Hearing - Flipped

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SWBAT identify the process by which the sound travels through the ear and is processed by the brain.

Big Idea

In this lesson students use models and online simulations to explore the process of hearing.


5 minutes

As students enter the classroom, they take out their Chromebooks and log into Socrative to complete a brief hearing quiz.  While they work on the quiz, I am able to see their results in real time, which serves as a probe that shows me what the students understand and where they may be having difficulty.  I am then able to adapt the lesson based on the needs of the students as revealed by the quiz.  On this quiz, the students had the greatest difficulty with the question about the eardrum. Once all of the students had finished the quiz, I reviewed the correct answers with them and spent time specifically reviewing the eardrum.

While this is the first time that the students have learned information about hearing, I do expect them to recognize that the process of hearing involves each of the structures in the ear working together as a system.  At this point, the students are able to recognize that if one part of the system does not function properly, it negatively impacts the rest of the system. 


15 minutes

In order to begin learning about the body system of hearing, I use this flipped lesson to help develop student understanding. Because this is a flipped lesson, the students use this video to begin learning the content at home. 

This is a copy of the Hearing notes review students are expected to complete prior to class. Some students had difficulty answering the elaborate question (Describe the two ways in which the brain and ear are connected.  Which way directly impacts hearing?).  This question required students to elaborate on their understanding of some of the connections within the nervous system. I was looking to see if students could identify the role of the structures of the ear in the process of hearing and balance. This student work provides an example of the answer I expected.

The "elaborate" question addresses the Crosscutting Concept Systems and System Models, specifically, "Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be part of larger complex systems." This is specifically addressed as the students describe how the semicircular canals contribute to balance while the auditory nerve sends sensory impulses to the brain.

The notes address MS-LS1-8Gather and synthesize information that sensory receptors respond to stimuli by sending messages to the brain for immediate behavior or storage as memories because our class review of them requires students to understand and discuss how the structures of the ear work together to transmit sensory information to the brain.

In order to review the structures and functions of the ear, I use the Line Up strategy. I hand out notecards on which I have written the structures of the ear (pinna, ear canal, eardrum, hammer, anvil, stirrup, cochlea, auditory nerve). The students who receive a notecard line up in the front of the room and hold the notecard up for the class to see. The audience is then responsible for placing the students in the correct order in which sound travels through the ear.

Before beginning that process, I ask the students to explain how sound travels and they note that it travels in waves, which is the level of understanding that I am looking for at this point. I then use a stuffed frog to represent sound and ask the students which structure catches the sound. A volunteer from the audience notes that the pinna catches the sound, so I carefully toss the frog to the pinna.  I ask the students which part of the ear the sound should travel through from there and a volunteer suggests the ear canal.  The student representing the pinna then hands the frog to the ear canal. As the students pass along the "sound" I remind them that some of the structures of the ear vibrate in response to the sound waves, so the students representing these structures are asked to vibrate as well. This activity addresses SP2 Developing and Using Models as the students model the process of how sound travels through the ear.

I add two extra notecards to the stack, so at the end there are two students left that are not in the line. One student is holding the Eustachian tube card and the other is holding the semicircular canals card. We review the functions of these two structures as a class, and I use the slides from the flipped notes to help the students visualize the function of the Eustachian tubes and I swirl a water bottle with some water in it to help the students visualize the movement of liquid in the semicircular canals.


15 minutes

After we have reviewed the structures of the ear, I have the students reopen their Chromebooks and open the Hearing Worksheet. As their Chromebooks are loading, I have them look at the SMARTBoard to view the information. I begin by reviewing the pictures found on the first website.

As we review the structures of the ear, we address CCC Structure and Function Complex structures and systems can be modeled to describe how function depends on composition and relationship of their parts.  This is achieved specifically through the use of a three dimensional classroom model and the use of online models that provide students with a more concrete understanding of what the structures of the ear look like and how they work together.  We also address MS-LS1-2 Use a model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and ways parts of cells contribute to function - as we explore the images of hair cells within the ear.  I explain to the students that it can be problematic that I can hear the music from their headphones in the hallway while I am sitting at my desk and we talk about the way that the decisions they may make in middle school could impact them later in life.  

We move on to the How Loud is Too Loud virtual exhibit, which is set up in a game type format. I use it as a whole class activity, calling individual students up to the SMARTBoard to select a hexagon. The students are then presented with a sound and asked to state whether or not the sound is safe for their ears. I encourage the students to ask their classmates to help them with their response prior to selecting the answer. This helps take some of the pressure off of the student who is standing at the board, makes the game more interactive as the students in the audience are able to provide feedback, and makes the activity more enjoyable for the students. Once the student has selected an answer, instant feedback is given. During this part of the activity I like to point out that none of the household chores such as vacuuming and running the dishwasher are harmful to hearing, so the students do not have an excuse not to help out at home.

Next, using the What's That Sound virtual exhibit requires students to listen to a sound that simulates sounds after hearing loss and then match that sound to a picture. The students complete this activity individually and may listen to the sounds as many times as they need to and are able to make as many guesses as necessary. This is important since a couple of the sounds are barely audible. After completing the activity, the students are asked to write a Claims-Evidence-Reasoning statement about whether or not they think hearing is linked to another sense. This student work was typical of the responses; the student recognizes that the pictures assists recognition of the muffled sounds.

This video provides a comprehensive overview of the websites used in this activity:

Wrap up

5 minutes

Near the end of class, I ask the students to review the information we discussed during class.  Using a three dimensional model of the ear, I point to various structures and ask the students to name them and describe their function.  This enables the students to review vocabulary in the context of a visual representation of the ear.  If you do not have access to a model of the ear, this activity can also be completed with a projection or a drawing.  In the past, I have created a drawing on poster board to use with the students and to display in the classroom after the lesson.  I also ask them to describe the types of sounds that may damage hearing and what can be done to avoid this damage.