We’ve been sick lately. Hacking up a lung, bronchitis kind of sick. We’re pretty miserable. And that means the TV has been on a whole lot more lately.
But excessive TV time isn’t good either. I was running out of ideas for making it more educational, so I turned to my family for help.
Teaching runs in the family, and my mom and my older sister are both teachers. They provided just the spark of inspiration I needed, and I wanted to share their ideas with you.
Keep reading for five tips for getting more out of TV time delivered straight from two expert teachers: Elementary Title Teacher and Special Education Director Sheryl Templeton, M.Ed, and high-school English teacher Mindy Jones.
The best part? None of these tips are complicated; they’re all simple! Which is just what my sick, foggy feeling brain needed.
Add Some Conversation
Both of the experts agree that talking to your kids about what they’re watching is essential. I concur.
The easiest way to make this happen is to know what they watch. I try to make sure I’ve seen at least one episode of each show they enjoy. That way we share a common vocabulary, and I at least have an idea of what they’re talking about.
Here are some questions the teachers suggested you try:
- Who is your favorite character?
- What did that character do in this episode?
- Why did the writer decide the character should do that?
- What might have happened if that character did something else instead?
- Does that character remind you of anyone else?
- What would you have done if you were that character?
- Where does this show take place?
- What would happen if it took place somewhere else?
- What’s something that happened that couldn’t happen in real life?
- What’s something that happened that could happen in real life?
The kids loved talking about their favorite shows. The younger kids struggled a bit with the idea that a writer had written the show, but it was a great introduction to that concept.
Events happen in a particular sequence. My mom, Sheryl suggested having the kids pay attention to the sequence of events.
This strategy is also a good way to practice the concept of cause and effect. As we were talking about the show, I took a few minutes to ask some sequencing questions.
These got them thinking about the order of events.
- What happened first?
- What happened next?
- What happened right before the commercial break?
- What do you think will happen next?
These questions will help your child better understand the plot of the show. Just like in books, plots are an important part of television shows.
Analyze the Commercials
Don’t just fast forward those ads! Mindy suggested using commercial breaks to your advantage by having the kids analyze the content. Just a few pointed questions got everyone’s mind rolling:
- What are they trying to sell?
- Who is the target audience?
- How do you know?
- What appeals did they use?
Teaching kids to be aware of commercials—and the purpose behind them will help them be more-informed consumers in the future. Looking at commercials through an educational lens also increases critical thinking skills.
Listening for Specific Words
Sheryl recommends having kids listen for certain words during the show to keep their mind focused. Having a task to think about prevents the brain from passively watching. Your child will have a job to do, and will be listening closely for those words.
Having knowledge of the show is important for this activity. That way you give your child a word that’s more likely to be said.
For older children, you can give them even more listening challenges. Try listening for words that start with a certain letter. Or words that rhyme. They could listen for opposites.
Since I have two early readers, I created a Bingo style board for them to listen to while watching. They had to cross out each word on their board. When they were finished, they received a small treat. It was a fun way to practice their reading while they were sick.
Learn About the Craft of Film
Each scene in the show happens for a reason. The writers and directors put everything there for a particular purpose. Challenge your children to pay attention to angle of the shots, the composition of the scene, and how everything works together.
Mindy noted that children can, “start searching for product placement and basic framing.” Older kids can, “look at more advanced framing, camera angles, and editing.” They can analyze the show, which helps them pay attention to detail.
Jayme, my oldest, had the most fun with this one. She’s created mini-movies on her laptop before, and really got into the analysis process.
To Increase Learning, Don’t Just Watch TV
By using these expert tips, you’ll help keep your child’s brain turned on during tube time. They won’t be passively staring at the screen, but rather actively engaging their brain.
What tips do you have for making television time more educational? Since I’m beginning to think by the time we all make our way through this illness summer will be here, I’d love to try some more things.
Please share your tips in the comment section below, or connect with me on Twitter. You can find me @lisatannerwrite.