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"Sports Screeners"

Estimated Time of Completion: One 50-minute period, plus one period for viewing a television program, a video or a movie.

I. Summary
II. Objectives
III. Materials Needed
IV. Procedure
V. Classroom Assessment
VI. Extensions and Adaptations
VII. Online Resources
VIII. Relevant National Standards

I. Summary:

For grades 7-12. Designed to be used in a classroom or youth group setting, this activity will heighten youth awareness of physical activity and sports in film and television. This activity will encourage youth to become critical movie and TV viewers, by drawing attention to how physical activity and sports for youth is normalized (made to look acceptable) or glamorized in many films and on television.

The lack of physical activity and increase in obesity among America's young people is a growing problem and impacts the short-term and long-term health of youth. Increasing physical activity is one way to combat sedentary behavior and at the same time offer young people a positive, fun alternative to risky behaviors such as crime, sexual experimentation, and substance use.

The media can play an important role in providing positive role models for youth, especially as actors are portrayed as active participants in sports and physical activities. By having students view critically the level of participation in physical activities and/or sports in a movie or television program, youth may subsequently be encouraged to try new activities or continue existing activities.

II. Objectives:

III. Materials Needed:

IV. Procedure:

  1. Introduce the activity by asking students to describe their personal perceptions of how physical activity and sports are depicted in the movies and/or television programs. Tell them not to include sport-specific programming or sports shows. Students responses may vary, but may include:

    • little to no physical activity is shown in situation comedies on television
    • some movies and television shows show characters/actors walking or running (to or away from something or someone) or playing sports
    • some movies and television shows show specific sports or stories about athletes

  2. Determine whether viewing of the television program or movie will be an "in-class" activity or a "homework assignment."

  3. Distribute one Sports Screeners Checklist to each student.

  4. Option 1: "In-class" activity

    • Tell students that for the next hour to two hours they will watch a video. On the Sports Screeners Checklist, they are to write their names, the complete name of the video, and the name of the producer and production company of the video. While they are viewing the video they are to use the Sports Screeners Checklist to:

      1. Identify the number of times a sport or physical activity is depicted
      2. Identify the type of sport or physical activity that is depicted
      3. Form a description of who is performing the activity (male, female, young or older person, etc.)
      4. Judge whether the movie encouraged youth to participate in physical activity or sports
      5. Grade the general level of physical activity depicted in the movie
      6. Characterize the type of movie or TV program as: drama, comedy, science fiction/thriller, other.

    or

    Option 2: "Homework" assignment

    • Tell students that for their homework assignment they can watch a video, film, or a regular television program that is not a sports-specific, news, or cartoon program. Tell them that they will view the entertainment to determine the types and level of physical activity and/or sports depicted in it.
    • Inform students they should consult with a parent or guardian regarding the selection of the entertainment and that the MPAA rating should be G, PG or PG-13, and at the parent/guardian's discretion. This activity could include asking parents, grandparents, or siblings to watch together.
    • Advise students that on the Sports Screeners Checklist, they should write their name, the name of the television program, film or video, the name of the producer and the production company, and the channel and time of the TV program.
    • While they are viewing the television program, video or film they are to use the Sports Screeners Checklist to:

      1. Identify the number of times a sport or physical activity is depicted
      2. Identify the type of sport or physical activity that is depicted
      3. Form a description of who is performing the activity (male, female, young or older person, etc.)
      4. Judge whether the movie encouraged youth to participate in physical activity or sports
      5. Grade the general level of physical activity depicted in the movie
      6. Characterize the type of movie or TV program as: drama, comedy, science fiction/thriller, other.

  5. For the second lesson period, students should bring their Sports Screeners Checklists with them to the class and verbally share findings from their review of sports and physical activity in entertainment.

  6. Begin a discussion on the following points:

    • Ask students to share their findings and determine who is most likely to be shown being physical active or participating in a sport in a movie or television program? (e.g., male, female, young person, older person, etc.)
    • Based on their reviews, what kinds of movies or programs are most likely to show physical activity or sports? (e.g., drama, comedy, science fiction/thriller, other.)
    • Did the movie or program encourage the viewer to participate in physical activity or sports? (Yes or No)
    • What grade should be given the movie or tv program for depicting physical activity or sports participation? (A = Excellent, B = Good, C = Average, D = Fair, F = Poor)

  7. Ask students to hypothesize (think about) then verbally discuss how images of physical activity and sports depictions in entertainment can influence young people's attitudes and behaviors. Student responses may include:

    • Youth might be encouraged to participate in a sport or activity because their favorite actor is doing it.
    • Youth may determine that the activity or sport looks exciting or fun, and that it could also involve friends or family members.
    • Youth may decide that the physical activity or sport could be started as a new school or community activity.
    • Youth's perceptions of physical activities and sports as only for the athletically inclined, may change. All individuals have the capacity to perform some type of physical activity or sport. Finding the right one for you is what is important!
    • Youth might be discouraged to participate because the sport or activity depicted is too frightening or involves perceive physical risks.

  8. Tell students that they will now use their Sports Screeners Checklists and write a formal letter to the executive producer of the production company or television station which the film, video or television program is broadcast. Give each student a copy of the Sample Letter as a guide. In the letter, the students should describe their findings from the Sports Screeners Checklists and express appreciation for the physical activity and/or sports depictions (if appropriate). Students can contact directly the television station or the production company and request the address of the producer. Or they can use the Celebrity Directory (Axiom Information Resources, P.O. Box 8015-T6, Ann Arbor, MI 48107) or Daily Variety to locate address of the producers.

  9. Students should submit a copy of the letter and their completed Sports Screeners Checklists to the teacher to evaluate.

V. Classroom Assessment:

Score the completion of the Sports Screeners Checklist according to the following criteria:

Score the Letter to the Producer according to the Sample Letter format and the following criteria:

VI. Extensions and Adaptations:

VII. Online Resources:

VIII. Relevant National Standards:

The following are established by the National Health Education Standards at http://www.cancer.org/cshe/cshestud.html:

Health

The following are established by McREL at http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/docs/contents.html:

Physical Education

Life Skills Language Arts

About the Author:
Susan Giarratano-Russell
, MSPH, EdD, CHES is a consultant for Health Education and Media. She is a writer and has been a middle school and high school teacher, as well as a university professor of health education.

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