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Screenagers Next Chapter Lesson Plan


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Themes & Ideas

Mental Wellness


Brain Science


What Students Will Uncover

Lesson Overview

Screenagers Next Chapter: Addressing Mental Health In The Digital Age is a film for middle and high school students and parents of elementary, middle and high schoolers, along with teachers and other adults connected to youth. The film is all about helping young people thrive in our screen and stress-filled world.

Although the film as a whole is not meant for screening to elementary school students, this guide includes some brief, age-appropriate clips from the film and a number of activities that schools can use to introduce some of the concepts emphasized in this film to younger students.

These discussion and extension activities ask students to examine issues around managing feelings, sleep, making friends, and healthy habits.

Lesson Objectives

After participating in guided discussions and activities, students will:

  • Develop awareness of the important of balance around screen time and other parts of life 
  • Define mental health
  • Practice identifying and expressing feelings 
  • Understand why sleep is important and how to safeguard it
  • Learn why strong connections with people is so important
  • Understand how to ask for help if you need it – and how to find support at your own school

Lesson Materials



This section is intended for the educator, providing them with information about the film, its themes and topics, as well as tips for how to lead students in an impactful discussion.

About The Film

The Film in Context


Lesson Introduction

Teacher Overview:

This is the first of several activities you may choose to do with your students. This introductory activity focuses on cultivating a common understanding of mental health among students.


Today we will be talking about mental health, and we’re going to start by watching a short video clip.

Mental Health exists and it’s just as important as physical health.

Class Discussion:

Tell me what you think mental health means?

Discuss, then click through the slide to show the definition. 


In a lot of ways, mental health is similar to physical health. However, instead of focusing on our muscles, bones and joints, we’re focusing on our minds, feelings, and thoughts.

Having good mental health doesn’t necessarily mean that someone will be happy all the time.  It does mean that they will be able to deal with the ups and downs of life - and get help when they need it.

Before The Movie

Play The Film

Play Film Not available in preview

Lesson Activities

Activity 1

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Teacher Overview:
It is important for children to understand that everyone experiences a wide range of feelings. They should understand these concepts:  

  • It is okay, and appropriate, to feel many different feelings
  • Feelings can change and vary in intensity
  • Feelings can come from inside and outside and screen time can give you feelings too
  • Expressing feelings is important, but we need to learn healthy ways to do so

Say: Sometimes feelings just bubble up, and sometimes we feel things as a reaction to what we see, hear or feel.  Today, we are going to talk about and name different kinds of feelings.

Show the following clip:

Feelings are confusing - like how many feelings are there anyway?

Let’s Act Out Some Feelings!

Ask for six volunteers to come to the front of the class. Explain that you are going to give them a feeling to act out, but they shouldn’t tell the other students in the class.

For each of the volunteers point to one of the emotions on the “Feelings Handout” to indicate which one they have been assigned.

For younger students, and non- readers, teachers may say the feelings quietly, or use graphics of feelings with words

Download Feelings Handout (English) // (Spanish)

Say: Ok actor-volunteers - I am going to pretend to offer you a sandwich, and I want you to react in a way that shows us the feeling on your paper. Then the class is going to guess what the feeling is.

After each actor-volunteer acts out the feeling, ask the class to guess what it is.

After each actor-volunteer has gone, debrief the activity with the following prompts:

Say: Everyone experiences feelings and sometimes they can be big and uncomfortable. Our feelings and how we show them can affect everyone around us.  That’s why it's important to practice naming feelings.  It helps us to be kinder, more considerate and thoughtful about other people's feelings too.

Activity 2

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Teacher Overview:

A range of feelings is normal but sometimes feelings can feel too big or uncomfortable.  We also know that stress can cause feelings of overwhelm.  

In this section, we want to normalize big feelings, overwhelm and stress and teach our students tools to understand how they can regulate their feelings. 

Emotional regulation is a person’s ability to monitor and moderate an emotion or a set of emotions. Let’s give our students some tools to find a calmer place.

Show the following clip:

We will practice getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, and finding the strategies to help us get comfortable when we feel uncomfortable.

Say: Everyone experiences feelings and sometimes they can feel really big and uncomfortable. Sometimes the challenging feelings and thoughts just come from within us and we don’t know why they come, and sometimes they come from experiences we have. 

How many of you have seen a movie or Youtube video that gave you scared feelings or sad feelings? Screen time can bring fun feelings, but also challenging or stressful feelings.  When we have stress in our lives it can leave us feeling overwhelmed and unsettled.

Say:  The good news is that there are a lot of tools that can help all of us find a calmer place during these moments. Many of us know how to get to a calmer place - what are some of the things you do to feel calmer when you are feeling a big feeling or feeling stressed?

Say:  The first thing that can help us find our calm place is noticing and naming our feelings. Let’s all take a moment to notice what we are all feeling right now. Oftentimes we have to name our feelings to get to a calmer place.

Show the following slide and walk through steps so that each student has the opportunity to internally name their feelings.

Say: The next step is to share some tools and some breathing exercises that can help us get to a calmer place. One tool is splashing some cold water onto your face. At the bathroom sink, run the cold water and using your hands, carefully splash some cold water onto your face. 

Scientists have found that this act causes our heart to beat slower and we experience this as a calm feeling.

Show the following slide and explain why breathing exercises can be helpful.

Say: Today we are going to try two different breathing exercises together. The first one is called “Finger Breathing” and the second one is called “Bunny Breath. 

Show the following slides and practice both breathing exercises with students.

Say: Remember when you are feeling a big feeling or are feeling overwhelmed or stressed, take a moment to name your feeling and try an exercise or tool that helps you get to your calmer place.

Activity 3

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Teacher Overview:

We are talking about why friends and strong connections to people  matter. Students should know that friends can help you celebrate good times and provide support during bad times, that strong connections to people prevents isolation and loneliness and give you a chance to offer needed companionship, too. Friends can also Increase your sense of belonging and purpose.

Say: Connections to people and friendships matter. During the pandemic, when everyone was on screens, and not seeing each other in person, people felt a little lonesome. Seeing your people on screens is not the same as seeing your people in person, and being able to share a meal or hug them.

We are going to do a circle discussion activity that gets you thinking, talking and listening about how friendships and connections to people are important and after, we’ll talk about what we learned from each other.

Show the following slide:

Circle Discussion setup: 

  • Have students create one large circle and pair up.
  • One partner moves to the inside; partners face each other.
  • Make sure students exchange names if they don’t all know each other well. 
  • Ask the prompt.
  • Give students at least ten seconds of "think time" to react to the prompt.
  • Ask students in the inside circle to share their response with the classmate facing them in the outside circle.
  • After the inside circle has shared, prompt the students in the outside circle to share responses with the classmate facing them.
  • Student pairs can demonstrate that they are finished by both turning to face the teacher in the center.
  • Have the outside circle move one step to the right and discuss this or a different question with the new partner.

Questions for discussion

Say: Friends and connections matter to our mental health! It is important now and then to remind yourself how much you know about friendships, what you like about your friends and to remember why friendships are important to you.

Activity 4

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Teacher Overview:
One thing people can do to help regulate their emotions and keep their mental health balanced is to get enough sleep. The activities here are designed to emphasize the importance of sleep. Source for data and facts cited: American Academy of Sleep Medicine

  • Grab students’ attention by doing jumping jacks in front of the class. When students ask what you are doing, tell them you are trying to improve your health. Then ask them to brainstorm other ways to stay healthy. After they have shared a few ideas, point out that getting enough quality sleep is also important for physical and mental health.

Say: Today, we are going to learn about the mental and physical health benefits of getting enough good sleep each night.

Show the slides with four quiz questions. (Odd numbered slides have the answers) Read them aloud. Were there any answers they were surprised about?

Show the following slides and work with students to calculate what time they would need to go to bed if they wanted to get 9-12 hours of sleep.

Along with the accompanying slide, Review these suggestions for getting better sleep:

  • Electronics out of the bedroom. Ipads, phones, video game devices, should be out of the bedroom for sleep time.  This is the number one thing we can do to safeguard sleep.  Scientists have found that even having devices in the room-- not even using them-- disrupts sleep. One reason for this is that it takes brain power to NOT use them. 
  • Avoid, as much as possible, doing high energy things on tech, close to sleep time.  Don’t play video games before bed, or watch youtube videos, before bed. These activities will engage your brain and keep you awake longer. 
  • Find non-tech ways to relax before bed. Ideas include a warm towel on your forehead or maybe a bath or shower. Other soothing activities, such as reading, writing down thoughts or even doodling can help you fall asleep.
  • Go to bed at about the same time every night. Scientists have found that when we lay down to fall asleep about the same time, we will more likely feel sleepy.  

Ask students in pairs to choose an interesting “sleep smarts” fact from the quiz or what you’ve talked about and use it to create a mini poster promoting sleep. Display the art on a bulletin board. 

Say: Sleep is so important! These tips can help you make the most of your sleeping time. Sleeping well helps you process events, remember what you learned, and feel better all day long.

Activity 5

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Teacher Overview:

Creating and living a balanced life is key to managing our mental health. Our students are pulled in so many different directions that it can be helpful to set goals to be intentional about how we spend our time as it can help regulate our emotions and help us carve out time to decompress.

Say: Sleep is an incredibly important and significant part of each of our days. Outside of sleep, which we all need to survive, there are so many things that take up our time and attention. There are only 24 hours in a day, and up to 10 of those revolve around sleep. We all go to school - how many hours are we here each day? Okay so if you sleep 10 hours a day and are in school, say 7 hours a day - that leaves you with 7 more hours in your day. How we decide to spend this time impacts our mental health.

It is easy to spend a lot of this time on screens and it is important to have balance in our lives so that we are also doing the things we enjoy.

Watch the following clip:

Let's think about tech for a sec: Phones, computers, Ipads -- all 'Tech' can be one of three things....a Tool, a Treat or Talk.

A few ways tech is a tool? You can look things up, learn things…  A few ways tech is a treat? You can play games…  A few ways tech is used for talking? You can talk to your family and friends. 

So when we think about our balanced lives, we want to make sure we are using tech in a balanced way -- not too much!  Too much of a treat can always be a problem! One or two cookies is great but a whole bag…. not so great. Tech Treats are the same: Too much is not so great.                          

Am I really doing what I want to be doing and feeling good?

Say: What are the things you do outside of school that you enjoy? Write these on a poster or the board.

Say:  This is an example of a Life Balance Wheel - here all of the slices are even but we know that things like sleep and school take up a good amount of our time.

Ask students to brainstorm examples of specific sections of the wheel - 

  • What are examples of the hobbies that you enjoy or spend time doing?
  • What are examples of sports you play?
  • What are some of the chores you do at your house?
  • What are some things you like to do during family time?
  • What types of media do you like to watch or play?

Pass out a worksheet (english) // (Spanish) to each student and have them fill in examples of how they spend their time in the outer/blank wheel and then have them guesstimate how many hours they spend doing each activity on a typical day.

Come back together and ask students:

  • What surprised you in this activity?
  • What were the top 4 slices that you spend the most time doing in a typical day?
  • What would you want to change about your life balance wheel?
  • Why does it matter?

Say: Remember - making space in your day for free time, down time, or quiet time can help decrease stress.

Lesson Conclusion

Teacher Overview

In this class, we have been talking about feelings and learning about some ways to help ourselves feel better. We have learned the names of some feelings, we have learned about getting the right amount of sleep, getting the right amount of tech, the different kinds of breathing to find a calmer place. 

We have learned about balance in our lives, and learning how to help ourselves. When we can’t find something different to focus on if we feel bad, sometimes we play on a phone or a tablet. But that’s not always a good choice.

Knowing when to get help from others, and where to turn for support in your school and community is essential.

Identifying and Meeting Resources

As a group, have students identify key people in the school who are sources for mental/emotional support. Make a list on the board together.

  • Broaden discussion to the community: brainstorm resources in the community outside of school that could help with mental/emotional health.

  • Identify personal supports a person might have who can help with mental/emotional health (For example: family, friends, coaches, and other trusted adults).   
  • Have students think about a trusted adult they would go to if they needed help with a problem.
  • If possible: Invite some school and/or community mental health providers into your classroom to foster the development of relationships between students and providers. 

Say: Thank you for talking about feelings and connections today! Remember we care about you and are here when you need support.

Further Reading

For Educators

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For Students


Related Movie
Screenagers Next Chapter (Classroom Version, 50 mins)

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