The Impact of the Coronavirus on Students Around the World

“The global scale and speed of the educational disruption from the coronavirus epidemic is unparalleled.” The United Nations

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key



Excerpt: ‘When Can We Go to School?’By Vivian Wang and Makiko Inoue, The New York Times

“The coronavirus epidemic has reached deeper into daily life across the world, with a sweeping shutdown of all schools in Italy, a suspension of classes in India’s capital and warnings of school closures in the United States, intensifying the educational upheaval of nearly 300 million students globally.

Only a few weeks ago, China, where the outbreak began, was the only country to suspend classes. But the virus has spread so quickly that by Wednesday, 22 countries on three continents had announced school closures of varying degrees… Students are now out of school in South Korea, Iran, Japan, France, Pakistan and elsewhere — some for only a few days, others for weeks on end…On the West Coast of the United States, the region with the most American infections so far, Los Angeles declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, advising parents to steel themselves for school closures in the nation’s second-largest public school district. Washington State, which has reported at least 10 deaths from the outbreak, has closed some schools, while on the other side of the country in New York, newly diagnosed cases have led to the closure of several schools as well. 

The speed and scale of the educational tumult — which now affects 290.5 million students worldwide, the United Nations says — has little parallel in modern history, educators and economists contend…In some countries, older students have missed crucial study sessions for college admissions exams, while younger ones have risked falling behind in reading and math. Parents have lost wages, tried to work at home or scrambled to find child care… In Hong Kong, families like Ms. Gao’s have struggled to maintain some semblance of normalcy.

Ms. Gao, 48, stopped working to watch her daughters and started scrimping on household expenses. She ventures outside just once a week and spends the most time helping her girls, 10 and 8, with online classes, fumbling through technology that leaves her confused and her daughters frustrated.

Governments are trying to help. Japan is offering subsidies to help companies offset the cost of parents’ taking time off. France has promised 14 days of paid sick leave to parents of children who must self-isolate, if they have no choice but to watch their children. But the burdens are widespread, touching corners of society seemingly unconnected to education. In Japan, schools have canceled bulk food deliveries for lunches they will no longer serve, hurting farmers and suppliers. In Hong Kong, an army of domestic helpers has been left unemployed after wealthy families enrolled their children in schools overseas.

Julia Bossard, a 39-year-old mother of two in France, said she had been forced to rethink her entire routine since her older son’s school was closed for two weeks for disinfection. Her days now consist of helping her children with homework and scouring supermarkets for fast-disappearing pasta, rice and canned food. ‘We had to reorganize ourselves,’ she said.

Online Help for Schools

School and government officials have sought to keep children learning — and occupied — at home.  The Italian government created a web page to give teachers access to videoconference tools and ready-made lesson plans. Mongolian television stations are airing classes. Iran’s government has made all children’s internet content free…The offline reality, though, is challenging.Technological hurdles and unavoidable distractionspop up when children and teenagers are left to their own devices — literally. Thira Pang, a 17-year-old high school student in Hong Kong, has been repeatedly late for class because her internet connection is slow… With the closings, families must rethink how they support themselves and split household responsibilities.

The burden has fallen particularly hard on women, who across the world are still largely responsible for child care… Working from home was never an option for Ms. Lee…Ms. Lee’s son spends each weekday alone, eating lunchboxes of sausage and kimchi fried rice premade by Ms. Lee.  ‘I think I would have quit my job if my son were younger, because I wouldn’t have been able to leave him alone at home,’ Ms. Lee said.

Beyond the Classroom

The epidemic has shaken entire industries that rely on the rituals of students in school and parents at work…Kazuo Tanaka, deputy director of the Yachimata School Lunch Center in central Japan, said it scrapped orders for ingredients to make about 5,000 lunches for 13 schools. It would cost the center about 20 million yen, nearly $200,000, each month that school was out, he said…’Dairy farmers and vegetable farmers will be hit. The workers at the school lunch centers cannot work.’

In Hong Kong, many among its sizable population of domestic helpers have been jobless as affluent parents have enrolled children overseas…Felix Choi, the director of, a nanny service. Now some expatriate families have left the city rather than wait out the closings.”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced

Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.

Time: Approximately 2 hours.

Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.

Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

KWL Chart

The K-W-L chart is used to activate students’ background knowledge of a topic in order to enhance their comprehension skills.

Directions: Have students use the KWL chart to list the information they already know about the Coronavirus.  Later in the Post- Reading segment of the lesson, students can fill in what they’ve learned about the topic.

K-W-L Chart from


II. While Reading Activities

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. The coronavirus epidemic has reached deeper into daily life across the world.
  2. China, where the outbreak began, was the only country to suspend classes.
  3. Parents were advised  to steel themselves for school closures.
  4. The speed and scale of the educational tumult has little parallel  in modern history.
  5. Closing schools for weeks or even months could have untold repercussions for children.
  6. Ms. Gao, 48, started scrimping on household expenses.
  7. She ventures outside just once a week to shop.
  8. Japan is offering subsidies to help companies offset the cost of parents’ taking time off.
  9. Many  schools were closed for disinfection.
  10. One family in Inner Mongolia packed up its yurt and migrated elsewhere.

Vocabulary Cluster By


Grammar Focus: Word -Recognition

Directions: Students choose the correct word to complete the sentences taken from the article. They are to choose from the options presented.

Some interruptions/interruption are unavoidable. Posts on Chinese social media show teacher/teachers and students/student climbing into/onto rooftops or hovering over/outside neighbors’ homes in/on search of a stronger internet signal. Onefamily/families in Inner Mongolia packed up its yurtand migrated elsewhere in the grasslands for a/an better web connection, a/an Chinese magazine reported.

Reading Comprehension: Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentencestaken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

Ruby Tan, a___ in Chongqing, a ___in southwestern China that___ school last month, said many ___were helping with child care so that the ___can go to work.But the ___do not always know the___.

They don’t have any way of ___the children’s learning, and instead let them develop bad ___of not being able to focus during___time, Ms. Tan said.

WORD LIST: study, habits, technology, grandparents, parents, grandparents, suspended, city, teacher, supervising,

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

  1. Has the outbreak of the coronavirus affected you and your family? If yes explain in what way.
  2. Is your school closed or is planning to close?
  3. Will your school hold online classes? How do you feel about this?
  4. The article states, “Schools provide structure and support for families, communities and entire economies. The effect of closing them for days, weeks and sometimes even months could have untold repercussions for children and societies at large.” What kind of  effects might children suffer if kept out of class for too long? How might this effect societies?
  5. What are some of the things governments are doing to help teachers and students keep up with their studies?
  6. What are some of the problems with children left to study on their own or with grandparents?
  7. How are some of the world’s  governments helping families financially?
  8. The article mentions that women particularly have felt the burden of school closings. Why is this?
  9. List 3 questions that you  would like to pursue in relation to  the article. Exchange questions with other groups and try to come up with answers.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to also write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class.