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Can You Last a Week
Without Screen Time?



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Grades 2-up

News Content

A new report says the average American spends 151 hours a month in front of a screen.

Anticipation Guide

Ask students to think about how much time they spend at home in front of a screen (television, computer, video game, or cell phone) each week. How much time would that represent in the course of a month (multiply by 4 weeks for an approximation)? Ask: Has the amount of time you spend in front of a screen at home increased in the past year? Why or why not?

Then ask: What if those screens all went dark for a week? What if you had no access to a TV, computer, video games, or cell phones for an entire week? How would you feel? What would you do to fill the time that you would have spent in front of a screen?

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: awareness, organizers, average, percent, increase, and convince. Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • Do you think you can _____ your father to let you go to the movies on Friday night? (convince)
  • The Nature Conservancy is working hard to raise _____ about the dangers that some species face in the wild. (awareness)
  • Pablo and Vanessa were chosen to be the _____ of our classs carnival booth. (organizers)
  • The _____ teenager needs about 9 hours of sleep a night. (average)
  • Citizens debated the proposed tax _____ into the wee hours of the morning. (increase)
  • About 80 _____ of students at Bricktown Middle School passed the state test. (percent)

Read the News

Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Can You Last a Week Without Screen Time?

Reading the News

You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

More Facts to Share

You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • Americans are watching more TV online, on their cell phones, and on television, according to the Nielsen Company's latest report. The report, which covers the last three months of 2008, shows that the average American television viewer is watching more TV than ever before. The amount of TV watching (151 hours a month) is up 6 hours from the same period the previous year. The time documented in this survey does not include screen time at work or school.
    • More people than ever before are using digital recorders, DVR, and TiVo devices that allow them to watch one program as they record another to watch at a later time; Nielsen refers to this as timeshifted TV. Viewership online and on cell phones is increasing too; some people might spend 3 or 4 hours a month watching TV in this way.
    • Some people say that interest in following the presidential election might have played a role in increased TV watching in the last quarter of 2008. And the bad economy might mean more people are spending more time at home, where they are likely to spend more time in front of a screen.
    • Why celebrate Turnoff Week? According to organizers, excessive use of screens for recreational purposes leads to a more sedentary and solitary lifestyle that is both mentally and physically unhealthy. We are raising the most overweight generation of youngsters in American history, says former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher. Turnoff Week is about saving lives.
    • Turnoff Week organizers say that turning off the screen for a week will give students time to think, read, create, and do other things they never have time to do. It will give people an opportunity to feel good about themselves as they spend more time doing things that are physically and mentally active.
    • Turnoff Week is supported by national organizations including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Education Association, and President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
    • For more information or to learn about the Turnoff Week Organizers Kit, see Screen Time Turnoff Week.
    • For a list of special Barnes & Noble sponsored events scheduled during this months Turnoff Week, see Turnoff Week Special Events.

    Comprehension Check

    Revisit the Anticipation Guide at the top of this lesson; ask students to compare the amount of time they estimated spending in front of a screen to the amount of time the report says the average person spends there.

    Recalling Detail

    • What is the reason why some people have organized Turnoff Week? (Accept reasoned responses. The organizers hope people will shut down screens and discover more healthful ways to spend time.)
    • What are some activities that people might do instead of spending time in front of a screen? (read, play board games, play outside, talk face to face)
    • How much time does the average American spend watching TV? (151 hours a month)
    • What are some reasons people are spending more time in front of a screen than ever before? (Accept reasoned responses, for example, the number of TVs is growing, the number of TV channels is growing, more people are recording shows to watch at another time)

    Follow-Up Activities

    Critical thinking and writing. Discuss the Think About the News question that appears on the students news page. Then provide time for students to write their letters. If you teach younger students, you might discuss the question and write ideas on a chart; they can use those ideas as they compose their letters.

    Art. Participate in this years Turnoff Week Poster Contest. The theme of this years contest is I'm unplugged and ready to... The deadline for submitting posters is May 30, 2009.

    Science. Take time to learn some science by doing the ShowbizScience experiment, TV Upside Down. In this experiment, a magnifying glass will help students understand that the picture they see on TV (or another screen) comprises many points of light.

    Literature. If you teach young students, read aloud the story The Berenstain Bears and Too Much TV. In that story, Mama Bear decides her family is spending too much time in front of the TV, so she bans TV for a week. The Bear family must find other ways to have fun and keep busy. When TV viewing is allowed again at the end of the week, the family continues to watch less TV -- and they don't even miss it.

    Math measurement and graphing. Have students monitor the amount of time they spend in front of a screen for a one-week period. Have them graph the number of minutes of screen time for each day of the week.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News questions on the news story page or in the Comprehension Check section.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    FINE ARTS: Visual Arts
    GRADES K - 4
    NA-VA.K-4.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
    NA-VA.K-4.3 Choosing and Evaluating A Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
    NA-VA.K-4.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NA-VA.5-8.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
    NA-VA.5-8.3 Choosing and Evaluating A Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
    NA-VA.5-8.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NA-VA.9-12.1 Understanding and Applying Media, Techniques, and Processes
    NA-VA.9-12.3 Choosing and Evaluating A Range of Subject Matter, Symbols, and Ideas
    NA-VA.9-12.6 Making Connections Between Visual Arts and Other Disciplines

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.3 Evaluation Strategies
    NL-ENG.K-12.4 Communication Skills
    NL-ENG.K-12.5 Communication Strategies
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    MATHEMATICS: Representation
    GRADES Pre-K - 12
    NM-REP.PK-12.1 Create and Use Representations to Organize, Record, and Communicate Mathematical Ideas
    NM-REP.PK-12.3 Use Representations to Model and Interpret Physical, Social, and Mathematical Phenomena

    GRADES K - 12
    NPH.K-12.3 Physical Activity

    GRADES K - 4
    NPH-H.K-4.3 Reducing Health Risks
    NPH-H.K-4.4 Health Influences
    NPH-H.K-4.5 Using Communication Skills to Promote Health
    NPH-H.K-4.6 Setting Goals for Good Health
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NPH-H.5-8.3 Reducing Health Risks
    NPH-H.5-8.4 Health Influences
    NPH-H.5-8.5 Using Communication Skills to Promote Health
    NPH-H.5-8.6 Setting Goals for Good Health
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NPH-H.9-12.3 Reducing Health Risks
    NPH-H.9-12.4 Health Influences
    NPH-H.9-12.5 Using Communication Skills to Promote Health
    NPH-H.9-12.6 Setting Goals for Good Health

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.2 Physical Science
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.2 Physical Science
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.2 Physical Science

    GRADES K - 12
    NT.K-12.2 Social, Ethical, and Human Issues

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Ellen Delisio and Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
    Copyright © 2009 Education World