Lesson Plans

Understanding the Zika Virus

The Zika virus, which causes birth defects, could cause women to have unsafe abortions in countries where abortion is illegal. Image by Jake Naughton. Kenya, 2015.


Students will be able describe the Zika virus and analyze how the virus is covered differently by different authors.


1. What do you know about the Zika virus? Brainstorm with the class.

2. Make a list of questions you have about the virus.

3. Consider and discuss the following:

  • Where are you hearing about the Zika virus?
  • If you haven’t heard about it, why do you think that is? Is it something you think people should know about?

3. Read the article and answer the attached comprehension questions. As you read, consider the following:

  • Does the article address the questions you posed in the warm up?
  • What you think is the main idea of this article? What do you think the author wants you to take away from the article?

Extension Activities:

Option 1: Discuss the following quotation from the article:

"'This is an opportunity the government has to change its law and stop this discrimination against women,' Avila-Guillen said."

What does Guillen mean when she says “discrimination”? Why do you think she uses this word? Answer the questions on your own or with a partner.  Be prepared to share your responses with the class.

Option 2: Watch the video that journalist Laura Bassett included in her article.

  1. What additional information do you learn about the virus?
  2. Why do you think that Bassett included this video in her article? Discuss.
  3. Compare the video and article. Discuss the following questions:
  • How did the authors approach reporting on the Zika virus differently?
  • How were their purposes different and how were they similar?
  • What are the benefits and challenges of reporting using an article vs. using a video?

Option 3: Find two more articles/videos reporting on the Zika virus. Compare those resources to the two you reviewed today.

1. Guide your search using the following questions:

  • What more do you still want to know about the virus?
  • Whose opinions on the impact of the virus do you still want to hear? Who was not represented in the articles you read?

2. Once you find your articles, consider the following:

  • How does this article report differently from the ones you reviewed today?

Option 4: Select a person that you think needs to know more about the Zika virus and create a resource for them that explains the virus and its impacts. Consider the following as you decide on the structure and content for your resource:

  1. What could you make that would best inform the person you selected? (poster, article, video, series of text messages, facebook post etc.)
  2. What information would they need to know?
  3. How would you explain the Zika virus and its impacts in your own words?
Educator Notes: 

This lesson outline uses journalist-grantee Laura Bassett's article "The Zika Virus Could Force Women to Have Unsafe Abortions" to introduce students to the Zika virus and its global impacts. Students are asked to discuss their prior knowledge of the Zika virus, answer comprehension questions related to the article and analyze the author's purpose for the article. Students can also extend their learning through writing and presentation activities to conduct a deeper analysis of media coverage of the Zika virus.


Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.


Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea.

Note: This lesson is designed to include discussions facilitated by the teacher, but can be adapted for students to explore the article independently.

To see more global health reporting from journalist-grantee Laura Bassett, click here.

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