Conditioned Responses and Behaviors Lesson Plan: The Pavlov’s Dog Game

Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

In this lesson plan, which is adaptable for grades 3-8, students use BrainPOP resources to explore conditioned responses and behaviors. Students will differentiate between various types of conditioned responses, and create a conditioned response through virtual gameplay and/or in a real life experiment.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Understand conditioned responses and behaviors
  2. Differentiate between various types of conditioned responses
  3. Create a conditioned response through virtual gameplay and/or in a real life experiment

Materials:

  • Access to the Internet and BrainPOP

Vocabulary:

conditioning; reflex; stimulus; pioneer; technician; associate; scold; instinct

Preparation:

Preview the GameUp game Pavlov's Dog and the Conditioning topic page to plan for instruction. In this lesson plan, students will find out through game play if they can train a dog to drool on command - an example of a conditioned reflex. They will explore Ivan Pavlov's description of how animals (and humans) can be trained to respond in a certain way to a particular stimulus. The object of the game is to train Pavlov's dog to respond to a signal that it will associate with being fed. You can find more information about this game on the NobelPrize.org site.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Give students some real world examples of ways that you or others have been conditioned. For example, you could discuss your automatic response to hearing your alarm go off in the morning; the way a certain scent, taste, or sound (such as a song) immediately reminds you of a memory; or how a pet comes running whenever it hears a can opener.
  2. Ask students if they know the term for this automatic response, and introduce the vocabulary word "conditioning."
  3. Tell students they're going to play a game to see if they can figure out exactly what conditioning means and how it works. Allow students to play the Pavlov's Dog game by themselves or with a partner for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Hold a class discussion about game play to talk about what worked, what didn’t, and why. Show the BrainPOP movie Conditioning to extend student knowledge. If desired, talk about or have students define the Vocabulary words.
  5. Have the students play the game again, and this time use what they just learned about conditioning to make the dog drool. Are they able to trigger the drooling reflex in the dog more quickly this time around?
  6. For review and assessment, have students take the Quiz either independently or as a whole class interactive activity.

Extension Activity:

What's the underlying reason why conditioning works? Psychologists don't yet agree on whether the stimulus-stimulus theory or stimulus-response theory causes our conditioned responses. Help students explore these theories using the Unsolved Mysteries FYI and form their own hypothesis.

You can also have students try the Experiment to see if they can condition themselves to get hungry when their favorite song plays. Or, have students create their own conditioning experiment!

Be sure to check out the other Science Games featured in GameUp!