Screen Time and the Developing Brain | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M4A

Screen Time and the Developing Brain

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This eight-week module focuses on a "science and society" topic, engaging students in reading compelling informational text about adolescent brain development and the effects of entertainment screen time on the brain. In Unit 1, students first read various texts that will build their background knowledge about adolescent brain development in general. Their learning will center around three areas of the brain, namely the prefrontal cortex, the limbic system, and the developing neurons. Students determine main ideas and evidence in diverse media and clarify their learning about this complex content. Then they begin to focus on the issue of screen time and how it may affect teenagers.

In Unit 2, they begin to read argument texts. They trace arguments and evaluate the soundness of reasoning and the sufficiency and relevancy of evidence in the texts and media that they engage with in this unit. They dive deeper into first the potential benefits and then the potential risks of screen time by participating in a robust research project. To organize their research sources and information, students use a researcher's notebook. Then students conduct Internet-based research. Throughout Unit 2, students engage in many conversations to synthesize and clarify their learning.

To help students grapple with this issue, the second half of Unit 2 introduces students to a modified decision-making process called Stakeholder Consequences Decision-Making (see the end of this document for details). This process will help students understand the implications of various choices and will scaffold their ability to determine, based on evidence and their own values, what they themselves believe should happen. Unit 3 marks the transition from research to writing as students plan and draft a position paper, addressing the question: "After examining both the potential benefits and risks of entertainment screen time, particularly to adolescent development, make a recommendation. Should the AAP raise the recommended daily entertainment screen time from two hours to four hours?" Students have several opportunities for feedback and revision during this unit. As a final performance task, students publish and share a visual representation of their position paper. This task centers on ELA standards RI.7.1, W.7.1, W.7.4, and L.7.6.

Guiding Questions and Big Ideas

  • How is the adolescent brain changing?
  • Should screen time be limited? Why or why not?
  • How can I make an informed decision about an issue and then effectively argue my position? 
  • The teenage brain is in a period of dynamic growth and change that is unique to this stage of life.
  • Researchers wonder how screen time affects the development of adolescents.
  • Effective arguments include sound, relevant, and sufficient evidence.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read informational texts about adolescent brain development. This ELA module is designed to expose students to informational text from various sources and encourage the interaction with texts through multiple modalities (e.g. books, articles, electronic, digital). However, this ELA module does not supplant the regular science curriculum and instructional program at the local level aligned to the NYS Learning Standards in Science for this grade level. The informational text in this module intentionally incorporates Science concepts and themes to support potential cross-standards connections to this compelling content. These intentional connections are described below. 

NYS Learning Standards in Science:

Intermediate-Level Science Core Curriculum Guide Grades (5-8)

Standard 4: The Living Environment

Key Idea 1: Living Things are both similar to and different from each other and from nonliving things.

Performance Indicators 1.1; Major Understandings 1.1e, 1.1g, 1.1h

Performance Indicators 1.2; Major Understanding 1.2h

Key Idea 4: The continuity of life is sustained through reproduction and development.

Performance indicator 4.3 Major Understanding 4.3c


Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the Next Generation Science Standards:

Science and Engineering Practices

The eight practices of science and engineering that the Framework identifies as essential for all students to learn and describes in detail are listed below:

8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information


Each module is approximately 8 weeks of instruction broken into 3 units. The "week at a glance" chart in the curriculum map gives the big picture, breaking down the module into a detailed week-by-week view. It shows how the module unfolds, the focus of each week of instruction, and where the six assessments and the performance task occur.

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