Viruses, Part 1 - Not kidding, they are not living

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Students will examine the characteristics of viruses and understand the reasons why they are unlike living organisms.

Big Idea

Viruses are not considered living.


5 minutes

Ask students to raise their hand to show if they agree that you can you catch the flu from being wet.  For those who raise their hand to “agree” with the statement, ask for 1-2 people to explain why they agree.  From the group who raise their hand to “disagree”, ask for 1-2 people to explain why they disagree.  I ask this particular question because it allows me to gauge my students’ prior knowledge about viral transmission and identify any misconceptions that they have about viral transmission before I begin teaching the lesson.

Vocabulary Instruction

5 minutes

The terms I teach explicitly in this lesson are: virology, microscopic, lytic and lysogenic cycle, pathogen, endemic, epidemic, pandemic, antibody and dormant. The Vocabulary Map is used to record these terms, their word parts and definitions.  I teach vocabulary explicitly in my classroom.  Many of my students come to me with science gaps in their science background and struggle with scientific literacy. At the start of every lesson I identify terms specific to the content and I “dissect” those terms that contain prefixes, suffixes, and/or Greek/ Latin root words.  This process helps my students learn new word and provides them tools to help them decipher new words when they encounter them in scientific text.  

Introducing New Material

30 minutes

Begin by showing the first 10 minutes of the movie, Contagion.  I chose this particular movie because it quickly establishes that a deadly virus is being transmitted across the world and becoming a pandemic (one of the vocabulary words that I teach).  I like integrating movie clips into my lessons because movie clips can create relevance and engagement for my students. 

After the clip, tell students that we will learn about viruses today.  Explain that we will begin learning about viruses by first listening to the Kahn Academy, Vol. I lesson 18 on viruses. I start with the Ipod assignment first because the use of multimodal learning experiences benefits my students’ understanding of the content.  Hearing the same information in different modalities allows for learning to occur in different ways.

I pre-assign the Ipods using a ipod assignment sheet to make the distribution and collection of Ipods an efficient process that does not waste instructional time.  Students sign them out and back in at the end of the activity based on the pre-assigned number.  I keep the ipod assignment sheet with the Ipod cart and students quickly sign the form and take the Ipod back to their desks.

Explain that the listening assignment requires that they write ten facts and draw at least one diagram as a performance task that will be collected at the end of a times period of 20 minutes. 

After this activity, spend about 10 minutes sharing the specific content points you want to students to know about viruses. Because they have already learned a lot of information from the Kahn Academy listening activity, the presentation of material goes quickly.  Students use guided notes. that I distribute to write the most pertinent points.

Guided Practice

5 minutes

After the introduction of the new material, students work in groups of two to complete the virus table that is located at the end of their notes.  Display the table on the board and we review the correct responses as a group.

Independent Practice

5 minutes

Students will compare and contrast viruses using an organizational format of their choosing, such as:

  • Venn Diagram
  • T-Chart
  • List

They are instructed to have at least 9 points on the completed assignment.

Lesson Close

5 minutes

Students complete a Ticket Out the Door, which is a quick formative assessment that requires them to distinguish between disease and contagious disease, epidemic and pandemic, and pathogen and disease.  

Students will write their responses using complete sentences and submit their work for a grade.   I like to give students multiple ways to show me that they understand the content and open-ended responses is one of the many ways I assess students. This is a useful formative assessment to prepare for Virus Part 2 - The "write" way to talk about viruses that will be taught tomorrow.  Questions that are not answered with responses that demonstrate understanding of the differences will be part of the review at the start of the next lesson.