LESSON 1: Getting Sick

Objective: Students will talk about the difference between sicknesses you can and cannot catch as well as some ways to reduce their risk for both sicknesses.

Time Required: One 40-minute class period

Materials: Getting Sick worksheet, Questions and Answers About Cancer Teacher Sheet, Internet access


1. As part of teacher preparation, review Questions and Answers About Cancer. Ask students what types of illnesses they or their family members have had? Students will share and teachers will chart.

2. Explain to students that we usually know how we get injured, but it's difficult to know how we get sick. Mention that some sicknesses (colds, chicken pox, or other common illnesses) are contagious: we can catch them from others. We catch colds from touching another person or by touching things we’ve been near, such as when someone sneezes on a piece of paper. Explain that cancer is a group of more than 100 diseases that attack parts of people’s bodies, but that it can be treated with medicine, and you cannot catch cancer from other people.

3. To better illustrate this discussion, draw two big catcher’s mitts on the board next to each other. The first will be to list contagious sicknesses, ones you can “catch” like a ball in the mitt; the second (with a slash through it) will be for items we can’t catch.

4. After getting suggestions for Mitt #1 (e.g., flu, chicken pox, cold), ask students about washing their hands, not sharing drinks, covering their mouth when they cough. Emphasize that by doing these things they are reducing their risk of getting sick. For Mitt #2, include asthma and cancer, reiterating that you can’t catch cancer from another person.

5. Tell students that while we don’t know what causes all cancers, we do know things we can do to help reduce the risk of getting some kinds of cancer. Distribute the Getting Sick worksheet. Review the directions with students, and discuss how healthy choices help reduce the risk of getting some kinds of cancer: wearing sunscreen, eating healthy foods, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight, and staying away from cigarette smoke. Tell students that most people who get cancer are much older, but that it’s always a good idea to make healthy choices.

6. Explain to students that there are many different kinds of cancer, and many treatments, or medicine, to help people with cancer to get better. Many people can live long and happy lives with and after cancer. Tell students that they can help those with cancer or other sicknesses by offering their love and support.

Extension: After completing the worksheet, students may answer this writing prompt. Prompt: What are some ways that I can reduce the risk of getting sick?

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