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Lesson Plans Library 6-8 > Health
Reality Matters
Under the Influence
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: Health Duration: Three class periods

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Students will
  • review how alcohol affects the brain,
  • map the areas of the brain affected by teenage drinking, and
  • learn what brain functions teenage drinking might impact.
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Print and online resources about alcohol and its effects on the brain
  • Drawing paper and markers
  1. After watching the video, ask students: What are some of the ways drinking can affect teens' lives? (They could become addicted to alcohol; they could become involved in a crime while drinking; they could become the victim of a crime while impaired; their grades could fall; their lives may be interrupted; they could hurt themselves or others; they could suffer irreparable brain damage)
  2. Review some of the statistics presented in the program and listed below. Then ask students: Why do teens and adults respond differently to alcohol? (The answer is because the teen brain isn't fully developed yet, and alcohol can have permanent repercussions on that development.)
    • Kids who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to become alcoholics than those who begin after age 21.
    • Teenagers can become addicted to alcohol in only six to eight months, whereas adults may take up to two years to become addicted.
    • The average age for a child's first drink is 12.
    • One in four teens who drink will experience problems with alcohol.
  3. To explain the alcohol-brain connection, students will "map" the areas of the brain affected by drinking. Divide students into groups of three or four and explain that each group will draw a diagram of the brain. They should label the areas of the brain affected by alcohol and list what those effects are. In their research, students should answer these questions:
    • What areas of the brain does alcohol affect?
    • What functions do these areas of the brain carry out?
    • What are the short-term affects of drinking and brain function?
    • What can be long-term consequences of teenage drinking on brain development and function?
    • How does drinking affect a teenage brain versus an adult brain?
  4. Students should use print and online resources to complete their brain maps. These Web sites are helpful:
  5. After completing their research, each group will present its findings to the class. To avoid repeating the same information, you can assign each group a different region of the brain to focus on for the presentation.
  • Besides the brain, alcohol affects other body organs. Students can add sidebars to their brain maps that report on alcohol and the liver, stomach, and intestines, for example.
  • Help students determine whether they or someone they know may have a drinking problem. They can find a Teen Self-Quiz for Chemical Dependency at Stress that the results of their quizzes are completely confidential and for their own use. After students complete the quiz, you can point them toward resources that can help them prevent alcohol addiction, such as the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information (NCADI) at NCADI's online Guide for Teens at especially useful.
  • Peer pressure can make saying "no" to alcohol difficult for some students. Help them practice ways to refuse alcohol by role-playing. You can find scenarios and responses to get started at The Cool Spot ( under the tab "It's Your Move."

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points:Students were highly engaged in class discussions, conducted thorough research, and answered all the questions provided to make their brain maps.
  • Two points:Students participated in class discussions and answered most of the questions provided to make their brain maps.
  • One point:Students participated minimally in class discussions and presented a simplistic brain map, answering few or none of the questions provided.

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Definition:Physical dependence on a drug
Context:An addiction to alcohol can be very difficult to treat.

Definition:Disease in which someone is physically dependent on alcohol
Context:Alcoholism is four times more common in those who begin drinking before age 15 than those who don't drink until after age 21.

Definition:Part of the brain located between the brain stem and the cerebrum that coordinates muscle movement and balance
Context:Alcohol's affect on the cerebellum makes people lose their balance and become clumsy.

cerebral cortex
Definition:The thought processor of the brain that is also the seat of sensory perception
Context:Alcohol affects a person's ability to think clearly by depressing the functions of the cerebral cortex.

Definition:The part of the brain's limbic system that aids in forming memories
Context:The hippocampus of teenage drinkers may become permanently shrunken.

limbic system
Definition:Portion of the brain that controls emotions and regulates such functions as temperature, blood pressure, and blood sugar
Context:A person can experience heightened emotions and memory loss because of alcohol's effects of the limbic system.

Definition:Part of the brain that controls automatic functions such as consciousness, breathing, and heart rate (also known as the brain stem)
Context:Shallow breathing and loss of consciousness are signs of alcohol's affect on the medulla.

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The National Science Education Standards provide guidelines for teaching science as well as a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate for students in grades K-12. To view the standards, visit
This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Science as Inquiry: Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Life Science: Structure and function in living systems
  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives: Personal health; Risks and benefits

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Rhonda Lucas Donald, curriculum writer, editor, and consultant

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