I begin the unit by asking students, "What makes you who you are?"
The goal is to activate students' thinking and prior knowledge so accept all answers. Many students will answer with their talents and abilities. As students answer I ask them to briefly explain the reason for their particular answer to push thinking a bit further. (How do you know.....?)
We will be investigating this question as we work through four different stations; attention, memory, language and emotion. Each station has a set of directions for you to read and follow. Do NOT skip this step; follow the directions carefully and record your answers on your notes sheet.
This lesson was adapted from the NIH module The Brain: Our Sense of Self. (BSCS. (2005). The Brain: Our Sense of Self. NIH publication No. 05-5171. Copyright © 2005 by BSCS. All rights reserved.
Students are working through four station modules. I recommend your students work in partners to complete the tasks. Because I have eight lab tables, I create two areas for each station to allow students to move through each station in smaller clusters. I label each table with station names describing what's covered (attention, memory, language or emotion). At each station have enough materials to allow for students to work in groups of two or three (pairs works best). The emotion and attention stations have web versions available but I find it easier to create hard copies of those so students are not distracted by the computers. The following is a description of each station for teacher reference. Allow students to read the Station Instructions at each location, do not give them this information.
In the web version, students are prompted to take two tests and are presented with the amount of time it took to complete each test. In the print version, students take the two tests you have printed out (Stroop Test Diagram) while their partners time them with stopwatches. Together, the tests are called the Stroop test, after J.R. Stroop, the psychologist who developed them in 1935. In Test 1, the names of colors are in the same color as the name; for instance, the word “blue” is written in blue. In Test 2, the names of colors are in a color different from the name; for instance, the word “yellow” is written in green. The object in each test is to name the color of the word (instead of reading the word) as quickly as possible. Students find that it takes longer to name colors in Test 2 than Test 1, since the color of the word and the meaning of the word compete for their attention. In addition, students find that individuals differ in their ability to separate color information from language information.
Students decipher words and phrases from clues on each of the word puzzle cards. On the first card, students combine letters and symbols to come up with the following words:
On the second card, students interpret the arrangement of words to come up with the following phrases:
Students find that letters, symbols, and even the position of words are all ways that we use language to interpret information. In addition, students find that individuals differ in their abilities to interpret information.
Students play a matching game twice while their partners time them with stopwatches. A set of memory station cards is placed face down at the station. Students turn over two cards at a time, leaving them turned over if they match. The object is to match all cards as quickly as possible, then flip them over (without shuffling) and repeat the exercise. Students find that it takes longer to complete the game the first time than the second, since their memory retains the first results when they play the game a second time. In addition, students find that individuals differ in their ability to memorize position information.
Students look at two photographs for the Emotion Station that evoke different emotions. In the Web version, students are prompted to look at two different photographs on-screen. In the print version, students look at images from a media source. As they record their responses to the two pictures, students find that emotions play a role in how they interpret information. In addition, students find that individual reactions to the photos differ based on past experiences.
Give students the Station Notes handout to complete as they work through the different stations. Provide students with about 5 minutes per station (though you may need to adjust this depending on your students). As students work, walk around the room to monitor student progress and answer questions.
As students complete the stations have them fill in the Data Table on an overhead transparency, the board, or a class Google doc projected on the overhead projector.
The following video explains how I set up my classroom to make this stations activity transition as smoothly as possible.
Have students discuss their experiences very briefly.
Inform students that this was the first lesson of a unit on the brain. Ask the class, “What does today’s lesson have to do with the brain?”
The goal is to guide them to recognize that each station represents a function controlled by the brain. Explain that by engaging in these activities, they were exploring ways that their brain works.
Direct student attention to the data table. Point out the variation in the results at each station. Ask students what do they think this means?
Some students may say that this means that some of them are “stupid” or “smarter.” Guide them away from value judgments. Instead, emphasize that there are individual differences in the ways brains respond to tasks. Students should realize that these differences make each of us who we are.