that the coronavirus was a real threat, but also thought that some of the news sources they saw exaggerated the threat, Law said. Simple things like washing hands could solve many problems, noted one student (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend washing hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds).
“You could see some kids really thinking about the information and knowledge they were consuming,” Law said.
PICTURED: Forest Hills Elementary School Principal Patrick Shuckerow (left) ” Air High Fives ” a returning student to Forest Hills Elementary School after the Lake Oswego School District closed the building for several days due to a positive COVID-19 test at a school had closed employees. — Ken Hawkins / ZUMA Wire