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Lesson Plans

Social dis-dancing, anyone? Lessons of empathy and uplift from COVID-19

April 13, 2020

Full Lesson



“Look for the helpers,” Mr. Rogers’ mother would tell him whenever his family learned about difficult news. Amid the serious challenges involved with the coronavirus pandemic, the world has many good people who want to help. Helpers might include first responders, volunteers, doctors or community members. All of the NewsHour videos in this lesson feature different kinds of helpers, all with uplifting or empathic stories.


  1. Decide which video you would like to watch individually or in groups.  Watch the video above or choose another video below.
  2. Read the news summaries, watch the video and answer the discussion questions.
  3. Report back your responses to the class. If you’d like, use the “CC” (closed-captions) function on Youtube or read along with the transcript.

Teacher’s note: Be sure to watch the video before sharing with your students. If you are making plans for distance learning, take a look at our list of PBS resources that covers a variety of subjects for middle and high school students. 


1. Watch the video above (Social ‘dis-dance’ party replaces nightlife in the pandemic – transcript). Summary: At a time when music and nightlife have slowed to a halt as people adjust to a world of social distancing, more and more party goers are turning to online dance gatherings to get their collective grooves on. One such event that is growing in popularity is the “Social DisDance Party,” a virtual event connecting people from around the world.


2. How the coronavirus is forcing a family to slow down (transcript)

Summary: From mandates to work from home to massive school closures, the coronavirus has transformed the lives of millions of Americans. NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker gives us a firsthand account of how the pandemic is impacting his family.


3. How Ina Garten is cooking through social distancing (transcript)

Summary: Amid government orders to stay home, many Americans are spending more time in the kitchen, reducing trips to the grocery store and getting creative with pantry staples. Acclaimed cookbook author Ina Garten is an expert on making the best of the ingredients on hand. She talks to William Brangham about recipe substitutions, the foods that soothe her and what she hopes we take from this experience.


4. Mask shortage spurs Americans to action with their sewing machines (transcript)

Summary: The Trump administration and health officials are now recommending that Americans should wear face masks while out in public to try to reduce the spread of coronavirus. But locals in Bethesda, Maryland, have already been putting their sewing machines to work. Jeffrey Brown reports on how these citizens of all ages are motivated to do something to help amid a crisis that can feel paralyzing.


Discussion questions:

  1. Essential question: Why are stories of uplift and empathy important during times of crisis?
  2. What problem does the story address? What solutions are offered?
  3. What do you think prompted the people featured in the story to take action?
  4. What are some additional solutions that could address the issue described in the story?
  5. Media literacy: Who was interviewed for the story? Who do you wish you had heard from?


Extension activities:

1. Read NewsHour Extra’s Student Voice: Advice on how to manage remote learning from students who’ve been there. The piece starts off with Jori Krulder, a high school English teacher in Paradise, California, who provides important context as to why her students bring a unique perspective on remote learning during COVID-19. 

2. Watch the video below, A glimpse of a second-grade class during the outbreak (transcript), to learn how one second-grade class is having to figure out new ways of learning and playing together while living in isolation.


For monthly updates containing teacher resources on Election 2020, click here. Sign up for short education highlights from the PBS NewsHour here.

To learn more about the coronavirus and how to get the support you need, read Coronavirus: Multilingual Resources for Schools by PBS WETA’s Colorin Colorado.