Introduction

Most of the information we hear about the novel coronavirus COVID-19 focuses on preventing transmission. But what can students and families do once they have been exposed? What power do they have over their own health outcomes? Our goal at Speak Agent is to deepen student and family understanding of key concepts related to the coronavirus. By doing so, they will learn that they are not completely powerless. Their actions can make a difference. 

We have developed an in-depth Speak Agent digital lesson, along with a brief letter to families. One of the key concepts is that the human body is built to withstand all sorts of infections. The lesson explores defense against the coronavirus using the metaphor of a castle. There are four castle walls that the virus must climb over. The student's job is to keep those walls tall and strong. The walls are (1) preventing transmission, (2) preventing infection, (3) preventing spread of the infection, and (4) maintaining a robust immune system. In addition to exploring key virology concepts in an accessible way, the lesson also suggests practical steps that are within a child's power to carry out. These are relevant not only for COVID-19, but for most types of viruses.

Lesson Plan

Like all Speak Agent lessons, this one contains a variety of activities to develop word/concept recognition and comprehension. The text passages in this lesson are written at the third-grade reading level in order to maximize accessibility for English Learners and their families. We recommend this lesson for grades 3 to 8.

Read Along: A Castle with Four Walls

antibodiesThis dialogic reading activity takes an in-depth look at the four lines of defense using the metaphor of castle walls. It is intended to both educate, but also to reassure students who may be frightened.

Read Along: Spot the Mistake!

NK cell immune system first responderThis dialogic reading activity puts the reader in the shoes of a student who becomes infected with the coronavirus. Through his mistakes, students learn steps that they can take or avoid.

NK Cell Meets Virus

Diagram: Immune System

NK cells are the immune system's "first responders." They target cells that are infected by a virus. Students can use this activity to review and quickly test their knowledge.

Key Concepts

This lesson explores the following key concepts and related vocabulary:

1st Line of Defense: Prevent Transmission

    • virus
    • coronavirus
    • transmission
    • airborne
    • droplets 
    • protect  

2nd Line of Defense: Prevent Infection

    • attach
    • infection
    • air pollution
    • mucus
    • cilia
    • cells

3rd Line of Defense: Prevent the Spread of the Infection

    • immune system
    • nutrition
    • natural killer cells

4th Line of Defense: Maintain a Robust Immune System

    • antibodies

Disclaimer

This lesson was developed through a series of interviews with the former chair and Professor Emeritus of the Pathology Department of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS). It does not, however, replace coordination with your school district's local health department. Nor is it intended to serve as medical advice. Our intent is to foster more informed students and families who will then be in a better position to ask and receive appropriate advice from their healthcare professionals.

Credits: Antibodies illustration by Alejandro Porto CC-BY-SA-3.0. Virus and NK cell diagram derived from CNX OpenStax, CC-BY-4.0.