1. Screen time and your health
Introduction: Before we had the COVID-19 lock down it was quite common to hear occasional warnings about over-use of screens. For example, it has long been recommended that phones should be turned off at bed time and not looked at during the night as this affects our sleep patterns. However, we need to take a very close look at this subject again now: it has gained a new importance in the light of the lock down because we are all over-using our screens.
a). Read this article translated from Información de Alicante (2 May 2020).
b). Answer these questions: i). What are the kinds of eye problems that can occur with over use of screens, according to eye-specialist Soler?; ii). What are the practical exercises he suggests to help your eyes take a break from too much close-focus?; iii). Estimate how much time you spend in an average day looking at your screens (phone, tablet, computer, TV), and then try to calculate how much of this time is unnecessary. What strategies could you use to reduce your screen time?
c). (Optional.) Feedback in a Zoom session, if this is done in context of a full PSHE lesson, might be a valuable opportunity to compare ideas about what is “unnecessary screen time”, as this will be very subjective. Example: if you have been engaged in online lessons for most of the day, would it be better to avoid social media on screen, and phone your friends instead?
2. Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year
a). The focus is on meeting COVID-19 head on this week and the Year 9’s will do a journal exercise following their reading of the opening of Daniel Defoe’s book (published 1722) which recalls the plague in London in 1665. Defoe wrote his memories of it as a fictionalised account. (The full text is here if you are interested to see more but you do not need the full text for this exercise.)
b). First read the opening passage of Defoe’s novel. Some words may need explanation (e.g. “discourse” = conversation):
“It was about the beginning of September, 1664, that I, among the rest of my neighbours, heard in ordinary discourse that the plague was returned again in Holland; for it had been very violent there, and particularly at Amsterdam and Rotterdam, in the year 1663, whither, they say, it was brought, some said from Italy, others from the Levant, among some goods which were brought home by their Turkey fleet; others said it was brought from Candia; others from Cyprus. It mattered not from whence it came; but all agreed it was come into Holland again.
We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread rumours and reports of things, and to improve them by the invention of men, as I have lived to see practised since. But such things as these were gathered from the letters of merchants and others who corresponded abroad, and from them was handed about by word of mouth only; so that things did not spread instantly over the whole nation, as they do now. But it seems that the Government had a true account of it, and several councils were held about ways to prevent its coming over; but all was kept very private. Hence it was that this rumour died off again, and people began to forget it as a thing we were very little concerned in, and that we hoped was not true; till the latter end of November or the beginning of December 1664 when two men, said to be Frenchmen, died of the plague in Long Acre, or rather at the upper end of Drury Lane. The family they were in endeavoured to conceal it as much as possible, but as it had gotten some vent in the discourse of the neighbourhood, the Secretaries of State got knowledge of it; and concerning themselves to inquire about it, in order to be certain of the truth, two physicians and a surgeon were ordered to go to the house and make inspection. This they did; and finding evident tokens of the sickness upon both the bodies that were dead, they gave their opinions publicly that they died of the plague.”
c). In the lesson, explore the passage: It is about the way the news of the plague circulated (and there is an interesting comment that there were no newspapers in those days: “We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread rumours and reports of things.”) Explore the various references to news being circulated and maybe highlight key words, like “rumour”, “evidence”, and mentions of hiding the facts, etc. That phrase “people began to forget it as a thing we were very little concerned in”: doesn’t that remind you of the way the news from China seemed of little concern to us in December 2019?
d). Task: Recall how you first heard about Coronavirus, in stories of far off events in China last December. Write your fictionalised opening paragraphs to a novel about the COVID-19 global pandemic. Call it “A Journal of the Pandemic Year,” or give it a title of your own invention. Write about the way the pandemic once seemed far away, then people realised that it was getting closer, and then it was suddenly right there within our communities and we had to stay indoors to keep safe.
This is an exercise in journal writing: working through your reflections on these big events that affect our lives. The act of writing gives us some power over the events because we control our words: writing reduces our fear and our confusion. The passage above is about 350 words, so write a similar length introduction, and do not exceed 500 words.