Common Cold Lesson Plan

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

Consider using this lesson to help students understand the structure and function of the common cold virus. A drawing activity, discussion questions, and a simulation about the spread of the cold virus are included in this lesson.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of the lesson, students will be able to:

  • identify and describe the symptoms of the common cold
  • describe the structure of the cold virus
  • describe the method of transmission of the virus and how it infects the human body


1-1.5 hours


  • Spray bottles
  • Water
  • 20-sided dice

Curriculum Standards


Determine the central ideas or conclusions of a text; summarize complex concepts, processes, or information presented in a text by paraphrasing them in simpler but still accurate terms.


Determine the meaning of symbols, key terms, and other domain-specific words and phrases as they are used in a specific scientific or technical context relevant to grades 11-12 texts and topics.


  • Hold up a 20-sided dice, and ask students if they think something like it has ever made them sick. Ask students to raise their hand if they've ever had a cold. Inform students that the shape of the cold virus is similar to the 20-sided dice.
  • Provide each student with a copy of the lesson Common Cold Virus: Structure and Function.
  • Read the 'What is the Common Cold?' section and discuss the following questions:
    • What are the symptoms of a cold?
    • How long does it last?
    • How many types of cold virus are there? What are the most common?
  • Read the 'Structure' section and have students sketch what they think the structure of a cold virus might look like given the information in the section.
  • Read the rest of the lesson and discuss the following questions:
    • How does the cold virus enter the human body?
    • How do the viral protein, capsid, and DNA interact to attack healthy cells in the body?
    • How does your prior infection with a particular strain of the cold virus affect your response to the illness?
  • To assess mastery of the lesson's concepts, have students complete the lesson quiz.

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