How do neurons in the brain help us learn?
Using drama and music, students act out neurons firing and wiring.
We are learning about neurons to develop an understanding of how they ‘wire and fire’ to pass learning messages in the brain.
I can act out how neurons fire and wire differently for no, weak and strong connections.
Students make one large circle. Each individual child represents a neuron and the circle they form represents the neural pathway.
Practise passing the message around the circle by passing a squeeze along until it reaches the end to become familiar with the process. When there are slowdowns in the circle, highlight how this is a weak connection and as we form a strong connection the message will be passed more quickly around the circle. Explain that when we are just holding hands that there is no connection yet. Practise all three connections before
When students are comfortable passing and responding to a squeeze, bring neuron terminology into the circle. Use a soft toy such as: A teddy bear to symbolise the message being passed along the neurons. Call on some students to come and stand in a line and pass the soft toy along while the teacher calls out the names of each part as below to model to all students.
- Right arm, hand and fingers are the dendrites
- Left arm and hand are the axon and axon terminals
- Stomach is nucleus
- Synapse is the left fingertips
Give parts of the body a neuron part and students put visuals onto each part of the body to help them get to know the parts (see resources)
Teacher starts by pretending new information or message is coming from another neuron via his/her dendrites (right hand and arm up and waving in the air.) Act out the information going through the neuron while singing, “In through the dendrites, to the nucleus, down the axon to the axon terminals and across the synapse – ZAP, ZAP, ZAP!” We now know all about the neuron. (This could be sung to a simple nursery rhyme tune. I’m a little teapot would be a suitable fit).
Passing the information to the next neuron is done via the axon terminals (the fingers of the left hand) almost touching the dendrites (fingers of the right hand of next child.) Explain the synapse (dendrites and axon terminals never touch) and make a zapping sound to represent the message crossing over the synapse to the next neuron. When the squeeze is passed along, the whole class can sing the song the process to avoid students being singled out if they can’t remember it. The other option could be to write it on the board to refer to as a prompt.
The student directly to the left of the teacher would then take up the message while repeating, “In through the dendrites, to the nucleus, down the axon to the axon terminals and across the synapse – ZAP, ZAP, ZAP! We now know all about the neuron”
This continues around the circle. Have each child verbalise what is happening as the information is passed through their neuron, “In through the dendrites…”
Once students have mastered the acting out and the dialogue, break into smaller circles and have a neural pathway race, attempting to remember the neuron song by heart and in time to where
Repeat neuron firing and wiring race regularly with information related to a new skill/ new information about to be taught or revising content depending on age group e.g counting backwards from 200 by 4’s.
Circle time discussion: Allow students the opportunity to share something they want to try at home with siblings or family to teach them about the Firing and Wiring Race.
Students improvise, compose, arrange and perform music. They demonstrate aural skills by staying in tune and keeping in time when they sing and play.
Personal and Social Capability
This element involves students interacting effectively and respectfully with a range of adults and peers. Students learn to negotiate and communicate effectively with others and work
- A4 size poster of the ThinkPlus Neuron with labelled parts
- A4 size Neuron Parts sheet