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Daryll Collins
Is It Good to Be BORED Sometimes?

Having nothing to do can feel like torture. But could being bored actually be important? Your students will read arguments on both sides and then take a stand.

By Lauren Tarshis
Lexiles: 800L-900L, 600L-700L
Guided Reading Level: S
DRA Level: 40

I’ve never been so bored in my life,” remembers Justin, a 10-year-old from Florida.

It was last summer, and his parents had dragged him to his sister’s weekend swim meet. As usual, Justin brought along an iPad loaded up with games and movies. Then disaster struck. “The iPad died,” Justin says softly, like he’s talking about a beloved pet.

With no Minecraft to play and no videos to watch, Justin had nothing to do but sit there—for hours. “It was torture,” he says.

“I’ve never been so bored in my life,” remembers Justin, a 10-year-old from Florida.

It was last summer. Justin’s parents had dragged him to his sister’s swim meet. He had an iPad with him. It was filled with games and movies. Then disaster struck. “The iPad died,” he says sadly.

Justin had no Minecraft to play. He had no videos to watch. And he had to sit there for hours. “It was torture,” he says.

"Nunca me he aburrido tanto en mi vida”, recuerda Justin, de 10 años de edad de Florida.

Fue el verano pasado, y sus padres los arrastraron a la competencia de natación de su hermana. Como de costumbre, Justin trajo su iPad repleto de juegos y películas. Entonces, ocurrió la catástrofe. “El iPad murió”, Justin dice en voz baja, como si hablara de una mascota muy querida. 

Sin Minecraft que jugar ni videos que ver, Justin no tenía nada que hacer excepto quedarse allí... durante horas. “Fue una tortura”, dice.

Watching the Cat

Watching the Cat

Mirando al gato

When your parents were growing up, boredom was a basic part of life. It was a world without iPads, smartphones, or YouTube. On long car rides, there was little to do but stare out the window or (gasp) play family games. Kids spent rainy Sundays wandering around the house or watching the cat twitch its ears.

Being bored isn’t fun. Boredom can make people grumpy, and it can even lead to unhealthy behavior, like eating too much junk food. Brothers and sisters stuck at home with nothing to do are prone to fighting. And for parents, a house full of bored kids can be stressful, especially when there are chores or work to be done.

Today, boredom is not much of an issue for most kids. The average 10-year-old spends six hours a day in front of a screen. Rainy days fly by in a blur of Netflix and FIFA soccer. Car trips are a chance to watch High School Musical 3 for the 10th time. “Kids today are surrounded by electronic distractions,” says psychologist Michael Bishop. “They rarely experience boredom.”

When your parents were kids, boredom was just part of life. There were no iPads or smartphones. There was no YouTube. On long car rides, kids stared out the window. Sometimes they (gasp) played family games. On rainy Sundays, they hung around the house. They watched the cat twitch its ears.

Being bored isn’t fun. Boredom can make people grumpy. It can even lead to unhealthy actions, like eating too much junk food. Brothers and sisters are more likely to fight when bored. And a house full of bored kids can be tough on parents who have work to do.

Today, boredom is not much of an issue for most kids. The average 10-year-old spends six hours a day in front of a screen. Rainy days fly by in a blur of Netflix and FIFA soccer. Car trips are a chance to watch High School
Musical 3
—again. “Kids today are surrounded by electronic distractions,” says psychologist Michael Bishop. “They rarely experience boredom.”

Cuando tus padres estaban creciendo, el aburrimiento era parte elemental de la vida. Era un mundo sin iPads, teléfonos inteligentes ni YouTube. En los viajes largos en auto, había poco que hacer excepto mirar por la ventana o (¡puf!) jugar a juegos familiares. Los niños pasaban los domingos lluviosos caminando por la casa o mirando al gato mover las orejas. 

Estar aburrido no es divertido. El aburrimiento puede poner a la gente de mal humor, y puede llevar hasta a comportamientos poco saludables, como comer demasiada comida chatarra. Los hermanos que se quedan en casa sin nada que hacer tienden a pelear. Y para los padres, una casa llena de niños aburridos puede causar estrés, especialmente cuando hay tareas o trabajo que hacer.

Hoy en día, el aburrimiento no es un gran problema para la mayoría de los niños. El niño de 10 años promedio pasa seis horas al día frente a una pantalla. Los días lluviosos pasan volando en una nube de Netflix y fútbol de la FIFA. Los viajes en auto son la oportunidad para ver High School Musical 3 por 10ma. vez. “Los niños de hoy están rodeados de distracciones electrónicas”, dice el psicólogo Michael Bishop. “Apenas se aburren”.

DARYLL COLLINS

Boredom = Creativity

Boredom = Creativity

Aburrimiento = Creatividad

This might sound like great news. But many experts believe that boredom can be good for us—and the world. Being bored gives our brains needed rest, like when an athlete takes time off from running. A 2014 study showed that people who were bored for a period of time were better able to solve complicated problems afterward. It is often when we are sitting around daydreaming that we come up with our most creative ideas. And of course, when we’re not staring at screens, we might be more likely to have conversations with friends and family.

“Boredom is an opportunity to learn new skills, be social, and show some creativity,” says therapist Michael Ungar.

Justin admits that not every second of the swim meet was torture. His mom taught him how to draw a cartoon dog. He and his dad talked about baseball. And he got the idea to be a zombie for Halloween.

It turned out that being bored wasn’t totally boring after all. 

This might sound like great news. But experts say that boredom can be good for us—and the world. Being bored gives our brains a rest. It’s like when an athlete takes time off from running. One study showed that people who were bored for a while were better able to solve problems afterward. It is often when we are bored that we come up with our best ideas. And when we’re not staring at screens, we might be more likely to talk with friends and family.

“Boredom is an opportunity to learn new skills, be social, and show some creativity,” says therapist Michael Ungar.

Justin admits that not every second of the swim meet was torture. His mom taught him how to draw a cartoon dog. He and his dad talked about baseball. And he got the idea to be a zombie for Halloween.

Being bored wasn’t so boring after all. 

Esto puede sonar como muy buenas noticias. Pero la mayoría de los expertos cree que el aburrimiento puede ser bueno para nosotros (y el mundo). Estar aburrido les da un merecido descanso a nuestros cerebros, como cuando un atleta deja de correr por un tiempo. Un estudio de 2014 mostró que la gente que estaba aburrida por un tiempo después podía resolver mejor problemas complicados. Las ideas más creativas se nos suelen ocurrir tras pasar un día haciendo nada y pensando en musarañas. Y por supuesto, cuando no estamos mirando a las pantallas, lo más probable es que conversemos con familiares y amigos. 

“El aburrimiento es una oportunidad para aprender nuevas destrezas, ser social y demostrar creatividad”, dice el terapeuta Michael Ungar. 

Justin admite que no cada segundo de la competencia de natación fue una tortura. Su mamá le enseñó a dibujar la caricatura de un perro. Él y su papá hablaron sobre béisbol. Y se le ocurrió la idea de disfrazarse de zombi en Halloween. 

Resulta que, después de todo, estar aburrido no fue completamente aburrido. 

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More About the Story

Skills

main ideas and supporting evidence, opinion writing

Complexity Factors

Purpose

The debate has a clear purpose: to present the positive and negative aspects of boredom.

Structure

The debate includes cause-and-effect and compare-and-contrast structures.   Reasons for and against boredom are woven throughout the text.

Language

The language is mainly conversational but includes some irony.

Knowledge Demands 

No specific background knowledge required.

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. Preparing to Read

Have students preview the text features. Ask:

  • What is the topic of the debate? (Prompt students to use the debate title and the heading on the chart as clues.)
  • What do you think are the two sides of the issue?

2. Reading the Debate 

Read the debate as a class or in small groups.

Have students read the debate a second time. Prompt them to mark the types of support the author presents to back up each side, including:

  • Facts and statistics (F/S)
  • Quotes from experts (Q)
  • Stories or examples (EX)

3. Discussing

As a class or in groups, have students discuss:

  • Which evidence is most effective in supporting each side?
  • Is one side stronger than the other? Why?
  • What is your opinion? What evidence do you find the most convincing?
  • For more-advanced students: Do you think the author has a preferred point of view on this issue? What is your evidence?

4. Writing

Have students complete the chart in the magazine.

Distribute the activity “Write an Opinion Essay.” The lower-level version guides students to write a three-paragraph essay on the debate topic. The higher-level version prompts them to bring in additional evidence and write six paragraphs, including a rebuttal of the other side. With either version, hand out our Opinion Writing Toolkit, which offers writing tips and transition words.