The Brain: Structure and Function

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SWBAT to identify major parts of my brain along with its corresponding function.

Big Idea

Students explore brain structure and function.


5 minutes

To engage students in this lesson, I show them the TEDEd video, Diagnosing a zombie: Brain and body. It does a great job of communicating the important fact that the brain is made up of smaller parts with distinct functions.

As the students watch the video, they are responsible for answering the following questions:

1)  According to the doctor, what are the basal ganglia?

2)  Where is the cerebellum located in your brain? It contains half of all what in your brain?

3)  Where is the inferior frontal gyrus located in the brain?

4)  Based on the video, what can you say about brain structure and function? Is the brain one continuous organ or is it made up of small parts (lobes)? 

Teacher Note:  The objective of the video is not for students to know the technical names of the different regions of the brain, but for them to grasp the idea that the brain is made up of smaller centers with specific jobs. (MS-LS1-3. Use argument supported by evidence for how the body is a system of interacting subsystems composed of groups of cells.) 

Due to this fact, the doctors in the video are trying to hypothesize what part(s) of brain are damaged in a zombie, resulting in their unique behaviors.


25 minutes

In this section of lesson students build a clay model of the brain.  The idea for this model comes from UNC-CH Brain Explorers.  

Always a popular activity, the clay brains activity introduces the parts of the brain and the function of the parts. This activity challenges students to really study the 3D brain models and become familiar with the parts of the brain through simultaneous tactile and auditory experiences. As students hear about the parts of the brain, they also shape them with their hands. (SP2 - Developing and Using Models)


1.  Four differently colored clay chunks stored in a plastic zip-close bag, per pair of students, and pictures of model brains. (If the expense is a problem, the "clay" or "playdough" can be made with cheap ingredients. There are many recipes online.)

2.  Adhesive address labels, toothpicks.

3.  Clay Brain Model Activity Handout 

Required Parts of Brain:

• Right hemisphere 
• Cerebellum
• Left hemisphere 
• Brain stem
• Corpus callosum 
• Gyri (Cortex)

To aid in modeling, students receive a copy of Brain Cards which contains pictures of above structures. In addition students read Introduction to Brain Structure to find information on the each part.  This information will be used to write in the address labels to complete model.


20 minutes

In this section of lesson I present a powerpoint on the Human Brain.  This powerpoint specifically focuses on the cerebrum and its four lobes (parietal, occipital, frontal, temporal) including their locations and specific functions.  

As students take notes on the powerpoint presentation, they are required to complete Lobe Handout which requires them to label the cerebellum and record the function for each lobe.  

In addition, this powerpoint introduces students to Phineas Gage and his infamous accident.  This case demonstrates how the different parts of brain have different functions.  Students will explore Phineas Gage more deeply in the next section of lesson.


15 minutes

In this section of lesson I elaborate on Phineas Gage by showing students the following video: (SL.7.5 - Integrate multimedia and visual displays into presentations to clarify information, strengthen claims and evidence, and add interest.)  

This video discusses the brain damage caused by his accident, that resulted in a change in Gage's personality.  Phineas Gage Frontal Lobe was damaged which is responsible for personality, behavior, and thinking. Gage transformed from a responsible, hard-working, and dependable guy to someone who was rude and unreliable. (MS-LS1-8. Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories.) 

In addition to video students read an article on Phineas Gage which discusses his accident and his life afterwards.  Students annotate text using the marking the text strategy.

Marking the text is an active reading strategy that asks students to identify information in the text that is relevant to the reading purpose. This strategy has three distinct marks: numbering paragraphs, underlining, and circling. 

Based on the reading purpose, students will use marking the text to identify information as they read. They will begin by numbering the paragraphs they have been asked to read. Then, as they identify information that is relevant to the reading task, they will underline or circle this information, making it easier to locate for notes or discussion.

Even though the reading purpose will determine what students mark, the types of marks should not change. A student’s ability to learn and apply a reading strategy relies heavily on the consistency of the strategy. If marking the text is understood to mean any pen or pencil mark on the paper, the student will never learn how this particular strategy aids his or her comprehension of the text. 

Steps to Marking the Text:

1.  Students sequentially number paragraphs.

2.  Circle Key Terms, Name of People, Names of Places, and or Dates

3.  Underline an Author's Claims

4.  Underline Relevant Information

An example of student annotation is included in the resources. 


10 minutes

In this section students complete an Exit Slip.  This exit slip requires students to read a brain injury case study and make a claim to answer the question, "What structure(s) were damaged during the car accident?"  Student are required to make a claim and use relevant evidence, from lessons activities, along with logical reasoning and a conclusion. (SP7 - Engaging in Argument From Evidence/W.7.1 - Write arguments on discipline specific content.)

Note:  Students may use the CER Model Graphic Organizer to help them in structuring their claim.