Auditory system - Balance

Lesson overview

In this lesson students continue their exploration of the auditory system using Google Expeditions to investigate how balance can be affected by the ear. They will discover why dizziness occurs and how different parts of the ear inform signals sent to the brain.

Learning outcomes
  • To understand the function of the semi-circular canal
  • To know the ear has an important role in balance as well as hearing
  • To understand why there are three separate canals

Expedition Prep Checklist

Download the Google Expeditions App on all devices and select the expedition Auditory system – Semi-circular canal.

Explore the expedition and locate points of interest (ampulla, lateral canal, posterior canal, superior canal).

Review the video content in the Lesson resources section to update your knowledge and develop some teaching ideas.

Lesson steps
  1. Introduction (15 mins)
    Lead class discussion: Have you ever been dizzy? What does it feel like? What are the effects? Do you know why this happens?
    One student volunteers to be a guinea pig. Spin this student around and try to get them to walk in a straight line (or try a penalty shoot-out if you are outside with a football / soccer and a goal post).
    Students suggest why this happens? Shake / spin a bottle or other container with water in it and get pupils to watch how the liquid continues to move after you stop shaking. Inform students that a similar thing happens inside your ear and that’s why they get dizzy. Inform students that the semi-circular canal is a liquid filled part of the inner ear that is responsible for maintaining balance.
  2. Expedition (15 mins)
    Students answer the following questions: What is the role of the semi-circular canal? How is the semi-circular canal adapted to its function? In which nerve is this information from the semi-circular canal sent to the brain? Go through the beginner and intermediate questions from the scene.
    Students add additional labels to their ear diagram from the previous lessons (see Student Sheet found in the Lesson resources section).
  3. Activity one (10 mins)
    Discussion Question: Why are there three different canals? Why not less or more?
    Students share their answers and labels with a partner to complete any gaps that they have before sharing with the class.
  4. Activity two (20 mins)
    Students make a 3D model of the semi-circular canal using straws and plasticine. Make sure that they are aligned in the three planes of motion.

    Students may try joining bottles together and putting water in to see how the liquid moves when tilted on different planes. They should attempt this before discussion of the ‘Why are there three different canals?’ question.

  5. Extension
    Students research when and why we can lose our balance or feel dizzy.
    Students research problems and diseases of the auditory system to prepare themselves for this topic.
    Students watch this 3D animated video that shows the canals in movement.
    Students watch The Crash Course video on Hearing and Balance (10 minutes).
    Students revise using online flashcards on quizlet content.
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