Nervous System - Flipped

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SWBAT identify the primary structures of the central nervous system and apply that information during an exploration of reaction times.

Big Idea

This lesson helps build a foundation for understanding how the brain receives and processes information.


5 minutes

As the students enter the room, they take out their journals and respond to the prompt: Think about a reflex action. How is this different from a voluntary movement?

I expect the students to be able to develop an answer for this question based on the completion of their flipped notes. Students are allowed to refer back to their notes in order to answer this question. While the students work on their journals, I circulate through the room returning their flipped notes and reviewing their responses.

Once the students have had an opportunity to record their thoughts, I ask them to share their journals with their small group and to come to consensus on an answer that they will share with the rest of the class. As the students share their information with their group, I listen in and ask the students to explain and support their ideas.  

After providing the students with time to discuss, I call on members of the groups to share their response with the class. As the students share, we are able to review the process of reflex actions and the process of voluntary actions.


10 minutes

This is a flipped lesson, so the students are expected to view this video prior to this lesson, take Cornell notes and complete an accompanying Nervous System Notes Review. This is a student work sample of the notes review and a notes sample. Ideally, the summary of the notes sample would be a bit more detailed to describe some of the processes mentioned.

For this section of the lesson, I ask the students to take out their copy of the notes and the notes review, so we can go over the information together. In order to review the notes, I ask the students various questions. For instance, I ask them to name the functions of the nervous system and then I follow that up by asking them to provide specific examples of those functions.  

By doing this, I am requiring the students to apply the information they have written in their notes.  Students are also able to add this information to their notes as we review. During this time I also use a slide from the notes presentation to review how reflex actions work in the nervous system. This is something that can sometimes be confusing for the students, so it is helpful to use a diagram or model to help solidify their understanding.


20 minutes

I open the Measuring Reaction Times document on the LCD projector and discuss the questions with the students.  I walk the students through the questions step by step. For instance, with the first question dealing with describing the pathway of information in order to see a stimulus and respond by clicking a button, I ask the students what will collect the information about the stimulus. The students respond by explaining that the eye will collect the sensory information. I then ask them where the eye will send that information and they respond by saying it will go to the brain. This pattern of questioning continues until the students are able to describe the process of a voluntary reaction based on both visual and auditory stimuli.

For the next question, regarding which type of stimuli, visual or auditory, people respond to more quickly, I ask the students to discuss the information in their small groups in order to develop supporting examples and then I ask each group to share their examples with the class. As the groups share their examples, I encourage the other groups to provide feedback or to ask questions. This tends to create a bit of a debate, which we must solve with an experiment. I ask the students to think of ways that we could perform a test to determine who is correct. I call on volunteers to share their ideas and take feedback from the class.

After reviewing their experiment ideas, I explain that we will be performing tests to see if we can determine the answer to our question. I have one student from each group open the Reaction Times worksheet. I explain to the students that they need to answer the first question as a group and develop group consensus before I review their work and give them permission to continue on with the rest of the task. I also go ahead and review the guidelines for using the Zapped! interactive website and recording their data, since the groups will all be working at different paces when they begin the activity.

The students begin working on developing group consensus on the first question as I circulate through the room to listen to their discussions. During this time I may ask them to provide additional examples, explain examples in greater detail, or I may offer a counter example to see how they respond or if they will change their minds. As the groups develop consensus, I review their information and have each group member get a Chromebook to begin working on the Zapped! activity.  While the students work on this activity, I help them troubleshoot and ask questions about their results as a way to help them think more critically about the activity.

This is a student sample of the Measuring Reaction Times worksheet that we reviewed as a class.  This is a sample of Reaction Times student work. I would like for the students to include exact data in their CER conclusions and this is something that I addressed with them in a subsequent lesson when we were able to spend more time reviewing their data tables. It is also important to note that this group completed the secondary activity on the page, but we did not have a chance to work on that activity in class.

Completing this portion of the class addressed several NGSS standards including:

SP1 - Asking questions - The students asked questions regarding their data and tried to find patterns in order to answer their questions.  For instance, the students wondered if gamers would have a faster visual reaction time, so they examined the data they collected.

SP3 - Planning and carrying out investigations - The students came up with ideas for how to test reaction time and they used the game Zapped! to carry out an investigation.

SP4 - Analyzing and interpreting data & SP6 - Constructing explanations- The students reviewed the data they collected from Zapped! in order to draw conclusions about reaction times.

SP7 - Engaging in argument from evidence - The students used the data they had collected to argue which type of stimuli produced the faster reaction time.

SP8 - Obtaining, evaluating and communicating information - The students conducted an experiment, collected their data, and then shared that data with the rest of the class.

Crosscutting Concept - Patterns - Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns - The students used data tables to look for patterns in reaction times.

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. This standard was addressed as the students reviewed their flipped notes and then experimented with reaction times.

Wrap up

5 minutes

Near the end of class I ask the students to stop working on the Zapped! activity and take a few moments to record their last bits of data. I also ask them to go back to the initial question regarding whether we respond more quickly to auditory or visual stimuli and to prepare an answer to share with the class, based on their data.  

While I ask the students to think about how their data supports their answer, I begin the whole class discussion by asking about the reliability of their data. It is important for my students to understand that valid conclusions can only be drawn if the data they collect is reliable. Many of the students point out various issues that may have impacted the reliability of their data and they offer suggestions for how the reliability could be improved.  

After addressing this issue, we do go on to discuss the various reaction times arrived at by individuals and by groups and how that data supported the students' conclusions. The students also spent a little bit of time trying to determine why some people had faster reaction times than others. While that was not the primary objective of the lesson, I encourage students to ask questions and to try to find patterns in data. Additionally, I remind students that they may choose to use a similar activity as a part of their Nervous System Capstone Project.