Note: Due to the impact of the COVID-19 virus, Screen Free Week for 2020 has been cancelled. In addition to the ideas below from last year’s post, you can find more ideas at https://www.screenfree.org/
It is no secret that our children spend a great deal of time with digital entertainment. From televisions to video games, computers, tablets, and cellphones, screens occupy an important place in our lives.
Screen Free Week traditionally falls in April and is celebrated in many parts of the world. This year, Screen-Free Week begins April 30th and ends May 6th.
Note: You may want to send a note home to families explaining that you will be conducting a Screen- Free Week at school. Essentially, this week is about taking a break from digital entertainment (while still using digital devices for work or school). Invite parents to participate if they wish.
It is important to note that this week is not about putting down digital media, but rather, it is designed to help children focus on life beyond the screen. During this week, everyone is asked to turn off the screen-based entertainment and creatively explore and enjoy other activities at school, at home, and in their community.
Gather the class and record their answers to the following questions on chart paper:
Circle all the screen-based answers. Ask:
Explain that playing video games and watching TV can be fun, but sometimes it is fun to do other things.
Brainstorm things that can be done without any plugs.
Make a huge calendar for the week and as a class select an activity for each day of the week that can be carried out without screens. Aim for a variety of activities. For example:
Monday- Play a schoolyard game such as four-square, skipping, tag, etc.
Tuesday- Select a book from the library and spend time just reading.
Wednesday- Bring in simple board games to play.
Thursday- Go outside as a class and play “Follow the leader.”
Friday- Work with a partner and build a tower or other creation with different school supplies.
At the end of the week, ask students what else they did that was screen-free. Encourage them to continue to spend their leisure time with a healthy balance of active and passive activities.
Post charts around the classroom with the following headings:
Provide each student with a page of stickers (or a marker). Ask them to go around the room and place stickers (or checkmarks) on the charts if they spend time with these devices every day.
When they have completed the walkabout, ask:
Spend a few minutes exploring why students like to spend time with digital entertainment.
Explain that today is the beginning of Screen-Free Week. Ask students to tell you what they think it means and why it might have been created.
Continue the discussion by explaining that there are many things they can do that are fun and do not need a plug. Brainstorm several.
Tell students that you will be creating a “Plug-Free” classroom book that will be placed in the school library. It will contain lots of ideas for activities that can be done inside or outside and are lots of fun. The only thing they don’t require is a plug to re-charge them!
Have students work independently or in pairs to brainstorm and illustrate fun things to do without plugs. Provide magazines, newspapers, fliers, etc. that will help them to make their page in the book interesting for all ages. They can make a collage, draw a picture, use words creatively, create a poem, and write a paragraph— anything that will suggest fun activities.
When complete, share the pages with the class. Collate them and create a cover with a title (e.g., “Fun Things to do Without Plugs!”). Place the book on a table in the school library and inform staff so other classes can enjoy!
Read the following fact to students:
The average 5-year-old will have spent 5,000 hours in front of the TV before entering kindergarten, more time than he or she will spend in conversation with his or her parents for the rest of their lives and longer than it would take to get a college degree. Learn more here.
Discuss the role that screen-based media plays in their lives and examples of how use of digital technology continues to grow at a rapid pace in our society.
Complete a class survey by recording:
Review various graphing methods and have students work in small groups to prepare a graph or chart that represents the information above. Have groups extend their exploration by taking the number of hours per day and then calculating and graphing the number of hours per week, month, or year spent with digital entertainment. Post and share the finished products.
Revisit the fact you shared at the beginning and invite students to consider what could get done in a day, week, month, or year with the number of hours represented in their graphs. Invite groups to add callouts or other features to their graphs to represent their thinking.
Explain that today is the beginning of Screen-Free Week, which was designed to get young people thinking about their use of digital entertainment and also to help them balance their passive and active time.
Close by brainstorming things that they like to do that are “Screen-Free.” Encourage students to balance their leisure time accordingly.
Note: It might be interesting to share these surveys, charts, and graphs with other staff members or parents.