Teaching about Coronavirus in an Elementary Classroom
  • Michelle McDonald

Teaching about Coronavirus in an Elementary Classroom

With the outbreak of COVID-19, you might be looking for an age appropriate way to discuss the spread of infectious disease. If you teach lower elementary, reviewing proper handwashing is a great way to bridge this topic. If you teach upper elementary or middle school, reviewing proper handwashing is also essential, but this is a wonderful opportunity to take a deeper look at pandemics through history, and the transmission and prevention of disease.


I live in Washington, and we seem to be the epicenter of the outbreak here in the United States. We are currently in a state of emergency and many schools, businesses, and conferences have been closed or canceled. I put together these resources to help educators present accurate information, tackle stigma and bias, and approach the topic in an age appropriate manner.


For Lower Elementary:

I've created a mini book reader that covers practical tips for preventing the spread of disease, and encourages good hygiene such as hand washing, keeping hands out of one's mouth, nose, and eyes, and more.


This 7 page mini book is great for small groups, whole group, add to book bags, or send home as a family connection.


The final page of the book includes an optional assessment sheet.

Color and blackline versions are included.


This book does not include the term coronavirus or Covid-19 as the tips included are pertinent to disease prevention, in general. This allows for greater discussion and does not limit this book to one disease.




For Upper Elementary & Middle School:

In this LOW PREP activity, students will rotate through 4 stations to explore pandemics in history, the job of an epidemiologist, communicable and non-communicable disease and more. Just print and staple the student booklet. Set up is easy. Print materials and labels. No cutting or gluing required. Students take their booklet with them as they rotate stations.


Stations include:

A. What is an Outbreak?

B. Pandemics Throughout History

C. What is Coronavirus?

D. Transmission & Prevention


Introductory Reading:

Before starting the stations, a short reading passage is included, and students are given an opportunity to ask questions. This is a great opportunity to address stigma or bias. I have included a list of website links to help educators address racism and xenophobia surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.



What is an Outbreak?

Students will learn how disease is measured, and will discover the differences between endemic, epidemic and pandemic. Students will also explore the job of an epidemiologist.


Pandemics Throughout History

Students will learn about the top 3 pandemics in history, which include the Black Death, the Spanish Flu, and the HIV/Aids pandemic. These topics are presented in an age appropriate manner.


What is Coronavirus?

Students will come to understand that coronavirus is a family of viruses. Students will learn about SARS, MERS, and COVID-19. Students will learn about the spread of disease, symptoms, and susceptibility.


Transmission & Prevention:

In this station, students learn the difference between communicable and non-communicable disease. Students will also look at infectious disease spread through examples of direct and indirect contact. Students will also look at ways to prevent the spread of disease.


Student Booklet:

The student booklet contains the introductory reading and all station questions. Students will bring their booklet with them as they rotate stations. Questions help students process the information, think deeper, and challenge assumptions. A page of wrap up reflection questions are also included.


Ways to Use this Resource:

Have students rotate through all four stations

Complete one or two stations a day

Print the station pages and the accompanying question sheet as independent work




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