The Brain: Our Sense of Self
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The Brain: Our Sense of Self

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Teacher's Guide

Lesson 1—Engage/Explore

A Difference of Mind

At a Glance

Overview

Students explore four brain functions: attention, memory, language, and emotion. Through reflection and class discussion, students discover that each person’s brain responds differently to tasks related to these functions.

Major Concepts

The human brain performs diverse functions. Each person’s brain responds differently to tasks related to these brain functions.

Objectives

After completing this lesson, students will be able to

Teacher Background

Refer to the following sections in Information about the Brain:

  1. 1 Introduction
  2. 2 Myths and Realities about the Brain
  3. 5 The Brain

In Advance

Web-Based Activities
Activity Web Version?
1 Yes (Attention Station and Emotion Station)
Photocopies
Activity 1 (Parts 1 and 2)

Master 1.1(a), Station Instructions 1, 1 copy (on cardstock)
Master 1.1(b), Station Instructions 2, 1 copy (on cardstock)
Master 1.3, Memory Station Game Cards, 1 copy for every eight students (on cardstock)
Master 1.4, Word Puzzle Cards, 1 copy for every eight students (on cardstock)
Master 1.5, Station Notes, 1 copy (on paper) per student

Materials
Web Version

4 pieces of typing paper
1 black marker
1 computer with Internet connection for every eight students
1 stopwatch for every eight students

Print Version

4 pieces of typing paper
1 black marker
6 color markers, one each of blue, green, yellow, red, orange, and purple
1 sheet of white poster board for every eight students
2 stopwatches for every eight students

Preparation

Tip from the field test: Station activities work best when each pair of students has a computer or set of cards to themselves. Plan to have one set of cards or one computer at each station for every eight students in your class.

Set up four areas of the classroom as “stations.” Create station signs by writing station names (Attention Station, Memory Station, Language Station, and Emotion Station) in black marker on typing paper; post at appropriate station areas. Cut copies of Masters 1.1(a) and 1.1(b) into station cards; place station cards at appropriate station areas.

Attention Station

Web Version
Set up one to three computers in the classroom with Internet connections. Key up the Web page http://science.education.nih.gov/supplements/self/student, which contains a link to “Lesson 1—A Difference of Mind.” Clicking this link brings up the unit’s “desktop,” which contains a link to “A Difference of Mind: Attention Station.”

Print Version
Use Master 1.2 as a guide, and write out Test 1 and Test 2 on opposite sides of three sheets of poster board. For Test 1, write out names of colors in the same colored marker. For example, write “RED” in red marker, “BLUE” in blue marker, and so forth. For Test 2, write out names of colors in a different-colored marker. For example, write “RED” in green marker, “BLUE” in yellow marker, and so forth. Place three stopwatches at the station.

Memory Station
Cut copies of Master 1.3 into squares. Lay squares out (in sets) face down at the station. You may wish to copy sets on different colors of paper to keep sets separate. Place three stopwatches at the station.

Language Station
Cut copies of Master 1.4, Word Puzzle Cards, into cards. Place cards face down at the station.

Emotion Station

Web Version
Set up one to three computers in the classroom with Internet connections. Key up the Web page http://science.education.nih.gov/supplements/self/student. Clicking on “Lesson 1—A Difference of Mind” brings up the unit’s “desktop,” which contains a link to “A Difference of Mind: Emotion Station.”

Print Version
Locate two pictures—from magazines, for example—that would elicit different emotional responses from your students. The Web version uses a picture of a roller coaster in motion and a picture from the view of a patient in a dental chair. Possible subjects include animals, pictures from movies conveying a scary theme, and extreme weather. Use your imagination!

Procedure

Part 1, Station Explorations

  1. Introduce the unit by asking, “What makes you who you are?”

Students are likely to list their various talents and abilities. Accept all responses at this time.

Teacher note: Asking this question allows students to call on their prior knowledge and to engage their thinking. At this point, do not critique student responses. Appropriate teacher comments are short and positive, such as “good” and “what else?” To push student thinking a bit farther, you may wish to ask students to explain their answers briefly. Questions such as these allow the teacher to assess current student knowledge about the subject and adjust lessons accordingly. Generally, it is time to move forward when the teacher sees that thinking has been engaged.

  1. Explain to students that they will explore this question through activities at four different stations.

The four stations represent the following brain functions: attention, memory, language, and emotion. Stations should be labeled with signs posted on the walls.

  1. Explain that directions for an activity are on a card or on the computer screen at each station. Ask students to follow the directions carefully to complete each activity.

Tip from the field test: Take time at the beginning of this activity to explain that students should read and follow the directions on the cards at each station.

assessment icon
Assessment:
Collecting Master 1.5, Station Notes, at the end of Lesson 1 will allow you to evaluate students’ understanding of sense of self.
  1. Give each student one copy of Master 1.5, Station Notes. Ask students to take notes on this handout as they complete each activity.

Taking notes will help students participate in classroom discussion in Part 2.

  1. Divide the class into pairs, and assign pairs to stations.

Tip from the field test: Station activities work best when each pair of students has a computer or set of cards. If possible, plan for one set of cards or one computer at each station for every eight students in your class.

Teacher note: The following descriptions of student activities at the four stations are for your reference. Since the station explorations are meant to engage student thinking, we recommend that you not provide these explanations to the students at this time. Instead, allow students to use the directions at each station to investigate the activities on their own.

Attention Station
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 written out on poster boards 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.

Language Station
Students decipher words and phrases from clues on each of two cards. On the first card, students combine letters and symbols to come up with the following words:

  1. brain,
  2. Internet, and
  3. restaurant.

On the second card, students interpret the arrangement of words to come up with the following phrases:

  1. officer undercover,
  2. made in America, and
  3. evenly spaced.

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.

Memory Station
Students play a matching game twice while their partners time them with stopwatches. A set of 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.

Emotion Station
Students look at two photographs 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.

  1. Allow groups five minutes at each station, then ask them to move clockwise to the next station.

Walk around the classroom to monitor student progress and answer questions.

  1. As groups complete the activities, draw the following chart on a board or transparency:
Attention Station Memory Station Language Station Emotion Station
Test 1 time: Test 2 time: Game 1 time: Game 2 time: Puzzles were easy: Puzzles were hard: Photo 1 feeling: Photo 2 feeling:
               

This chart will be used in Part 2 of the lesson.

Part 2, Celebrating Differences

  1. Reconvene the class and ask, “At the Attention Station, which was harder, Test 1 or Test 2?” Ask several students to share times it took to complete Tests 1 and 2.

On the board under “Attention Station,” record several student responses for times required to complete Tests 1 and 2.

  1. Ask students to share ideas about why Test 2 might be harder than Test 1.

In the Attention Station tests, students had to focus specifically on the color of the word and ignore the meaning of the word. In addition, these tests are made up of lists of words that are themselves the names of colors. In Test 1, the meaning and color of the words are the same. However, in Test 2, the meaning and color of the words are different; the brain receives conflicting information and must choose between paying attention to the meaning of the word or the color of the word. Generally, it is harder to read the colors in Test 2 than in Test 1.

  1. Ask the class, “At the Memory Station, which was easier, Game 1 or Game 2?” Ask several students to share times it took to complete Games 1 and 2.

On the board under “Memory Station,” record Game 1 and Game 2 times from several students.

  1. Ask students to share ideas about why Game 2 might be easier than Game 1.

Students will likely find Game 2 easier than Game 1. At the Memory Station, students flipped over pairs of game pieces until all the pieces were matched into sets. In Game 1, students had not yet seen the positions of any game pieces, so it was impossible to know which pieces would match. In Game 2, students had already been exposed to the location of each game piece, so it should have been easier to flip over matching pairs (from memory).

  1. Ask the class to answer the following questions with a show of hands: How many thought the puzzles at the Language Station were easy to solve? How many thought they were hard to solve?

Count the number of responses for each question. On the board under “Language Station,” record the number of students in each category.

  1. Ask students to explain why they felt the puzzles were easy or hard to solve.

As they share their reasons for believing the puzzles were easy or hard, students discover that letters, symbols, and even the position of words are all ways that we use language to interpret information. In addition, students find that individual abilities differ when interpreting information.

  1. Ask several students to describe in one word, how they felt when they saw Picture 1 at the Emotion Station. Repeat the question for Picture 2. As students provide responses, ask them why they felt the way they did.

Record the one-word descriptions on the board in the appropriate sections (Picture 1 or Picture 2) under “Emotion Station.” Students find that as they looked at the photos, they were interpreting information to generate an emotional response. In addition, students find that reactions to the photos differ based on the past experiences of each individual.

assessment icon
Assessment:
Listening to students’ responses will help you assess their understanding that individual differences in brain-related activities, such as memory, attention, emotion, and language, help make each of us who we are.
  1. Remind 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?”

Students recognize that each station represents a function controlled by the brain. By engaging in these activities, they were exploring ways that their brain works.

  1. Direct student attention to the board. Point out the variation in the results at each station. 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. Explain that they will continue to explore similarities and differences in brain function among individuals in Lesson 2.


Lesson 1 Organizer
Activity 1: A Difference of Mind
What the Teacher Does Procedure Reference
Part 1, Station Explorations

Ask, “What makes you who you are?”

Step 1

Explain to students that they will explore this question through activities at four different stations. Give each student a copy of Master 1.5, Station Notes.

Steps 2–4

Divide the class into pairs and assign pairs to stations. Rotate groups through stations at five-minute intervals.

master iconSteps 5–6

Prepare for Part 2 of the activity by drawing a chart on the board or a transparency on which to record student responses.

Web activity iconStep 7
Part 2, Celebrating Differences

Reconvene class. Ask, “At the Attention Station, which was harder, Test 1 or Test 2?”

  • Ask several students to share times it took them to complete the test.
  • Ask students why Test 2 might be harder than Test 1.
Steps 1–2

Ask, “At the Memory Station, which was easier, Game 1 or Game 2?”

  • Ask several students to share times it took them to complete the games.
  • Ask students why Game 2 might be easier than Game 1.
Steps 3–4

Ask, “How many of you thought the puzzles at the Language Station were easy to solve?”

  • Ask students to explain why they felt the puzzles were easy or hard to solve.
Steps 5–6

Ask several students to describe how they felt when they saw Picture 1 at the Emotion Station.

  • Repeat for Picture 2.
  • Ask students why they felt as they did.
Step 7

Ask, “What does today’s lesson have to do with the brain?”

Step 8

Direct student attention to the board. Point out the variation in the results at each station. Ask students what they think the variation indicates. Explain to students that they will continue to explore similarities and differences in brain function among individuals in the next lesson.

Step 9
master icon= Involves copying a master.
Web activity icon= Involves using the Internet.

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