The Couch Potato

The Couch Potato is a picture book by Jory John and Pete Oswald. It’s about a potato. Not a small potato, a sweet potato, or a mashed potato, but a couch potato. “I spend all my free time sitting in this exact spot,” the potato admits. “If the most important thing in life is to be comfortable at all times, then I think I’ve got it all figured out.”

Enjoy this book with young students and older classrooms, too.

If-then

This is a great book for working on if-then statements. IF being comfortable is the most important thing in life, THEN the Couch Potato is making the best possible choices. But is being comfortable the most important thing in life?

Hold a discussion on this question. It’s the classic summum bonum question, the question of what is the highest good. The Couch Potato begins by positing that comfort is the highest good, but has a change of heart during the book. The ancient stoics said it was Virtue. How many different answers can your class come up with?

Divide into groups according to your students’ initial answers to the question. Challenge each group to come up with three convincing reasons for their answers. Have each group present their reasons and then decide, as a class, whether comfort is theĀ summum bonum.

If the class agrees that comfort is not the most important thing in life, then what conclusion must they draw about the Couch Potato’s choices?

Screens

Part of the Couch Potato’s perfect set up is an enormous collection of screens. Shows, messages, and video games are all represented. How much time do your students spend interacting with screens? Try to estimate the answer and then set up a means of tracking their time to check your estimates. Is the amount too much, too little, or just right?

  • Common Sense Education has a lesson plan on the health effects of screen time.
  • Kids Health in the Classroom takes the position that kids need to get off the couch and get outside, a view that the Couch Potato agrees with by the end of the book. Their lesson encourages kids to reduce their screen time.
  • Health Powered Kids includes the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for babies and children.
  • Scholastic has a lesson for teens, with adaptations for 4th to 6th grade.

Then one day the couch potato loses electricity and goes outside. The Couch Potato has a lot of fun, and works toward a better balance between screen time and IRL fun. Does your class have ideas for making either screen time or outdoor time more fun than the Couch Potato did?

Ask students to write their ideas on screen time. As digital natives, do they have the same mental separation between screen time and AFS (away from screen) time that the lessons above have? Do they agree that screen time limits their time with nature and other people? Ask for a clear thesis and strong arguments supporting it.

Potato history

The characters in the story are potatoes, so you might not want to think about eating potatoes. But they are an interesting topic for history, economics, and health. Potatoes are by far the most popular vegetable in the United States. They’re generally eaten in the form of French fries or potato chips, however, which moves them out of the realm of fresh, healthy vegetables.

  • Read “How the Potato Changed the World” at Smithsonian for insight into the potato’s trip from the mountains of Peru to the fields of Europe, and how it led to modern agribusiness. Add the dates from this article to your classroom time line to see how influential potatoes have been worldwide.
  • Practice research skills by exploring the question of whether potatoes are healthy or not.
  • Also from Idaho, the e-Potato lesson plan.
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