How Does the Brain Work?

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12384

Do you own a computer? Even if you are taking this course on a borrowed computer, you still own one! And it didn't cost a cent! Your brain is always running, so come exercise it with some brain games!


Life Science

learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Computers have come a long way, from room-size machines to desktops to laptops to tablets and smartphones you can carry in your pocket.

Humans have been carrying an amazing computer that never needs upgrades or charging for thousands of years!

A computer processes information quickly, like a human brain.

Your brain has a few different parts that communicate with one another to ensure that your body is working correctly. You will learn about the following parts of the brain: the cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus.

lateral view of the human brain

Arrange your learning with a simple organizer.

  1. Take a sheet of paper and divide it in half, long way (or hotdog style).
  1. On the left side, write the names of the five parts of the brain: cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus. Skip a few spaces between each brain area name so you have enough room to complete the activity.
  1. Then, on the right side, you will write down some important facts as you learn more about these parts of the brain.


Begin with the cerebrum. The cerebrum is the largest part of the brain, taking up around 85% of the area of the brain.

  • What do you think this enormous mass of brain controls?

This part of the brain carries out the process of conscious thinking. It also helps control the voluntary and involuntary muscles, which move independently and are directed by the brain.

Remember that the heart is an involuntary muscle, while the muscle in your arm is voluntary. (See Related Lessons.)

Set of images in family hands

Your memory is also stored in your cerebrum. It helps you remember what you ate for dinner last night and what you learned in preschool.

The cerebrum has two halves, as seen in the image below.

cerebrum - occipital lobe - superior view

The left side of the cerebrum controls the right side of your body, and the right side controls the left side of your body.

Some scientists believe that the left-hand side of the brain helps with math problems, communication, and solving problems. In contrast, the right side is more involved with creative activities, such as crafting and interpreting music and other artistic media.

Even though this is the most significant part of your brain, it still relies on the different parts of your brain to complete some processes.


Add what you learn next to the cerebellum section of your sheet.

female cerebellum

The cerebellum is much smaller and is located at the back of the brain.

Try standing on one foot with your hands above your head. The cerebellum controls your balance. It also helps you move your finger to your nose, helping you improve your coordination.

The muscles in your body rely on your cerebellum for direction in performing movements like running, skipping, and walking.

running skeleton with muscles

Brain Stem

You may have to think about moving your finger to and from your nose, but your heart beats without any direction from your brain. The brain stem controls the involuntary muscles that keep you alive.

female brain stem

It is smaller than the cerebrum and located at the brain's base.

This small part of the brain has an essential job in the body. It ensures that the involuntary muscles in your body, like those responsible for digestion, breathing, and blood circulation, are working at the correct pace and time.

heart and brain that walk hand in hand

Pituitary Gland

Now, on to the pituitary gland. This gland is located in the brain and is very small!

pituitary gland

This tiny gland produces chemical messages for your body. These messages are called hormones.

Your hormones control the growth of body hair, the timing of puberty, and the sexual development process. Hormones are also responsible for keeping the sugar in your blood stable and ensuring you have enough water.


The last part of the brain is the hypothalamus. It is located in the middle of your brain.


The hypothalamus keeps you from overheating and freezing.

  • Have you ever been freezing?
  • How did your body respond?

You probably started shivering. This action is caused by direction from the hypothalamus.

Your temperature should be close to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Try taking your temperature with a thermometer.

  • What is your body temperature?

If it is higher than 98.6 degrees, you might have a fever! When you overheat, your body responds by sweating to cool down.

human skin and sweat

  • Have you ever been so cold that you began to shiver?

Shivering is a process that warms your body by moving the muscles quickly!

man and woman shivering

Now, you have learned about the five parts of the brain: the cerebrum, cerebellum, brain stem, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus.

Each part has a specific function, responsible for body movement, problem-solving, and temperature regulation, to name a few.

The parts of the brain have to communicate with nerve cells in the body to ensure that messages are passed to all body areas.

Nerve cells send messages about the environment, like when it gets too hot or cold. They help you recognize danger and make memories.

The brain uses nerve cells throughout the body to keep you alive and healthy! The five parts of the brain rely on information from these nerve cells to keep body processes working.

The cerebrum takes information and moves it to long-term storage. The cerebellum uses nerve cells to maintain your balance, and the brain stem controls involuntary processes like breathing and circulation.

The pituitary gland uses hormones to regulate the body, while the hypothalamus maintains the body's temperature.

Write down three questions about the brain before moving to the Got It? section, where you will review the parts of the brain.

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