Accessible Search Form           Advanced Search

Skip left side navigation and go to content

Health Professionals

Lesson One for Grades K-3
What Is Asthma?

25 Minutes

On Your Mark


Students will be able to:

  1. Describe asthma as something that makes breathing hard for children with asthma.
  2. Explain that asthma can be controlled so that children can live active lives.
  3. Describe asthma as something that cannot be passed from one person to another like a cold.
  4. Identify two things that can make asthma worse, such as furry or feathered pets, colds, playing hard, and cigarette smoke.

Get Set

Teacher Preparation

Asthma: A condition that affects the airways in the lungs that makes it hard to breathe. Asthma cannot be caught like a cold. Some people develop the symptoms of asthma when they are very young and others do not have the symptoms or signs of asthma for many years. People can control their asthma and live active, healthy lives.

Asthma Symptoms: Coughing, wheezing, feeling short of breath, feeling pain or tightness in the chest


Classroom Activity: Administer and collect Pre-test.

If instructional time is limited, you may want to omit the pre/post test. Depending on your students' reading ability, you may want to administer the test orally. Use the Check for Understanding questions in the lesson to ensure that the objectives have been met.

Focus the Learner

"I'd like you to take in a big breath. Now let the air out. Put your thumbs up if that was easy. Put your thumbs down if it was hard. Most of the time breathing is easy."

"Breathing is very important. All the parts of our body need air to work."

"By the time we finish this lesson, You'll be able to tell me about something called asthma, which can make breathing hard. You'll learn about things that can make asthma worse for someone who has it. You'll also learn that you cannot catch asthma from another person."


Classroom Activity: Write the word asthma on the chalkboard. Say the word and have the students repeat it. Explain to students that asthma can make it harder for people to breathe. Ask students to breathe in and out normally.

"Now, make a fist and press it firmly to your lips. Try and breathe in and out through your mouth now. Was it harder or easier to breathe with your fist there? If it was easier or about the same put your thumbs up. If it was harder, put your thumbs down. It's usually harder to breathe."

Additional Activity: As alternatives to the lecture format here, you can use a story, puppet show, or video to provide basic asthma information to your students. See the Reference Section for resources. An alternate activity for demonstrating breathing difficulty is presented in Lesson One for Grades 4-6.

"People with asthma sometimes have a hard time getting air in and out of their lungs. When this happens they may cough or wheeze, which is breathing with a noisy sound. Or they may feel short of breath or have pain or a tight feeling in their chest. Why do some people have asthma? People who have asthma are born with it. Sometimes, people have the signs of asthma when they are little babies, but sometimes the signs do not show up until they are much older. Asthma is not something that you can "catch" from someone else. It is not something that can be passed from one person to another like a cold. Many children have asthma."

"Most of the time, we cannot tell if someone has asthma. People with asthma can run and play just like everyone else. But sometimes they have trouble breathing in and out. Sometimes, it's just a little harder to breathe; sometimes, it's very hard. It depends on how serious their asthma is.

"Certain things can make asthma worse and make it hard to breathe. Pets that have fur or feathers can make asthma worse. Can you name some furry or feathered pets?" Responses may include dogs, cats, hamsters, rabbits, parrots, and parakeets.

Classroom Activity: Pass out the Furry and Feathered Pet sheets. Give the directions: "On this sheet there are lots of animals. Put a circle around the animals that have fur or feathers." You can check the sheets or have partners check sheets. As an alternative you can use the Furry and Feathered Pet sheet as a transparency to stimulate group discussion.

"Other things can also make children's asthma get worse. When children with asthma get a cold or the flu, their asthma might get worse."

"Do you ever have trouble breathing when you play hard? Playing hard can make it harder to breathe for anyone, but it makes it even harder for someone with asthma. Most of the time, children with asthma can play like everyone else. Sometimes, they need to take a special medicine before they run or play hard."

Classroom Activity: Use the Things That Make Asthma Worse cards to illustrate your presentation. As time permits, you may discuss other things that can make asthma worse.

Background Note: Things that make asthma worse include colds and flu; allergies to tree pollen, grass pollen, dust and cockroach allergen; cigarette and other tobacco smoke; cold air; changes in the weather; and laughing or crying hard.

Background Note: Furry or feathered pets should not be kept in the classroom if there are students with asthma. Although foods may cause allergic and asthmatic reactions in some children, scientist now think that it is not common that foods provoke asthma symptoms. When reactions to food do occur, they may be very sudden and severe.

Episodes can sometimes be brought on by the physical effects of strong emotions such as laughing, crying or strong emotional distress. However, it is important to know that asthma is not caused by emotional factors such as a troubled parent-child relationship. Some people think asthma is "all in one's head." This is wrong. It is a disease in the airways.

Additional Language Arts Activity: Use the word asthma as a vocabulary and spelling word. Have students use the word in a sentence. As a class, write a story about someone with asthma.

Check for Understanding

Classroom Activity: For older children, have them write their answers or respond orally and you write on the board.

"Draw a picture of what you think it is like to have asthma." Pictures might include: a person with asthma who has a hard time breathing; a person taking a special medicine before playing hard.

"Draw a picture of some things that can make asthma worse." Pictures might include: furry pets, cigarette smoke, colds, playing hard, allergies to grass, trees, and dust.

Additional Activities: Have children find the things that make asthma worse in the Hidden Picture worksheet. As an in class or homework extension activity, ask each child to draw a picture or collect magazine pictures of the things at home that make asthma worse. Give each child or team an outline drawing of the school or classroom. Have them draw the things that make asthma worse that they find in each location.

Closure for Lesson One

"Today we've learned that some people are born with asthma. It makes breathing harder sometimes. We have also learned furry or feathered pets, cigarette smoke, colds and flu, playing hard, and allergies can make asthma worse."

< Table of Contents

Twitter iconTwitterimage of external icon Facebook iconFacebookimage of external icon YouTube iconYouTubeimage of external icon Google+ iconGoogle+image of external icon