A generation of couch potatoes?

Age range : 13-18
Suitable after 2 years of learning English
Theme: health, fitness, lifestyles
Lexical area: sports, recreational activities, frequency adverbs
Cross curricular links: personal and social education
Internet links: www.bbc.co.uk/health/kids

Instructions for language assistants in italics.
If any of your students have health problems you may want to adapt these materials before you use them.

Introduce this topic by writing couch potato on the board. Pre teach this expression if necessary. Does anyone know what it means? What types of behaviour could be described as lazy? Students can complete their questionnaire individually and/or in pairs. Do a quick round up of their responses around the class. Who watches the most TV? who walks the most? Anticipate the meaning of the words fit/unfit/sedentary.

  1. Questionnaire : How active are you?

    1. How often do you walk more than a kilometre?
        Every day
        Once a week
        Once or twice a month
        Very rarely

    2. When was the last time you took any form of physical exercise? (swimming, running, dancing)
        last week
        last month
        a long time ago
        I canít remember

    3. Tick any of the following activities if you do them regularly:
        Watching TV
        Playing team games (football, rugby)
        Watching team games
        Playing computer games
        Surfing the net
        Walking in the countryside
        Listening to music in your room
        Playing outside/in the garden/in the street
        Going to a gym
        Texting your friends

  2. Can you calculate the number of hours you spend on the activities per day or per week? (e.g. I spend 2 hours a day cycling to school and one hour a day watching TV).
    Which of the activities in the questionnaire might be good for your heart? Which activities can be called sedentary? Give other examples of sedentary activities.

  3. Reading

      A generation of couch potatoes

      Lots of teenagers have posters of their sports hero on their bedroom wall. But do they follow the healthy examples set by these athletes? British parents are worried that young people are not as fit and healthy as in the past. Why is this?

      According to the British Heart Foundation, 13 to 15 year olds are spending too much time doing sedentary activities such as watching TV or playing computer games. A special report describes a generation of couch potatoes , young people sitting around at home, growing up in their bedrooms, travelling by car and in serious danger of heart disease as they get older. Is this their fault ? Are young people lazy?

      Many parents donít allow their children to play outside or walk to school by themselves. ď I ring my Dad on my mobile and he picks me up from the station. Itís 10 minutes walk from home but he thinks it is dangerousĒ, says 14 year old Carrie. Some teenagers blame their over protective parents for making them unfit. It is certainly becoming more difficult to encourage young people to have an active life and protect their hearts. In recent years schools have spent less time on sports. ďMy Mum did lots of hockey and netball at school but we didnít have time for that this year because we had so many exams to prepareĒ, says Ben 16.

    Lead in to this activity by using the examples in the text. Is Ben more active than his mother? Why not ? Are you allowed to walk back alone from school or stations? Were your parents or grandparents allowed more freedom outside? Elicit examples round the class for their grandparents before they work in pairs or groups.

    How does your lifestyle compare to British teenagers? Are they more active than you?

  4. Talk about lifestyles in your country

    How does your lifestyle compare to your grandparentsí lives? Has anything changed? Discuss these topics:

      spare time activities
      physical activities

  5. Do a fitness survey

    Give guidance on questions using the 2 models in the questionnaire (1). Elicit further examples and put prompts on the board. Feed in more adverbs (sometimes, not often, hardly ever) and practice time expressions like twice a week, once a month etc. Each pair can think of 1 question. Put all the class questions on the board. Students use their questions to interview each other. Be aware that this activity could last a long time and you need to hold a feedback session to assess the results. Do they think their class is fit?

    Make a survey for your class to measure fitness levels. Ask questions using: How often? When was the last time?

  6. Fitness campaign

    Elicit a couple of suggestions before groups/pairs start. Artistic students could design a poster to encourage a more active lifestyle or to raise awareness of keeping your heart healthy. Ask the class if there are adverts in their country to encourage healthy habits/diet. Are they effective? This discussion is best with higher level groups.

    Think of 4 ways to encourage young people in your town/area to improve their fitness. How can you encourage a more active lifestyle at home and at school?
    Use expressions such as 'I think we should; It might be a good idea to..;Why donít we'.

  7. Discussion: Attitudes towards lifestyles and healthy living

    Do you agree or disagree with these statements?

    1. Young people are naturally fit and healthy and donít need much exercise
    2. Eating fast food is OK if you donít eat it every day
    3. Older people always say negative things about teenagersí habits
    4. Sport is good fun
    5. Teenagers donít have enough time to do sports because they have too much homework
    6. Schools should make all students do at least 2 hours of PE a week

    Can you add 2 statements? Do your friends agree with you?


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