We are fully in the grasp of cold and flu season, which means that every coughing, sneezing, sniffling child in your classroom could put other students—or you—at risk of falling ill too. According to WebMD, the average American child contracts six to 10 colds per year, making colds the number one illness resulting in doctors’ visits and missed days of school. Add in the risk of the flu, strep throat, and other contagious seasonal ailments, and it is a good bet that on any given school day, at least one student in your classroom is harboring an illness that could quickly spread to peers. To help protect your students and yourself this winter, follow these steps to mitigate the spread of germs inside your classroom:
Seven Tips to Stop the Spread of Germs in Your Classroom
- Reinforce the 20-second Rule. Proper hand washing is one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of germs. Teach students that when they wash their hands, they should do so for at least 20 seconds. Post signs above classroom and bathroom sinks, and teach children to sing the Happy Birthday song or the ABCs twice in their head before they stop soaping, scrubbing, and rinsing. Hand washing is particularly important before snack and lunch time.
- Keep Bottles of Hand Sanitizer Around the Classroom. When “magic soap” is readily available, students are more likely to get into the habit of using it when they begin or end an activity. Place hand sanitizer near shared equipment like computers, coloring supplies, books, and by the doorway.
- Clean Up at the End of the Day. Before you head home, spend ten minutes wiping down your classroom with disinfectant wipes. Mainly focus on desks, shared equipment (like keyboards), and door handles.
- Keep Tissues Well-Stocked. Teach students to cover their mouth and nose when they cough, sneeze into their elbow or a tissue, blow their nose in a tissue, and immediately dispose of the tissue and wash their hands properly (see number one).
- Encourage Students to Stock Their Supplies. One way germs can spread is through the sharing of germ-affected objects. Encourage students to keep extra pencils, crayons, and paper in stock to minimize the sharing of potentially contaminated items. Keep additional supplies in your classroom so that if a student is ever without the materials they need, they can borrow from you, rather than their sneezy classmate sitting nearby.
- Teach Students to Hang their Backpacks on a Hook in the Restroom. If students must bring their backpack into the classroom, make sure they know not to place it on the bathroom floor, which is often one of the germiest places in any environment.
- Bring in an Air Filter. High-efficiency particulate-arresting (HEPA) air filters can remove 99.97 percent of the pollen, dust, animal dander, and bacteria from the air. Consider bringing an air filter into your classroom, even just for the winter months.
Bonus Tip: Support students who were absent due to illness. Students who stay home when sick decrease the chances of passing illness onto other students. So, when students return to school after being sick, they may be anxious about all of the work they missed. Make sure to give them a little extra time to complete assignments or take tests. Some teachers assign a responsible student in the classroom to complete a “While you were out” form. On the form include what was done in class and what was assigned for homework each day.
When your students are regularly sick and exchanging germs, it means more distractions, less focused minds, and more missed days of school, which can impact everyone and interrupt your lesson plan. By taking a few extra measures throughout cold and flu season to keep your classroom clean and students informed on health best practices, you can get through the winter months with minimal sickness and disruption, and quickly look ahead toward healthy spring days.
Do you have any tips you’d like to add to our list?
If so, please share them in the comments section below!