August 15, 2021

Teaching Without Fear | BTS Covid-19 Activities


Here we all are...heading into yet another school year navigating the waters of Covid...and more recently the Delta variant. This year I'm heading back to work teaching kindergarten here in Texas - previously had been in San Diego, CA as an English kindergarten teacher. I'm so excited for this new chapter and to once again return to public school service.

This post shares a glimpse into what I had prepared last year as I began the school year at my previous school. We were among the first of the independent schools to reopen under strict protocols and offered both on-campus and virtual learning options. The majority of students returned to campus whereas I had a few that were full-time, that meant hybrid teaching!

In all honesty, I wasn't too sure about how our school was going to be able to handle a hybrid model of teaching (i.e. offering both on-campus and virtual teaching) last year but it went surprisingly well. Being that I taught at a private school, we'd been able to make more accommodations and the school made renovations to our site that I recognize not all schools have the ability to do. In that sense we were extremely fortunate. That being said, being able to welcome students back to school during a pandemic leaves us teachers with a lot to figure out...even two school years in...namely how to go about having conversations about the virus without scaring our students.

As a kindergarten teacher these conversations are extremely important. In any normal year my class would have our routine lessons on hygiene and washing hands but because of having been under strict health guidelines and protocols (for being able to offer on-campus classes) washing hands was ever so important. 

So, how did I do it? And how do I plan to do it again this school year?

Here is a glimpse at our first couple weeks of school as we tackle the conversations about germs and how to keep ourselves safe - whether learning at home or at school.

Start with Germs

In the first few days last year I noticed very quickly that Coronavirus is on the tips of the tongues of my students. I didn't blame them because it's been everywhere - now we're talking about the Delta variant! From the news to overheard conversations...these kids have been inundated with Covid ever since March 2020.

I wanted to tackle it head on and explain to my kids that, yes, Coronavirus is a new virus that doctors and scientists are working hard to understand and create a vaccine for. However, it's not the only germ that can make us feel sick. Let's not forget the common cold and, of course, the flu. These germs, along with millions of others, can get inside our bodies and make us feel unwell. The flip side to this is informing my students that not all germs are bad or cause us to feel sick. But because there are plenty of germs, including Covid, that's best we understand what germs are, how they spread, and what we can do to stop them from spreading.

A few of our favorite read alouds from this unit have been:
  • Sick Simon
  • Germs vs Soap

Covid-19 Activities

During the two weeks we worked on our germs unit I used my newly created Covid-19 Germ Activities resource. It was really cool to note how engaged my kids were and how it helped them conceptualize germs and how we can all make choices to keep ourselves safe - like washing hands and wearing a mask (among other things...).

After a whole group read aloud using one of the books highlighted above we worked together on these various activities!

Let's take a peek...

Safe and Unsafe Choices Sort

This sort was a great way to tie in a number of different skills, introduce school supplies, and practice class routines...all meanwhile demonstrating the understanding of being safe while at school in the era of Covid.

My students practiced how to retrieve their individual supply boxes and find a seat to work. They began with scissor practice and how to use glue sticks to glue the pieces. I used a document camera at the front of the class to discuss and work with my students as they worked at their seats (distance and such...). This activity is great because we also discussed what categories are and how we can sort the items into each category (i.e. safe and unsafe).

"I can be safe at school by..." Writing

After a few days of discussing what germs are and the safe/unsafe choices we can make, I had students begin a simple writing prompt where they trace the starter sentence then write their idea by using one of the four choices at the bottom of the page. It gives students at the beginning of the year the scaffolding necessary to frame their sentence - and is great for concepts of print! Not to mention, as previously the English teacher it was a great way to introduce language! After they finished writing their sentence they drew a picture to match the choice they made.

"I wear a mask because..." Shared Writing

Another piece of writing we work on together during this unit on germs is this writing prompt: "I wear a mask because..." After reading, and at this point in our two week unit, students have become very familiar with germs and the ways we can stop them from spreading.

One obvious way this year has been so different than others is our newest rule of wearing masks. Everyone on campus has to and in order to normalize masks as best we can it's important students understand why we wear them. 

This activity allows students to think about why they wear masks (much like why they wash their hands) and together we come up with a sentence. I love shared writing lessons because it allows to see language in use and begin to connect spoken words with written words. Much like a lot of the writing my kinders will do at the beginning of the year, they trace a starter sentence and complete it with the sentence we came up together as a class. It boosts writing confidence and allows students of all levels practice early writing skills.

All of these activities served as a means to start friendly conversations about the importance of being clean and mindful of each other and the germs we naturally carry with us. I look forward to using this resource yet again as we begin the 2021-22 school year!

How have you had success with your class discussing germs and Covid?