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How many of my friends believe the 10% brain myth? A classroom activity

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Here’s a quick (seven minutes!) and engaging way to start your brain lecture. Annette Jordan Nielsen (Woods Cross High School in Bountiful, UT) harnesses her students’ connections to gather a little data.

Students pull out their phones or other web-enabled devices and using whatever means they prefer to connect to others (group text, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), students ask “What percent of their potential brain power do you think most people use?”

On the board, she draws a horizontal line. Under the line she writes 10%, 20%, 30%, etc.

Then she shows this 4-minute video from the SciShow that debunks the 10% brain myth.

Video Link : 1785

As students watch the video, they keep an eye on their devices for the responses to their question. Students come to the board to mark the first three responses they get, doing this as the video plays. 

Annette reports that “the charts always end up looking like this [see below] and it really helps open the door to how widespread this myth is. The kids usually walk out the door ready to teach the people who responded what they learn and why they are wrong. I also like to joke that the 100% markings are all my former students.”

147121_10 percent brain myth chart.jpg

Photo credit: Annette Jordan Nielsen

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About the Author
Sue Frantz has taught psychology in community colleges since 1992, and has been at Highline College in the Seattle area since 2001. She has served on several APA boards and committees, and was proud to serve the members of the Society for the Teaching of Psychology as their 2018 president. In 2013, she was the inaugural recipient of the APA award for Excellence in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning at a Two-Year College or Campus. She received in 2016 the highest award for the teaching of psychology--the Charles L. Brewer Distinguished Teaching of Psychology Award . She presents nationally and internationally on the topics of educational technology and the pedagogy of psychology. She is co-author with Doug Bernstein and Steve Chew of Teaching Psychology: A Step-by-Step Guide, 3rd ed.