Voiced through her own love of learning, Star Academy teacher Kelly Farrell explores topics of interest for educators who strive to inspire motivation, confidence and self-identity for students on their personal learning journeys. Here she discusses how to motivate students in eight simple steps to shut off their screens at school and at home for Screen Free Week.
The first week of May 2012 (April 30-May 6) is Screen Free Week. I’m certain that most of your students, like mine, will writhe in feigned agony at the idea of spending a week without screens! Then they will likely go to any length to find a way around the “rule”. So, how about making a “deal,” then offering up a challenge? Here’s an idea to engage your students in the challenge of going a week without screens, presented in eight easy steps.
1. Announce to your class (or school) that you are going to challenge them to go a week without screens (TV, video games, smartphones, DS systems, iPods, computers, etc.).
2. Wait for the moans and groans and protests to die down.
3. Make a deal. “Pretend” that you are going to relax the rule a little bit; kids will think they’ve won! Clarify that you are only limiting screens that are used for entertainment purposes, but concede that they can still get their screen time for educational purposes (you aren’t truly giving in since this is the true goal behind Screen Free Week!). Don’t forget to include yourself in the challenge and make a big deal out of how difficult it will be for you to participate.
4. Announce that there will be prizes. Yes, prizes. We all know that people of all ages will engage in almost any kind of competition when there are prizes. Now, prizes don’t have to be material in nature. And a rule of teaching I live by is to never announce the “actual” prize ahead of time, because one-third of students will opt out of the competition out of apathy for that particular prize. Keep them guessing—keep them engaged!
5. Begin the challenge by estimating each student’s daily usage of technology for entertainment purposes. Total up time spent playing video games, watching TV, listening to music in front of screens. Ask them if they are surprised by the numbers and if they think it’s reasonable. Discuss times when students are more frequently in front of technology (after school, weekends, etc.).
6. Set goals that are age appropriate and brainstorm activities that can replace screen-based entertainment like board games, reading, outdoor games, etc. For goal setting: younger students could be asked to go completely screen free for the week. You can ask parents to keep track in the students’ daily agenda and easily total up the hours over the week. The student who has the least amount of screen time wins. For older students, the competition could be based on “most improved,” and you can ask students to calculate how much less screen time they spent than their previous averages.
7. Track each student’s Screen Free time during the week. This could be individual in their agendas or as whole class graphs (great way to cover the Data Management strand!). Additionally, several writing activities could come out of this challenge. Ask students to keep a daily journal, tracking their reaction to living Screen Free. Provide a book list for students to peruse during their Screen Free time.
8. When the week is over, total up the results, announce the winner(s). In addition to grand prizes, you can also award certificates for all participants and come up with creative awards like “Most Creative Screen Free activity” or “Most Screen Deprived.” Reward the entire class with an outdoor game of soccer (or similar outdoor activity) and let the winners be team captains. This way the winners feel rewarded for their extra efforts, but all students are rewarded with a bonus.
Additional resources can be found at the official website for Screen Free Week.
Good luck! Post your comments below and let me know how it works out!
* * * * *
How will you challenge your students to go screen free? Do you think a Screen-Free Week is realistic? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.