Spread the Message: How to Respond to Epidemics | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2019 G7:M2:U3

Spread the Message: How to Respond to Epidemics

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In Unit 3, students work in triads to create a podcast about a social or medical epidemic that concerns them or their community. Over the course of the unit, students will choose an epidemic topic, conduct research, write a script for their podcast, and use technology to record and sound edit their podcast. Students begin creating this podcast by listening to an exemplar podcast and reading a model podcast script. Students analyze what makes these model podcasts strong and build a criteria for success from their observations. Students then begin researching to gather information for their podcast, participating in a series of mini-lessons as needed to review research skills learned in Module 1, such as refining research questions, creating a research note-catcher, generating search terms, and evaluating the relevance and credibility of sources. Additionally, students consider how individuals, events, and ideas in their epidemic interact as they research. For students who may wish to research the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a chapter in Patient Zero that will support this research, as well as a lot of information available online. Encourage students who wish to research this topic to be sensitive to other students in the class who may have lost friends or family members in the pandemic or were significantly impacted in other ways. For the mid-unit assessment, students first read an article and answer questions to analyze the interaction of individuals, events, and ideas in a text. In the second part of the mid-unit assessment, students then conduct their own research to answer a question prompted by the article read in the first part of the assessment.

In the second half of Unit 3, students work in their triads to plan, write, and create their podcast. First each member of the triad drafts a narrative lead, being sure to include narrative elements such as a hook, characters, and the important events of the epidemic. Then triads spend time combining and refining these narratives into one strong lead for their podcast script, being sure to include narrative techniques such as dialogue, pacing, and description. Students then divide the rest of the script-writing among the members of their triad to write the remaining three sections of the script: the social and scientific ideas, the tools/mindsets/habits of character, and the message or lessons learned. Based on peer feedback from a tuning protocol, students revise their script to present their research findings in a coherent and engaging manner, using formal English when appropriate and eliminating wordiness and redundancy when necessary. Students also practice presenting their scripts in their triads and then for another triad of classmates to receive feedback on their presentation skills of adequate volume and clarity. For their end of unit assessment, students present their script to their classmates, focusing on all the skills they practiced and tuned throughout the unit: coherence and organization of information, volume, clarity, and formal, conventional English. During the performance task lessons, students turn their podcast presentations into actual podcast recordings with music and sound effects. Students must learn and use sound-editing skills as well as collaboration within and across triads to produce a high-quality podcast to publish for their classmates, community, or even the world by posting it online.

Please note: For the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum, there are Teaching Notes for each unit that contain helpful information for supporting English language learners. These overview notes complement the more specific English language learner supports and differentiated materials within each lesson. You will find the Teaching Notes in the Unit download below.

CCS Standards

The Four Ts

  • Topic: Epidemics: Spread the Message: How to Respond to Epidemics
  • Task: 
    • Read a new article; answer selected and constructed response questions to analyze how individuals, events, and ideas interact in the text; and conduct research to answer a question.
    • Present a podcast script, focusing on coherence and organization of information, volume, clarity, and formal, conventional English.
  • Targets: RI.7.1, RI.7.3, RI.7.4, W.7.7, W.7.8, SL.7.4, SL.7.6, L.7.3, L.7.4a, L.7.6
  • Texts: Patient Zero by Marilee Peters, "Kindness Contagion" by Jamil Zaki, "Conflicting Ideas" by T.C., "Are Social Epidemics Real?" by EL Education


Each unit in the 6-8 Language Arts Curriculum has two standards-based assessments built in, one mid-unit assessment and one end of unit assessment. The module concludes with a performance task at the end of Unit 3 to synthesize students' understanding of what they accomplished through supported, standards-based writing.

Habits of Character/Social-Emotional Learning Focus

Central to the EL Education curriculum is a focus on "habits of character" and social-emotional learning. Students work to become effective learners, developing mindsets and skills for success in college, career, and life (e.g., initiative, responsibility, perseverance, collaboration); work to become ethical people, treating others well and standing up for what is right (e.g., empathy, integrity, respect, compassion); and work to contribute to a better world, putting their learning to use to improve communities (e.g., citizenship, service).

In this unit, as students analyze model podcasts and research people's responses to various epidemics, they witness evidence of the following habits of character--respect, empathy, collaboration, initiative, responsibility, perseverance, citizenship, and service--and discuss what these look and sound like in the podcasts and their research material. Also, students focus on respect, empathy, and compassion as they respond to one another's ideas and skills during research and podcast planning and drafting. Students also practice collaboration and taking initiative during their planning and drafting of podcasts. They practice integrity and perseverance as they work independently on assessments and draft their initial podcast scripts. And they take responsibility for their own learning as they track progress on their assessments.


Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 10-18 lessons. The Unit-at-a-Glance charts, available on the grade-level landing pages, break down each unit's lessons, showing CCS standards, agenda breakdown, daily learning targets, and ongoing assessments. The charts also indicate which lessons include mid- and end of unit assessments and the performance task.

Texts and Resources to Buy

Texts and resources that need to be procured. Please download the Required Trade Books and Resources Procurement List for procurement guidance.

Text or Resource Quantity ISBNs
Patient Zero
by Marilee Peters
One per student
ISBN: 9781773215150

Preparation and Materials

Prepare the Presentation checklist (Unit 3, Lesson 9 download) and Presentation rubric (see End of Unit 3 Assessment download).

Prepare vocabulary logs and independent reading journals.

Ensure that families are aware of the sensitive content of research articles about epidemics, and prepare students who may be affected by this content in advance.

The following materials are introduced in this unit and referenced throughout both the module and the school year:

  • Presentation checklist
  • Presentation rubric
  • Chalk Talk directions

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