Exploring the Left and Right Sides of the Brain
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Kathleen Hall Goethe School
2236 N. Rockwell
Chicago IL 60647
This lesson is designed for use with 5th-8th graders. The purpose of the
lesson is to have students become familiar with the left and right hemispheres
of the human brain and to engage in activities that activate powers that are
dominant in each hemisphere. This lesson could be used as a culminating
activity after a unit on the brain.
* Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards, Chapter 1-4 for
* model of brain (if available)
For each student:
* Any logic activity (I used AIMS Logic Activity "Who's Who on the Baseball
Team?" from AIMS Newsletter July/August 1993)
* Copies of an optical illusion (I used "Old Lady, Young Lady")
* Copies of Cartoon of dog, from Your Body kit, (Lucas Manufacturing Company)
pg.35, or any line drawing that has recognizable objects (e.g., people,
* drawing paper and pencils
During the 1960's, doctors discovered through working with patients that
had severe epileptic seizures that each hemisphere of the brain processes
information differently. Through a series of tests they concluded that both
hemispheres use high-level cognitive modes, which although different, involve
thinking, reasoning, and complex mental functioning. The left hemisphere is
dominant in verbal, analytic, abstract and logical activities. The right
hemisphere is dominant in nonverbal, analogic, nontemporal, intuitive, and
spatial activities. (Refer to page 40 in Drawing on the Right Side of the
Brain. Note differences in language domain in the left side and spatial
domain on right side.)
1. Work with a partner to do "Who's Who on the Baseball Team?" Teacher should
coach students to follow directions in a sequential manner. Model by doing
the first two items with students.
2. When students are finished, go over the answers and discuss how they reached
their conclusions. Lead them to understand that the logical thinking they
engaged in was based on putting information in order or in sequence.
3. Teacher explains the theory of the brain's left and right hemispheres. (See
4. Give students directions to make a face-vase drawing:
a) Draw a profile of a person's head on the upper left side of the paper,
having the profile face towards the center of the paper. (Left-handed
students should start on the right side of paper). Try to use your own
memorized symbols for a human profile.
b) Draw horizontal lines on the top and bottom of your profile, forming
the top and bottom of the vase.
c) Go over your drawing of the first profile with your pencil, naming the
features to yourself as you go, i.e., forehead, nose, upper lip, lower
lip, chin, neck. Repeat this step at least once. This is a left-
hemisphere task -- naming symbolic shapes.
d) Starting at the right side of the horizontal line, (the left side for
left handers) draw a second profile facing the center of the paper. The
second profile should be a reversal of the first in order to be
symmetrical. You may experience a sense of mental conflict at some
point in the drawing of the second profile. Observe this and observe
how you solve the problem.
5. Elicit discussion from the students about their experience in drawing the
profile/vase. Lead them to understand that the first side of the profile was
done from memory and from naming the parts. This is left-hemisphere mode.
To complete the drawing, students probably had to scan back and forth in the
space between the profiles, estimating angles, curves, inward-curving and
outward curving shapes, which now had become unnamed parts -- shapes of space
between the two profiles. This is right-hemisphere mode -- thinking without
6. Distribute copies of a cartoon or simple drawing. Have students first draw
the picture right-side up. When they are finished, they should turn the
picture upside down and draw it again as they see it (i.e., upside down).
The purpose of drawing the picture upside down is to have them attempt to
draw without naming objects, but rather to employ the right hemisphere's
ability to analyze spatial relationships.
When you're finished, have the students decide which of their drawings is
better and which way of drawing (i.e., right side up, in which they use language
to identify objects, or upside down, in which they analyze spatial
relationships) enabled them to create a better drawing. Lead the discussion in
terms of right and left brain hemisphere modes of thinking.