Upstairs and Downstairs Brain
A new video is HERE! Yay! One of my favorite subjects to teach my students is the upstairs and downstairs brain. This concept is introduced in the book The Whole Brain Child, and it’s just an easy and fun way to explain the function of our brain to young kids.
There is so much empowerment that happens when we learn how to personify something (like the brain) that can be so very complicated to understand. I hope that this video helps your students learn details about the brain, and how to be the boss of their brains when things feel out of control!
Questions/Ideas Following the Video
An activity kit for this video is still in the works (stay tuned!), but there are a few simple questions you can ask to get the discussion rolling after you have viewed this with your student(s).
Before you watch the video, ask students to stop and think about the different jobs our brains are responsible for completing in a day. Make a list of all of their ideas – highlighting those things that actually do not have to do with learning. Emphasize that our brains handle a lot more than just learning (walking, breathing, etc.).
Show students the video, then discuss the upstairs and downstairs brain. Emphasize that the downstairs brain is responsible for keeping us safe, and the upstairs brain is responsible for thinking. Then ask the following questions:
- When might you find that your downstairs brain has taken over?
- When do you feel like your staircase is working and your upstairs and downstairs are working together?
- Who can help you rebuild your staircase when it has been broken?
I do a few other things following the discussion to make this concept a bit more tangible for my students. First, I’ll take out a foam model of the brain and show students exactly where the upstairs and downstairs brains are located (downstairs = base and limbic area; upstairs = outer cortical brain). Then, I have them hold up their hands and touch each part on their own head as we discuss further.
The next part I will do is get out my handy dandy doll house. I love this thing (seriously!). I use it all the time in my room. I will place the brain house family members inside and we will talk about certain “triggering” situations that might happen at school and discuss how each family member may respond. It’s super fun and provides students with a tangible way to understand this concept as I often let them move the family members around and take the lead on this – only correcting where necessary. (Pssst…a family member printout is available for free on the Sketches resource page!!)
Reading for Parents and Professionals
Interested in learning more about how the brain impacts our student’s behaviors? Consider checking out these books if you haven’t already! (Click to see more info!)
Stay tuned for the activity kit and more ideas to use with kids following the use of this video!
14 thoughts on “Upstairs and Downstairs Brain”
Hi. I cannot download the Upstairs and Downstairs Brain family member printout. There is nothing linked in the resource page. Could I get it emailed to me?
Hi there! So sorry that the download did not work for you. It looks like I forgot to click a button to upload it correctly! It should be fixed now. Please let me know if it continues to give you difficulty and I’ll email a copy your way!
hello! How do I access the brain family printout. Not sure where to find it.
Hi Leah! You should be able to find the brain family printout on the Sketches resource section. Just click the corresponding picture and it will get you there. If you’re still having a hard time finding it, just let me know!
Hi! I would love to have access to the brain family printout however when I click the picture nothing pops us. Any suggestions?
Hi Misty! The picture does not have a direct link to the resource, but you can find it in the “Sketches Downloads” section on the resource page!
These resources/videos are INCREDIBLE! Dr. Desuatels and Dr. Delahooke are two of my favorites in translating neuroscience and the polyvagal theory into easy to understand resources for parents and teachers! Love your content! Thank you so much!
I’m so glad you enjoy these resources! Thank you for the feedback!
Hi there! I purchased this resource on TPT and I LOVE it. I sent an email to Lindsey, but didn’t hear back, so I thought I’d try here. I am currently working on my Master’s research project and would love to use this resource in my study. Do I have permission? I will, of course, site SEL sketches in my paper. Please let me know either way. 🙂
Hi Anna! My apologies. I have been on a bit of a hiatus from Sketches this school year as the needs in my building have increased and my time has been taken up! I am actively attempting to get everything back up and running, so I will reply to your email as soon as possible!
We are a K-2 elementary school, implementing an SEL initiative. We find your content very applicable and as we prepare to adopt a curriculum would like to know more about what you have available. We notice the last video addition was in April of 2021. Are you still producing content? Our counselor would really like to contact you with some questions as we put small groups into place. She is looking at some curriculum to purchase – but we REALLY like your approach.
We would greatly appreciate a contact. Thank you
Hi Lisa! I have been on a bit of a hiatus this school year, but am actively attempting to get everything back up and running! Feel free to message me via email! I’d be happy to talk to your counselor!
Hi Lindsey! I absolutely LOVE the content you’ve created. I’m leaving for Ukraine in two weeks to help provide trauma counseling to children and resources for those with whom the children are temporarily living. I’m really hoping to use some of your content and would love to discuss this more. I sent you an email as well. 🙂
Best of luck to you, and THANK YOU for offering your knowledge and support to the children and families of Ukraine. I will reply to your message in my email!