Elementary (K-5) Lesson
Created by Jody Hagen-Smith and
Dr. Lauren M. Shea
Thank you for thinking about students’ emotional learning in the time of the pandemic and in its aftermath. In America: Remember aims to recognize American’s grief and loss as a result of the pandemic. This lesson, including educational materials and resources, was designed for you to achieve the following goals: 1) to support elementary students’ social and emotional development, 2) to strengthen elementary students’ connection to U.S. history, and 3) to promote the use of art to participate in our communities. Links to all materials, resources, and alignment to Common Core State Standards are provided below. You can also download a PDF version of this lesson here.
Foster ways for students to interact with and express themselves through In America: Remember, an art exhibition commemorating the lives lost from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Use a Think, Pair, Share instructional strategy to activate students’ prior knowledge. Show photos (see Google Slides) or display actual artifacts from the pandemic that could include masks, social distancing signs, the photo of the cells, vaccination cards, etc. Pose a question and provide time for students to think about their ideas. Then, have students turn to a partner and share their thinking.
*Note: Listen in while the students talk because it will support your decisions to include the most relevant and appropriate pieces of this lesson.
- “What are these items?”
- “What do they make you think about?”
- “What do you know and/or remember about COVID-19 and the pandemic?”
After students have had time to share with their partner, ask several pairs to share their thoughts with the whole group. Visually display any new words that students will need to use throughout the lesson.
Pose the following question and record student responses. Mark the personal ways with a “P”.
- “What are some examples of ways that your life has changed because of the COVID-19 Pandemic?”
While writing, ask students to identify which of those personal ways were also community-level impacts (school, masks, etc.) Mark them with a “C” for community. Then, code the impact on the world with “W”.
- “Does this way also impact the community or the world? If so, how?”
Literature Connection: The picture book, Outside, Inside (Pham, 2021), tells how communities came together to face the challenges of the pandemic, while celebrating essential workers.
Read the book aloud or watch the video of the author, LeUyen Pham, talking about how and why she wrote her book and reading her book aloud. The read aloud starts at timestamp 6:21 and ends at 10:20.
If using the video or reading the book aloud, it is recommended to stop throughout and ask the students about how they feel and what they are noticing in the illustrations.
- “How did this book make you feel?”
- “In what ways did this book make you feel thankful for others?”
- “What did the illustrations tell us about how people are reacting to the pandemic?”
- “What examples can you find in the book that show how things changed inside and outside?
“How might our lives have been different if front-line workers had stayed home?”
- “What does the author mean when she writes, ‘But on the inside we are all the same’?”
Return to the chart of student responses to ask questions about how life changed for others. Record student responses.
- “What are some ways the lives of others changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic?”
Ask students to consider their emotional response to the pandemic. Based on student need, you might display a chart that describes various emotions to support students in describing how they are feeling (See Google Slides). You might want to provide sentence frames to provide language support, such as “I felt ____ because ____.” To encourage thinking about their feelings, refer back to their responses on the chart showing the impacts of the pandemic on their lives.
It is helpful to remember this is a sensitive topic for many, so be sure to provide wait-time for students to think about their response before sharing with a partner.
*Note: Some children will not be able to recall their emotions from their experience due to age, development, or time passing. It may be helpful to share some of your own feelings at this time.
- “What were some feelings or emotions you are feeling because of the COVID-19 Pandemic?”
- “Can you identify the feelings and what might have caused them?”
- “How did you feel about not seeing your family members or friends for all that time?”
Tell students that feelings are neither right nor wrong. Different people have different feelings. Feelings come and go. It’s natural to have multiple feelings at the same time.
- “You might be scared sometimes, sad sometimes, happy sometimes, maybe all in the same day.”
- “You might feel very sad about someone getting COVID-19, happy your family is safe right now, scared someone you love might get sick.”
Remind students that almost every person on the whole planet was affected by the pandemic in one way or another. Ask students to put themselves in the place of others and think about how they would feel in certain situations.
- “How would you feel if you needed to go to work at the grocery store?”
- “How do you think the doctors in the hospital feel? Why might that be true?”
Remind students that feeling with others is called “empathy”.
- “Empathy is feeling with others.”
- “How do you think a doctor/grocery store worker/grandparent feels about the pandemic quarantine? Why might they feel that way?”
Explain that there are many ways for people to share emotions. Recognizing and sharing feelings is an important part of growing up. Ask students why and how they talk about their feelings.
- “Why is it important to recognize and talk about our feelings?”
Even very strong, persistent feelings like grief get easier over time. It’s helpful to have ways to comfort ourselves or distract ourselves from them. But letting ourselves experience those feelings helps us get better over time. Art is one way to help ourselves feel.
- “Often we talk about how we feel. We can show how we feel with our faces and bodies.”
- “Another way to show how we feel is to create art to show feelings.”
Remind the students that LeUyen Pham, the author of Inside, Outside, wrote and illustrated a children’s book as a way to express her feelings during the pandemic.
- “What emotions did you feel when we read the book?”
- “What did you feel when we looked at the illustrations?”
- “In what ways does the book bring us together?”
- “What are some other forms of art that we could use to communicate our feelings?”
Share with the students that there is an art exhibition in Washington DC to honor and remember the lives lost due to the COVID-19 virus.
- “One artist wanted to express her emotions about the pandemic and bring us together by creating art. Let’s hear from the artist about what her art is and why she created it.”
Play Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg’s short video to hear about why and how she created this art.
- “Why did Ms. Firstenberg create the flag art installation?”
- “Ms. Firstenberg says she’s a visual artist. What is a visual artist?”
- “What does each flag represent?”
- “Why did Ms. Firstenberg decide to use flags for her art?”
- “What is one important message Ms. Firstenberg wants to convey through her art?”
Take time to look at the In America: Remember website. Review photos of the Art Exhibit and explore the website’s features and interactive nature. Show how families can “dedicate a flag” to memorialize or remember their lost loved one through participation in the exhibit.
- “How does this art make you feel?”
- “How does this art help us feel together?”
- “What does this art mean to you?”
- “What could you imagine this art feels like to others?”
- “How does this art help memorialize individuals or communities?”
Ask students for their ideas and thoughts. Do they have any other questions?
Remind students they are all artists and can express their emotions through art.
- “How can you use art to portray the impact of COVID-19 on you or your community?”
- “How can you use art to bring attention to or amplify an important issue?”
- “How can you use art to inspire others?”
- “How can you use art to change the world?”
Offer students an opportunity to participate in The Pandemic Through My Eyes: Art from the Next Generation, an art project for students to express their emotions, thoughts, and ideas about the pandemic. Invite students to create art to reflect and share diverse ideas and voices in response to the exhibit. Students can create music, poetry, drawings, sculpture, or any other form of art to express feelings. Sharing the art with the class can help create a sense of collective grief, and ultimately healing. We also encourage sharing the art with your community.
Artwork will be showcased, without identifiers, on The Pandemic Through My Eyes: Art From The Next Generation map.