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Wired or tired?

  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Practical work
Topic: Nervous system

This is Scientific Enquiry meets game show. Students are going to investigate a hypothesis about caffeine – that it can improve exam performance. After all, it may make you more alert, and better able to concentrate better.

The activity is a 'hands-on, minds on' investigation, to check out whether, in the language of the activity, the claim is correct – a WINNER or, wrong – a BINNER.

Two students volunteer to get up early and make themselves tired. One stays Tired, but the other takes caffeine drinks to become Wired. We've devised a number of tests to assess the effect of caffeine: on alertness, concentration, memory, mood and coordination. It's a fun approach with a serious purpose – to develop students' procedural thinking.

11-14 How Science Works:
KS3: Fit and Healthy [9b]: what effect do drugs have on how the body works physically and mentally

Scientific enquiry:
d) consider factors to be taken into account when collecting evidence
e) decide the range of data collected and technique to use
h) make sufficient measurements to obtain reliable evidence
k) use measurements to draw conclusions
l) decide whether conclusions support a prediction
p) suggest improvements to the methods used.

Published: 25th January 2007
Reviews & Comments: 8

Learning objectives

Pupils will learn how to test a hypothesis, by seeing whether the evidence matches their prediction (ideas and evidence)

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KS3: Fit and Healthy [9b]: what effect do drugs have on how the body works physically and mentally

Scientific enquiry:
d) consider factors to be taken into account when collecting evidence
e) decide the range of data collected and technique to use
h) make sufficient measurements to obtain reliable evidence
k) use measurements to draw conclusions
l) decide whether conclusions support a prediction
p) suggest improvements to the methods used.

Running the activity

The activity could last between 30-60 minutes, depending on how many tests are carried out.

As a quick starter activity you can show pupils the first activity sheet, with the scenario and hypothesis, and ask them to discuss in pairs what they think. Is it a Winner or a Binner? They can hold up the appropriate card (see activity sheets) Can they say why?

Ideally, you need to select at least 2 pupil volunteers the previous lessons. They need to simulate being tired after revising all night. You could suggest they get up really early, on the day of the activity.


One pupil becomes Wired by taking caffeine drinks, like coffee, coca-cola etc. The other should not. Alternatively, for greater reliability, you could select 2 Tired and 2 Wired volunteers.

The simplest way to test the hypothesis 'Wired is better than Tired' is for pupils to take an exam. But we can learn more about the effects of caffeine, by carrying out a series of tests on factors relating to performance, like alertness and concentration. The activity asks pupils to choose the 3 best tests, and think about what to measure.

Now, it's time to carry out the tests on the Wired and Tired pupils. The activity sheets de

Test on Way to measure it Notes
A: Alertness The speed of your reactions (using the dropping ruler method) A helper holds the ruler just above the pupils' fingers. The sheet has a table to convert the distance ruler drops when the pupil catches it, into a reaction time
B: Concentration How many sums you can do in 2 minutes, listening to a Walkman The sheet has a series of quite easy sums. The idea is that pupils do these while being distracted by some music on headphones.
C: Mood How you answer a questionnaire
The sheet has a series of questions to help identify whether pupils are in a positive or negative mood.
D: memory How many objects you can remember from a list The sheet has a series of pictures. Pupils are shown these for 30 seconds write down all they can remember.
E: Coordination How long you can balance an object for

You can try either:
a) How long can a pupil balance a ruler on a fingertip?
OR b) set up a 'course' of stools. Pupils walk in and out, balancing a beaker of small plasticene balls on their head, to see how far they can get before it falls off.






A record sheet is supplied so the class can take measurements, and draw their conclusion. Again, they can hold up the appropriate card to show whether the hypothesis is a Winner or a Binner.

A possible plenary is provided. The sheets asks get pupils to decide whether the tests provided reliable results (e.g. were there enough measurements?) They can also think whether the tests measured what they were supposed to (The experiments were not controlled – pupils were not tested before and after. So differences between Wired and Tired could simply be due to the pupils chosen).

Reviews & Comments

Write your online review to share your feedback and classroom tips with other teachers. How well does it work, how engaging is it, how did you use it, and how could it be improved?

science

Aug 18th, 2011

4 Star

Task was well elaborated and thoroughly enjoyed by the students. A great activity

Reviewer: mamta bashisth

Excellent

Jun 30th, 2009

5 Star

I used this activity with a top set year 8 class in an observed lesson. Plenty of different activities and total engagement.

Reviewer: Robin Baillie

Wired or tired

Apr 30th, 2009

4 Star

I found this very useful with my year 9 class.

Reviewer: OLUWATOYIN LADITI

science

Nov 24th, 2008

5 Star

Very good. Excellent for low ability groups.

Reviewer: Daniela Cooper

Brillian

Jul 7th, 2008

5 Star

I did this with two year 8 classes set 2 and set 1 as an introduction to fit and healthy (9B)
It worked brilliantly with them both, however the bright ones in the first class picked up on the fact that there were sooo many variables that we hadnt controlled that it was definately not a fair test. So when i repeated it, i asked them not to comment on any failings and instead to write anything they came up with on the back of their results sheet, which became great dicussion material at the end of the lesson. I also found that the mood test wasnt great so excluded it from the second run.

Reviewer: Kavita Shah

Wired or tired? review

Jul 3rd, 2008

5 Star

Have tried this with 2 Y9 groups. The drinking coke went down well! The 'tests' gave opportunities to talk about fair and reliable results so good preparation for ISAs.

Reviewer: Nicola Hill

Wired or tired? review

Jan 23rd, 2008

4 Star

great fun the children really enjoyed the tests. their prep was to consider controls needed to set two groups for comparison. useful for HSW aqa science and add science

Reviewer: lucy baddeley

Tired or Wired

Mar 6th, 2007

4 Star

I used this activity with a lower ability Year 10. We adapted it to include carrying out the test before and after coke. Brought about some interesting results and lots of discussion.

Reviewer: kathryn Hartington