The coronavirus is on everyone’s mind right now and with very good reason. If you are keeping up with the news, it can even be quite scary. But there are things you can do in your classroom to help your students think smart and stay healthy.

What you shouldn’t do…

Let’s start with what you shouldn’t do. First, you shouldn’t scare your students by trying to teach them all about the coronavirus. Young children don’t need to have all the nitty gritty details that adults know about what is happening in the world. Let’s not scare the kids, let’s focus on teaching and reminding the kids how to think smart and stay healthy.

What you should do…

Take time to review and practice healthy habits with your children. I like to have a mini-lesson if I see my students have forgotten some of the basics we have been talking about throughout the year on healthy habits.

What is a Mini-Lesson?

A mini-lesson is when you set aside a short amount of time to walk your students through a specific routine. A routine that they will then put into practice day after day. In your your mini-lessons, you will walk the children through each step of your routine and then have each child take a turn to practice those steps. I recommend that all mini-lessons be kept to under four steps so that the children can remember each step. With every mini-lesson, model the process and talk out loud as you do. Then have the children follow up your mini-lesson by putting each step into practice. Of course, you will need to be giving out reminders as you go along but at least you have now laid out clear expectations that the children can begin to understand and practice.

What are the experts saying?

I am not a medical professional so I won’t even pretend to give you medical advice but I do want to share with you this article written by Elsa Song, MD: Coronavirus (COVID-19): What a Pediatrician Wants You to Know.

There is a lot of information in this article, all worth reading, but I am going to focus on the last half of the article titled, “How can you protect your family from Covid-19.” In this part of the article, she gives you specific things you can be doing in your classroom (or at home) to help promote kids that think smart and stay healthy.

Wash Your Hands mini-lesson

In her article Dr. Song says… “Wash hands frequently, especially before eating or touching your face. Washing hands with warm soap and water for at least 30 seconds is the best option. This study found that washing hands even with plain running water without soap was more effective than ethanol-based hand disinfectants at killing the Influenza A virus!” (Elsa Song, MD)

Here is how to brake this down into a mini-lesson for your kids…

Model the process and talk about what you are doing out loud (self-talk) as you model each step.

  1. First I put one good pump of soap in my hands.
  2. Next I rub my hands together to get the soap moving all around.
  3. Then I rub my hands together under water and count to 30 until I rinse all the soap and germs off.
  4. Last I dry my hands completely with a paper towel then throw the towel in the trash.

Don’t Touch Your Eyes, Nose, and Mouth Simple Game

Dr. Song Says… “Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth! Do your best to keep those little fingers away! The first step is helping children (and adults) be mindful how how often we actually do touch our faces! Varying studies have shown that we touch our faces on average 23-50 times per hours. So help your children notice when they’re touching their faces so they can pay attention to not touching their faces even when you’re not with them” (Elsa Song, MD).

I recommend you make up a chant or a game to help the children remember not to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth.  Here’s an example…

A simple game that you can play then chant throughout the day will help the children remember not to touch their mouth, eyes, or nose.

Coughing and Sneezing Mini-Lesson

Dr. Song says, “Cover your cough with your elbow or tissues. Teach your kids proper cough etiquette. And if you use a tissue, immediately throw it into the trash and wash your hands” (Elsa Song, MD).

Here is how to break this down into a mini-lesson for your kids…

Model the process and talk about what you are doing out loud (self-talk) as you model each step.

  1. When I need to cough or sneeze I grab a tissue or use my sleeve.
  2. To cough, I hold my arm up, bend it just a little, and cough right into my sleeve. Now you try that.
  3. To Sneeze, I grab a tissue, hold it up to my nose and go Aaaachoo!
  4. Throw the tissue into the trash and go wash your hands too.

Use Photos

To help your children remember these tips and more, take photos of your children modeling the steps you want them to remember and then post them in easy to be seen places around your classroom. When the children see themselves and their classmates in the photos around your classroom, they will be more interested in looking at the photos which helps keep those reminders coming!

Additional Resources for Teaching Kids about Staying Healthy

There are other tips given in Dr. Elsa Song’s article that I highly recommend you go and read but you can also find teaching resources for kids over on Scholastics. I think the videos they provide here are a great resource as well.

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