Activities & Lesson Plans - 5th & 6th Grade Newsletter 1/29/10 - The Multitasking Generation

Grade: 5th-6th

January 29, 2010 | Grades 5 & 6

In This Issue: Kids Who Multitask; The Boy Who Helped Haiti; The Skinny on Movie Popcorn

Multitasking Madness

For parents who've ever wondered what their tweens or teens are up to, the Kaiser Family Foundation has the answer: using a smartphone, computer, television or other electronic device. And quite possibly, they're using a few at the same time. The Foundation survey, Generation M2, found that kids 8-18 spent more than seven and a half hours a day on entertainment media. Kids who multitask manage to pack an average of nearly 11 hours of media content into seven. These results shocked the researchers, who after doing a similar study in 2005 had concluded that kids' media use couldn't increase because there weren't enough non-school hours in the day.

For More on Multitasking: "Texting, Surfing, Studying?", The New York Times

Activity Ideas  

Share this fact with your child: Nearly one in three (31%) 8- to 18-year-olds say that "most" of the time while doing homework, they are also using one medium or another—watching TV, texting, listening to music, etc.

  • Challenge your child to a "multitasking match." 
  • First, pick a task—reading an encyclopedia entry, solving two word problems, memorizing a short poem. 
  • Once each of you has chosen a task, find another one of similar length and difficulty.
  • Take turns doing an activity. Be sure to time each other.
  • Do your second, similar activity while listening to an ipod, watching the Muppets "Bohemian Rhapsody" on Kideos, playing an online game and/or texting. Time each other again.
  • Analyze results: How did adding one or more "distractions" impact your speed? Did you find it difficult to concentrate? Based on this evidence, would it be better for you to avoid multitasking while working on something that requires your full attention?
  • Have your child use his or her times to calculate probability. Sample problem below: 

Present the data as a word ratio: If you can read 40 words in 100 seconds (40 words/100 seconds) how many can you read in 200 seconds (____ words/200 seconds)?

(100x2=200) so (40x2=80) ANSWER: 80 words in 200 seconds


Learning Tips
: Estimate Probability of Future Events

Game: Probability of Future Events Simulator


Charlie Simpson's PageBiking for Bucks

A 7-year-old boy from London, England, has raised more than $160,000 (100,000 pounds) to help people in Haiti. Scenes of the destruction so upset Charlie Simpson that he decided to embark on a sponsored 5-mile bike ride in a local park.  His mom helped him set up a fundraising page at JustGiving and the donations have been pouring in ever since. The money that Charlie raises will help fund UNICEF's Haiti Earthquake Children's Appeal.

Activity Ideas - Language Arts

Figurative and Metaphorical Language

Tell your child that figurative language uses exaggerations or alterations to make a particular linguistic point. Literal language simply states the facts for what they are. Read about a few types of figurative language (below) and then identify.


Simile: a comparison using "like" or "as."

Personification: giving human qualities, feelings, actions or characteristics to nonliving objects.

Alliteration: the repetition of initial consonant sounds in neighboring words.

Idioms: figures of speech that don't literally mean what the words say.


  • Charlie has a "heart of gold."  Idiom;  means he is a genuinely kind and caring person
  • Even though Charlie raised a lot of money, it's still "just a drop in the bucket" considering the funds needed to rebuild Haiti. Idiom; indicates something is too small to make a difference
  • If Charlie said his bike ride was a "piece of cake," what would he mean? Very easy
  • A big-hearted schoolboy from Britain bikes to benefit girls and boys in need. Alliteration 
  • His smile shone as bright as the sun. Simile
  • The bike felt proud to carry his boy for such a good cause. Personification
  • Charlie seems like a kind and generous boy. Come up with a synonym for each modifier; be sure to choose words that will fit well in this context. (Possibilities include: benevolent, charitable)  

Learning Tips: Figurative and Metaphorical Words

Game: Using a Thesaurus

Eye-Popping Info on Movie Popcorn

Researchers have found that a bucket of movie popcorn can be much scarier than any horror movie. The calories, sodium and saturated fat content is enough to make anyone scream. The Center for Science in the Public Interest  left no kernel unturned in its efforts to determine the nutritional content of movie popcorn, sending samples from three national theaters for lab analysis. The results were alarming. For example, a large bucket at Regal Cinemas holds 20 cups of popcorn and has 1,200 calories, 980 milligrams of sodium and 60 grams of fat.     
Read: Popcorn's Dark Secret, The New York Times

Activity Ideas - Math
Tell your child that on average Regal Cinema's 1,200-calorie large bucket of popcorn makes up about three-fourths of a day's calories. 

  • A 10-year-old girl of average height and weight who gets 30-60 minutes of daily physical activity needs about 1,800 calories a day.
  • Imagine that she eats a large 1,200-calorie bucket of popcorn by herself. The bucket will make up _____% of her daily calories. 67% or 2/3. (1,200 ÷ 1,800 = 0.67)
  • Create a customized food pyramid on the USDA website. Calculate what fraction of your daily diet is consumed based on the calorie contents above.
  • Salt is present in many foods that you wouldn't expect. It's important to educate yourself so you don't eat too much. Take some time to read food labels on cans, cartons and jars of food. Create a list of the biggest "Sodium Offenders" to  avoid, if possible.

Game of the Week
Game Classroom Battleship

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