Talking to Your Students About Coronavirus

Hi, Qkids family! I'm Teacher Angela. I'm an online ESL teacher and a stay-at-home mom from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I love reading, swimming, my pets, and my family. I've been teaching for three years now and have loved every minute of it! I've been with other online ESL companies, but Qkids is my favorite!
Coronavirus seems to be everywhere lately (both literally, by spreading around the world, and in its domination of the world’s media and conversations). As both a teacher and a registered nurse, I’ve put a lot of thought into the question of how we can engage with our students respectfully and meaningfully around what can be a difficult subject? Here are my top five tips.

Let Them Take the Lead

I've found that, while some of my students are keen to talk about Coronavirus and how it's affecting them, others are totally uninterested. I have taken the approach of waiting for them to bring it up and letting them share what aspect of this they're interested in talking about. Our students are individuals, and, just as they each have different levels of English acquisition, they each have different interests and comfort levels in subjects such as this one. Engage with each student in a way that is tailored to that particular student's needs.

Keep It Age-Appropriate

Earlier English learners (think Level 1-3 or 4-5-year-olds) have not brought any aspect of the epidemic up to me. Many of them may be shielded from the subject from their parents, not understand what's going on, or just not have the language yet to talk about it in English.

I find that mid-level students often want to talk about how the virus has affected them personally:  being confined to home, what it’s like to not go to school, what kind of schoolwork they’re doing until school is back in session, how bored they are, etc.  

Older or more advanced students may want to talk about the virus in a more in-depth way: as more of a current event or medical phenomena. I've had students ask about what we're doing in America, compare and contrast China and other countries' methods of dealing with the outbreak, and give opinions on what approaches they think will be most effective. Some students want to talk about the efficacy of various containment methods (masks, social isolation, etc.) or some of the science behind how viruses in general work.  These are all great ways for them to actively use English at a higher level.

Be Sensitive

Some students may be upset by what’s going on. If you have a student who seems emotional while talking about this, don’t be indifferent to their feelings. You may not know what they’re going through. This is especially important in a 1v4 class, where you may have students with varying levels of comfort in talking about the Coronavirus. If a student who is listening is obviously bothered by what another student is saying, try to quickly and tactfully move on.

It’s Not About You

Let's face it: we're curious about what's going on in the day-to-day lives of our students who have been the first affected by this epidemic. We have friends and family who know that we communicate with people in China every day, and they're asking us questions too, thinking we have access to inside information. But a student's English lesson is not an opportunity to pry and interrogate to find out everything you want to know.

Nor is this a time to push your opinions or politics on the students. We have the unique and significant opportunity to be part of a global community through the work that we do for Qkids. It goes without saying that we should be respectful of our students' culture and government. We can always be sympathetic and supportive and create a classroom environment conducive to learning and open exploration of subject matter, no matter our personal views.

Keep Your Goal in Mind

We're here to teach the kids English. Make sure that any conversations that aren't directly related to the curriculum are kept to the intro or leaderboard sections. Conversation practice is an important part of learning English, especially for the more advanced learners, and discussing current events can be a wonderful exercise for them. Just be sure that this is your objective in having these conversations to make the discussion meaningful for the students. 

If you’d like to learn more about joining the Qkids family, I’d love to help you get started! Take a look at the Qkids website: My referral code is NNTKC.

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