Friday, August 17, 2007

HIV UNscripted

Welcome to Untamed Teacher,

This blog was created in order to show how a principal targets a teacher for termination. This is usually done by saturating the teacher's file with letters that are designed to make the teacher look incompetent. This is the second negative letter that I received last year. Anyone interested in Science Education, AIDS prevention, or the Bloomberg Department of Education is encouraged to read on.


On December 19, 2006, Principal S.T. observed class 7D in classroom 3xx during period 8 (2:04 to 2:49) and period 9 (2:52 to 3:37). On March 20, 2007, I received a Formal Observation Report in which Principal described the lesson from her point of view and then gave it an unsatisfactory rating.

I disagree with Principal’s version of the lesson and with the unsatisfactory rating. Education is a process, not an event. That is why most supervisors have preobservation conferences with their teachers. It is important to have an understanding of the sequence in which the lesson is given.  Principal preferred to drop in without warning and did not have the benefit of the preobservation conference. She was also absent or distracted during parts of the observation. What is more, she concentrated her attention on a small group of students rather than observing all students equally. She ignored important aspects of my teaching performance . For these reasons, I feel that Principal was not able to give a fair and impartial evaluation of the lesson.


Approximately three weeks before the formal observation took place, a workshop was given to familiarize the science teachers with a curriculum on HIV/AIDS that was mandated by the Department of Education. We were informed by Assistant Principal R.Z., that we were to read the curriculum like a script. We were not to add, take away, or deviate from it in any way. We were not to modify the curriculum for different reading or learning levels.

After looking at the script, I realized that the first lesson, which was about the immune system, was way over the heads of most of the students in three out of my five seventh grade science classes. To make sure of this, I gave a quick assessment. Most of my seventh graders didn’t know what a cell was, much less its parts and functions. They had no idea about cell theory. They didn’t know how to state the difference between living and nonliving things. They couldn’t say what living things needed in order to survive. In short, their background in biology was extremely deficient.

We were in the middle of investigating the Laws of Thermodynamics . I could have read the script, gotten it out of the way, and gone back to my regular curriculum. However, I felt that it was important for my students to understand the concepts in the HIV/AIDS curriculum even though the curriculum itself, read as a script, was inappropriate for them.

I have attached a copy of this lesson in its entirety, but I will give an excerpt of it here to give the reader an idea of why I was so concerned.



"Say, 'If a pathogen gets into the body, this is how a healthy immune system works:

1. When an invader enters the body, it gets engulfed by macrophages (meaning 'big eater'--macrophages are big cells that protect against infection) that are close to the skin or mucous membranes.

2. The macrophage breaks down the pathogen and reveals its antigens. Each invader has its own antigens which act as an 'identification card' for the immune system to recognize.
3. The Helper T-cell (also called CD4) reads and recognizes the antigen. The Helper T-cell sends a message out to the B-cells and to other cells, by releasing lymphokines, to come help to destroy the invader, directing the immune system.

3. The activated B-cells produce millions of antibodies. The antibodies will outnumber the invaders and help get rid of them by attaching themselves to specific antigens and then allowing both themselves and the antigens to be eliminated. Antibodies and antigens fit together like a lock and a key. For example, a measles antibody will only attach itself to a measles virus.

4. Once an antibody has 'caught' an invader, a signal is sent to the macrophages and to other cells (like T-cells) that is ready to be eaten or destroyed with its capture. When a macrophage gets the message, it comes along and eats the antibody-antigen complex, ridding your body of the pathogen or invader.'

Say, 'By the time you feel miserable with a cold, the virus that caused it is already under attack by macrophages, T-cells, and B-cells. The B-cells have a memory, so that if that very same virus enters the body again, the B-cells will send out already made antibodies to help identify it and help losts of the cells of the immune system to destroy it.'

Ask, "How many of you have heard of HIV?' "

END of quote from DOE 7th grade curriculum on HIV/AIDS

After reading the script, I met with Assistant Principal Z and told him that my students would not learn anything if I just read that script. I asked to be able to break it down and teach it with visual aides and hands on activities. He replied that the script was mandated. I would be insubordinate if I didn't read it. I then bargained with him to allow me to give preparatory classes that would help my students understand the script when I did finally read it to them.

I was able to extract his permission to design a two to three-week crash course in biology that would prepare my students for the mandated script. I carefully linked what we had been studying (heat) to the HIV/AIDS script. The lesson observed was one of the last lessons designed by me before I began to read the script.

The lesson objectives were as follows:

Students will be able to:

1. Explore: How does the temperature of water affect the speed with which a drop of dye spreads through water?
2. Find patterns in the Periodic Table of Elements.
3. Compare and contrast key concepts about heat and matter.
4. Show how atoms become molecules using electron dot configuration.
5. Draw the electron dot configuration for water and carbon dioxide
6. Draw the electron dot configuration for the molecules that make up air.
7. Draw the electron dot configuration of amino acids and describe their relationship to living things.
8. Compare and contrast living and nonliving things.
9. Compare and contrast unicellular and multicellular organisms.
10. Show how a multicellular organism might get oxygen, water, and food to its innermost cells that are not in contact with the outside environment.
11. Show how a multicellular organism might get carbon dioxide and other wastes from its innermost cells to the outside environment.
12. Compare and contrast plant and animal cells.
13. Explore the needs and functions of cells
14. Describe how unicellular organisms like the ameba and the paramecium meet their needs and reproduce.
15. Ask and answer questions about the human immune system
16. Draw a cartoon about the immune system

Although I tried on very short notice to give my students the background knowledge they needed to understand the points made in the HIV/AIDS script, I feel that the following changes should be made:

1. Provide audio-visual support for the curriculum.
2. If you want to use a script, make a movie and have actors read it.
3. Provide a variety of reading materials written for different reading and learning levels.
4. Allow your classroom teachers to use their experience and expertise to adapt the curriculum to the needs of their students.
5. Give the classroom teacher time to prepare for the curriculum. Don’t expect him/her to stop what they are doing and start your curriculum the next day.
6. Don’t expect the whole school to be doing the curriculum at the same time—unless you begin planning six to eight months in advance.
7. Include the classroom teacher in planning and implementing the curriculum—listen to his/her suggestions.


The following agenda/lesson plan was used during the two periods of observation.

Challenge: How does the immune system protect us from germs?

Opening: Read page one of the handout. Ask questions that have the answer
(5 min) “Macrophage”.

Minilesson: What are the parts of the immune system?
(10 min)

Group Work: Ask questions that have the parts of the immune system as answers.
(25 min)

Close/Share: How do the parts of the immune system work together to protect us?
(flows into minilesson of lesson two)

Students will be able to draw a cartoon of the immune system

Minilesson: How do the parts of the immune system work together to protect us? (cont.)
(15 min including close/share from lesson one)

Group Work: Draw the immune response from beginning to end.
(25 min.)

Close/Share: Group presentation of drawings. Summary of immune response.
(10 min)

Homework: Write a paragraph summarizing the immune response.

I was criticized by Principal for not having the Agenda displayed. I do not think the Agenda helps the students. It is written on chart paper and cannot be seen from the back of the room. If it did help them learn, I would have no problem using it.

I do use the Agenda for my own planning. I have organized Principal’s observations and my responses into the Agenda format. For each segment: Opening, Minilesson, Group Work, Close/Share; I have first written Principal’s version of events, then my version of events, then Principal’s recommendations, then my response to those recommendations. I repeat certain recommendations because Principal refers to more than one of the agenda’s segments.

OPENING 2:03 – 2:08 (5 MINUTES)


Principal had not arrived in the classroom.


Students from class 7D entered classroom 3xx. They sat down, took out their journals, and began to copy the Challenge and Vocabulary:
“How does the immune system protect us from germs”?
A Macrophages
A Antigens
A Helper T-cells
A Interferons
A Killer T-cells
A Antibodies

After a minute I asked the class: “How many of you have had a cold or the flu?” Quite a few raised their hands. “Without the immune system we wouldn’t be able to fight off germs. They would end up killing us.” I pointed at the list of words. “These are the heroes that save our lives every day. They are at work in your bodies right now fighting off germs that get in. Most of the time they fight off germs before we can even get sick. The first hero that we are going to read about is the macrophage.”

I asked a student to distribute a booklet about the immune system. I instructed students to read the first page of the booklet and ask a question whose answer was “Macrophage”.

The first page of the handout had the following picture and text taken from information/a2z/immune.jsp

“When a virus, or other invading body attacks a cell, the cell sends out a chemical as a warning signal. This alerts white blood cells called macrophages. When macrophages encounter the invader they encircle and digest it.”

Acceptable questions included: “What white blood cell encircles and digests invaders?” Or “What white blood cells are alerted when a virus attacks a cell?”

Students were very familiar with a technique that we call “Ask and Answer”. Students are given a text and told to ask questions that can be answered by reading the text. Sometimes I give the answer, and they must use the text to ask a question that has that answer—as they do on the quiz show Jeopardy. Students immediately recognized the technique without need for explanation and they began to use it to analyze the text.



I entered the room at 2:10 while the students were reading a five page hand out (attached). The following was written on the board:
A Macrophages
A Antigens
A Helper T-cells
A Interferons
A Killer T-cells
A Antibodies

You instructed the students to write a question for each word written on the board. You explained to the students that the words written on the board had to be the answer to the questions that they formulated and the “A” represented the word answer. You reminded the students that the information needed to formulate the questions was contained in the hand out, and that they should not wait for you to write the questions on the board.

At 2:15 you asked for volunteers to share their question for the first answer macrophages. You called on a student who shared the question, “What are white blood cells called?”
You responded, “Is that the only question that has the answer macrophage?” You then immediately informed the class that macro means big and micro means small. You said to the class, “Let’s get back to the questions. Not everyone has shared their questions. Who has another question? You then called on a volunteer that shared the question, “What white blood cells encounter or encircle the virus and digest it?” You then responded, “Can you write that down. You are using the reading.”

At approximately 2:20, you stated, “Big cells ingest or encircle, and little cells are called microorganisms like the ameba. The ameba opens itself up, encircles its food, and ingests it.” After the explanation, you drew a diagram of an ameba on the board ingesting food. You informed the students that the macrophage is like the ameba except that it ingest viruses not food.


Principal’s version of the interaction between my students and me is missing key elements. It only takes a minute to read her version out loud. She claims that it represents ten minutes of class time.

Principal entered the classroom at approximately 2:10. She asked me for my lesson plan. I took a moment to look for it on my cart and then gave her the lesson plan. For her benefit, and for the benefit of a few students who walked in late, I repeated the instructions that I had given the other students at the beginning of the class. All my students, even the late ones, knew that the “A” represented the word “Answer”, but I was sure that Ms. Principal did not. Much of the explanation she heard was made for her benefit.

Principal sat down in the back of the room and began reading the lesson plan. Then she read the handout. She also spent a few moments talking to someone on her walkie-talkie. She was therefore somewhat distracted during the minilesson.

I began the minilesson by asking for a question that had the word “Macrophage” as an answer. Many hands went up. I called on one student who answered correctly, “What are white blood cells called?” I praised his answer and asked if there was another question that could have the same answer. Hands went up again. I called on a student who asked if the word shouldn’t be microphage instead of macrophage. This question showed that the student was making a connection with prior knowledge. During the previous class we had studied microorganisms including the ameba and the paramecium. “I said to the student, “Good point”. I put the question back to the class. Does anyone know the difference between micro and macro? Someone answered that micro means small, but no one offered the meaning of the prefix macro. After waiting an appropriate amount of time, I saw that no one was sure of what macro meant, so I gave the answer:. “Micro means small and macro means big. Phage means eater, so what does macrophage mean?” Someone answered correctly “big eater.” I responded. That’s right, macrophage means “big eater”. One of the students made a reference to a Big Mac. I told the class that this was a good memory trick for remembering the term Macrophage: “Just call it Big Mac”. I then asked for other questions that might have the answer “Macrophage”. Several hands went up and a second question was correctly given. I reminded the students about the ameba and other microorganisms that we had already studied. I told the students that macrophages were large in comparison to the microorganisms that they engulfed, but that they were in fact microscopic themselves, like the ameba and the paramecium. I emphasized that macrophages are called big eaters, but unlike the ameba that they had studied the day before, macrophages aren’t really eating the germs for food. I then asked the class to write down both questions using the text as a reference.


PRINCIPAL’s Recommendation #2:

Students were asked multiple questions one right after another, and given answers to questions without given time to think as evidenced by, “What is the difference between micro and macro? Micro means small and macro means large.”…

Students need time to think. In the future allow wait time for all students to formulate their responses. Asking additional questions or answering the questions too quickly disrupts the students’ thought processes, and weakens students’ ability to give well thought out answers.

MS UNTAMED’S Response to Recommendation #2

Principal has continuously misquoted me. As can be seen from my version, students were not asked multiple questions one right after another, and I did not give answers without giving students time to think. There was a lively give and take of ideas. Students’thought processes were not disrupted. They made connections with past lessons and figured out the meaning of macrophage. They demonstrated skill at analyzing the text in order to ask questions that had the answer macrophage.

MS. PRINCIPAL’S Recommendation #3:

Most of the questions asked during the lesson were based on simple recall from text. This type of questioning is at the lowest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy.

Try asking/modeling questions that require students to use their higher order thinking skills. In the future ask questions that require students to explain, evaluate, analyze and synthesize. Asking higher order thinking questions of the students will serve as a model that they can easily formulate their own higher order thinking questions.

MS UNTAMED’S Response to Recommendation #3 :

I am concerned about the fact that Principal thinks that lower order thinking questions are always “bad”. Bloom’s Taxonomy is a hierarchy of skills. That means that the bottom, or lower level, supports the top or higher level. You have to start with lower order thinking—especially when the subject matter is new, or difficult. After creating a base of knowledge, higher order thinking can occur. Lower order questions are also appropriate if the readability of the text is close to the frustration level of the student, as it was in this case. Keeping questions simple, helps the student deconstruct difficult subject matter and difficult reading levels into manageable bites.

Although Bloom’s Taxonomy divides educational objectives into three “domains”, Principal only refers to the Cognitive Domain. I also try to incorporate the Affective and Psychomotor Domains in order to create a more holistic form of education.

The technique which I call “Ask and Answer” allows the children to formulate the questions. If they were formulating lower order thinking questions, then they were operating on the right level for them. They themselves were adjusting the level of questioning to their own needs. What is more, the students were asking questions that were a result of an analysis of the text. The questions themselves might have fallen into the category of lower order thinking, but the mental process involved in formulating those questions was not lower order thinking.

When a student asks the questions, he/she examines and breaks information into parts by identifying motives or causes. The student makes inferences and finds evidence to support generalizations. The student analyzes elements and relationships.

This exercise is especially appropriate for children who are learning English as a Second Language and for those who are have reading difficulties—like the students in 7D.

PRINCIPAL’s Recommendation 8

Try using real world experiences that the students related to. You could have asked, “How many had a cold last year?” Then you could have spoken about sneezing, coughing, and the spread of germs. You then could have introduced the immune system by talking about diseases that are familiar to them, i.e. chicken pox, measles, HIV/AIDS.

MS UNTAMED’s Response to Recommendation 8

During the opening I related the immune system to real world experiences. Ms. Principal was not yet in the room when I did this.

Principal has asked us to spend no more than 10 minutes on the minilesson. I would not have been teaching to my objective if I had gone off on a discussion of different illnesses. I would have had to introduce vocabulary that had nothing to do with the objective, making it necessary to continue the minilesson past Principal’s time limit.

GROUP WORK 2:21 – 2:45 Twenty-five minutes


The students were arranged in groups of three and four students. You asked the students to work with their partners to formulate questions for the other vocabulary words written on the board. You then wrote the page numbers on the board next to the words where the appropriate information could be found in the handout. You informed the students that they had twenty minutes to complete their questions, and that you would be walking around to assist them with their questions. You also informed the class that the second period (period 9) they would be drawing a cartoon that represented the vocabulary words.

You instructed the class to be thinking about their drawings. The next twenty minutes you walked around the room, assisting students with their questions.

You stopped at a group and asked them, “What are you supposed to be doing?” A student answered, “Reading.” You asked this student to read to you. After the student completed reading you then asked the student to go back to the word antigens, and asked, “Can you write a question?” The student did not respond. You said to the other students, “Let’s see if we can help him.” You asked the student, “What does debris mean?” The students began to discuss the definition of debris among themselves. You then asked the students, “What happens to antigens? What are particles or debris called?” The students began to discuss the answer to the last question posed. You then asked them to write a question for the answer antigen.


I introduced the group work segment of the lesson in approximately the way that Principal describes. However, our versions are different when she starts describing my interaction with the students. Principal misquotes me, and gives a very garbled, incomplete version of my interactions with the students. This could be because Principal was herself interacting with students. She came over to a group that I was helping and began to take on the role of teacher. Since she was helping them, I moved off to help others.

The second page of the handout had the following picture and text taken from information/a2z/immune.jsp

“Macrophages are also called antigen presenting cells (APC), because once some of the invading bugs have been destroyed by the initial immune response, particles of the debris, called antigens, are carried by the macrophages to another type of white blood cell called T-lymphocytes or T-cells.”

The students were now trying to formulate questions that had “antigens” and “T-cells” as the answers. I expected questions like:

What do macrophages carry to the T-cells?
A. antigens
What is another name for particles of debris?
A. antigens.
What do the invading bugs turn into after they are destroyed?
A. antigens.
What is another name for white blood cells called T-lymphocytes?
A. T-cells
Where do macrophages carry the antigens?
A. To the T-cells.

I also expected them to have difficulty with some of the vocabulary like initial, response, debris, lymphocytes.

In order to help students, I referred them to the picture and asked questions like:

“How did the artist draw the antigens? (as little blue triangles)
“Where else do you see blue triangles? (on the viruses)
“What is the name of the other cell that is connecting to macrophage and the antigen?
(Helper T-cell).

In order to help students, I also referred them to the text and modeled the “Ask and Answer” technique.

Q. What are macrophages also called?
A. Macrophages are also called antigen presenting cells.

Q. Where do the antigens come from?
A. They are particles of debris from the invading bugs that have been destroyed.

Q. What does debris mean?
A. Parts of destroyed virus.

Q. What happens once some of the invading bugs have been destroyed by the initial immune response?
A. Particles of the debris called antigens are carried by the macrophages to another type of white blood cell called T-cells.

Q. What does initial immune response mean?
A. The first immune cells to come on the scene—the macrophage.

The third page of the handout had the following picture and text taken from information/a2z/immune.jsp

“There are different types of T-cells. The ones involved in this process are called helper T-cells. The helper T-cells respond to the antigen by sending messengers called interferons to the body with the message ”SEND HELP!!!!. The body produces other white blood cells such as B-Lymphocytes, or B-cells, and killer T-cells.”

I expected students to ask questions such as:

Q. Which cells respond to the antigen by sending messengers called interferons?
A. Helper T-cells.

Q. What do we call the messengers that take the message “SEND HELP!!!
A. Interferons

Q. What does the body produce when it gets the message “SEND HELP”?
A. white blood cells called B-cells.

To help them, I called their attention to the drawing:

What is coming out of the Helper T-cell? (interferon)
How did the artist represent the B-cells? (A circle with little “Y’s” coming out)
What are those little “Y” shaped things called? (antibodies)
How are the Killer T-cells represented? (A blue circle inside a white circle)

I also helped them by modeling “Ask and Answer”. For example:

Q: What are the different kinds of T-cells?
A: Helper T-cells and Killer T-cells

Q: How do the helper T-cells respond to the antigen?
A: They send interferons with the message “SEND HELP”.

The fourth page of the handout read as follows:

“B-cells are tuned to specific invaders. When the invader is found in the body, the B-cell clones itself and produces millions of antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that lock onto the surface of the invading particle helping the body to kill it off.

Killer T-cells kill the body’s own cells that have been invaded, preventing the germ from reproducing and then infecting other cells.”

I expected students to ask questions similar to these:
Q: What cells are tuned to specific invaders?
A: B-cells
Q: What cells clone themselves and produce millions of antibodies?
A: B-cells
Q: What do we call proteins that lock onto the surface of the invading particle helping the body to kill it off?
A: Antibodies
Q: What T-cells kill the body’s own cells that have been invaded?
A: Killer T-cells

I helped my students by referring them to the picture:
Example: Q: What’s happening to the little “Y” shaped antibodies. (They are leaving the B-cell and attaching themselves to the virus.)

I also helped my students by referring them to the text.
Example: “How do the antibodies help to kill of the virus?”
We did not have time to get to page 5, so I had the students stop after page 4.


PRINCIPAL’s Recommendation #4.

Student participation was limited to a few.
Participation by the students was limited. All students did not write questions….

MS UNTAMED’s Response to Recommendation #4:

I disagree with Principal. Lack of participation was not limited to a few. Most students worked in pairs to ask questions and answer them. Some pairs chose to have one student write, while the other read. They also shared their questions with those who sat across from them. A few students, who must receive special services did not participate as much as the others did. Perhaps these students should be reevaluated and placed in a setting which can better meet their educational needs. I suggest that students who need special services be placed in classes that have class size limited to ten or less. Another alternative would be to “push in” a teacher trained in special education techniques.

PRINCIPAL’S Recommendation #7.

The students seemed unaware of the purpose of the lesson. The objectives of the lesson were stated but were not specifically taught.
…You state the objective, but the students did not understand how the immune system protected us from germs…. In the future, teach to the objective, and continue to ask yourself what do I want my students to learn in this lesson?

MS UNTAMED’S Response to Recommendation #7

Principal does not overtly state this, but her dissatisfaction with the objective lies in the fact that my objective was not stated in a very specific way. It must begin “Students will be able to……” It must state the exact behavioral change that is expected to take place during the learning period. It must state the exact technique that will be employed to bring about this behavioral change. If the objective is not stated in this way, Ms. Principal believes that the students are not able to focus or be active participants.

I believe that objectives stated in this way confuse the students with their wordiness. They don’t invite discovery or inquiry. A simply worded Challenge is much better than a complicated behavioral objective. It motivates without micromanaging the thinking processes of my students. Behavioral objectives are useful to teachers, and belong in a lesson plan, not on the board or on an “Agenda” to be copied by students into their science journals.

What did I want my students to learn in this lesson? I wanted them to learn the parts of the immune system, their functions, and how they interact. I clearly listed the parts right under the Challenge. The booklet illustrated and described the parts and the functions of
the immune system and described how they interact to protect us. I made the goals of the lesson very clear to my students and to myself, and I constantly taught to the objective.

PRINCIPAL’S Recommendation #8

The students did not clearly master the concepts presented. Several students needed more time for mastery…

The handout presented was a difficult read, and few students experienced success. Provide reading materials that are the appropriate reading level for your students. This means that you may have several different handouts. All handouts addressing the same concepts, but reading levels varying. This will help students to understand the concepts…

MS UNTAMED’S Response to Recommendation #8

At the time that I taught this class, there was no reading material in the school about the immune system that contained the vocabulary that I needed to teach my students. I researched on the internet and downloaded the material in the handout. I got it approved by my supervisor and copied. I agree that many students in this class were reading at their frustration level, but that is why I used the technique “Ask and Answer”. Students did not need to understand the whole text. They simply had to target the words around the vocabulary and create a question.

I agree, however, that it would have been much better to have several different handouts with different levels of readability. Will Principal be providing me with those reading materials in the future? Does Principal expect me to author reading materials with different readability levels for every single lesson?

I disagree that the students had little success. Most were in fact quite successful at formulating simple questions about the text.

PRICIPAL’S Recommendation #9

…the teacher did not require discovery on the part of the students according to the students abilities.

Students were required to read the handout of terms for understanding. The struggling readers had difficulty understanding the handout. When planning a lesson for students with different learning styles and reading abilities, it is imperative that we differentiate the lesson according to the students’ ability…and …the various needs of your students.

MS UNTAMED’S Response to Recommendation #9

I would like to know what Ms. Principal means by “discovery”. My students were reading in order to “discover” how the immune system fights off germs. The technique used was to deconstruct the text using “Ask and Answer”. I again agree that it would have been nice to have handouts with various reading levels addressing the various needs of my students. I assume that the Ms. Principal will be ordering those materials, because they did not exist in the school at the time I gave the lesson.

CLOSING/SHARE/MINILESSON 2:45-3:00 fifteen minutes


At 2:45 you asked everyone to stop, and ask their group members if everyone had formulated questions. The students spent approximately two minutes checking with each other. You then elicited from various volunteers the questions that they developed.

After eliciting several questions from the class, you then told the class that they will be drawing cartoons using macrophages, antigens, interferons, helper T-cells, killer T-cells, and antibodies as characters. You then modeled what the cartoon should include by drawing and explaining a cartoon on the chalkboard. Upon completing the drawing, you asked the students to work in groups to create a cartoon/drawing. You told them that each of them might want to work on various parts of the cartoon. You suggested the students work in pairs. One pair might develop the beginning while the other pair develops the ending. One student asked you if they could work alone, and you responded that you wanted the class to work in groups.


After giving my students time to compare their questions, I transitioned the class from small group instruction to whole group. The Closing and Share of the first lesson was in fact the Minilesson of the second lesson. The objective of the second lesson was to make sequential drawings of the immune response, based on the drawings and text of the handout. During the first lesson students had deconstructed the handout using “Ask and Answer”. During the second lesson students would reconstruct the concepts contained in the handout by drawing the steps of the immune response in sequence showing the functions and interactions of each part of the immune system.

I began to model the sequential drawing, by returning to page 1 of the handout. I asked the question, “What does a cell do when a virus attacks it?” Someone read from the handout, “When a virus, or other invading body attacks a cell, the cell sends out a chemical as a warning signal.” I drew on the chalkboard my representation of a cell being attacked by a virus and the cell sending out a signal saying “I’m being attacked.”

I then elicited questions from the students that could be answered by reading the text. Students shared their questions, answers, and suggestions. As they did so, I did my own poor attempts at cartoon drawing that brought laughter from the class. If the student’s question and answer took us out of sequence, I asked the student to “hold on to that Q&A, we’ll need it later”. If students had problems with vocabulary words or concepts, I gave a short explanation, and sometimes incorporated the word or concept into my drawing. I made five or six drawings in sequence showing Macrophages, Antigens, B-Cells, Helper T-cells, Interferons, Killer T-cells, and Antibodies. My drawing was directed by students’ questions, responses, and suggestions.

I then asked monitors to help me distribute 11” x 17” paper to be used by the students in creating their own sequential drawings. I told them that they could use the handout and my chalkboard drawings as models, but that I was sure that they could come up with even better drawings of their own. I reminded them to use labels naming each immune “superhero”. I encouraged them to add dialogue if they chose to do so.

Most students participated, although some did not.

Principal left the room during a significant portion of the closing/share/minilesson. She therefore missed most of the questions, answers, and explanations that accompanied this portion of the lesson. When she came back, Principal interacted more with the few students who did not participate than she did with the students who did participate. She took more notes about them; she asked them more questions. She hardly noticed the students who were doing a lot of work and she did not acknowledge their drawings.


Principal’s Recommendation # 1

Students did not have a clear visual model to follow as they attempted to draw their cartoons.

You drew your cartoon on the board as you explained each cell and component of the immune system. The drawing was not clear and several students had difficulty understanding your explanations and your drawing.

It is critical for students to follow along on an overhead or be given individual copies of a sequential cartoon with clear, concise explanations. It is difficult for struggling readers to complete a task, or comprehend content without the support of a clear, concise printed text for a model.

MS UNTAMED’S Response to Recommendation #1

I admit that I have no artistic ability at all. I find that this is actually an asset. When students try to get out of a drawing assignment by saying, “I can’t draw”, I always reply, “Neither can I. I am sure you’ll come up with something better than anything I could do.” However, my drawings were very, very simple and clear.

I do not believe that an overhead projector would have helped in this case. A projector is not always superior to the chalk board. I was modeling how to draw, and my own clear, but unartistic attempts were better than sliding a prepared drawing onto an overhead. The handout that I gave to the students was in fact a clear, concise printed text that my students also used as a model.

PRINCIPAL’S Recommendation 4.

Student participation was limited to a few.

All students did not….participate in the drawing/cartoon during the group or pair sessions.
Establish a strong foundation before requiring student participation through questioning, audio-visuals, and high involvement hand-on activities that sustain the students’ attention and incorporate different learning styles, and reading abilities.

MS UNTAMED’S Response to Recommendation # 4

Principal suggests that the lack of student participation that she saw was because I did not use questioning, audio-visuals, and hands-on activities. I have demonstrated that I did use questioning. I used the visual aid that I downloaded from the internet. Students drew the cartoons, which is hands-on. There is a NOVA video that has a short segment on the immune system which I did show them in a subsequent lesson. I think they got more out of the video because they had done reading and drawing before seeing it. We can’t do it all in one or two periods. Education is a process, not an event.

PRINCIPAL’S Recommendation 5.

The lesson lacked clear, concise, and detailed instructions for completing the task of developing a cartoon/drawing of the immune system.

It was evident that the students demonstrated a lack of understanding after being instructed on how to complete the task by their lack of participation. When expecting struggling students to demonstrate group/pair strategy, it is very important that the learners are very clear on the responsibilities of each group member. A detailed protocol and a recording system for putting information together, developing questions, and developing sequential cartoons/drawings is imperative. In the future, be very clear on the
roles of each group member. This will allow for full participation and accountability from everyone.

MS UNTAMED’S Response to Recommendation #5

If Principal had paid as much attention to the students who were successful as she did to the struggling students, she would have seen that many students were able to express their ideas in drawings without having to be micromanaged. The first lesson had a detailed protocol and a recording system. The drawing assignment was much more open-ended. Students were free to express themselves, and produced work that they were proud of.

PRINCIPAL’S Recommendation # 6:

The closing/share for each work period did not actively engage all students or effectively summarize major concepts.

Although all students were quiet, most of them were not engaged in the closing/share. To ensure overt active participation and effectively summarize the lesson, during the closing ask each, all, or everyone to write an evaluative, synthesis, or application question that they would like to ask the presenter. Monitor questions, and have students ask the key questions that address the major concepts. This will keep the students engaged as well as summarize the lesson posing questions that emphasize the major concepts.

MS UNTAMED’S Response to Recommendation #6

Principal was not in the room during most of the closing/share/ minilesson, so she can’t testify to the fact that most of the students were not actively engaged. According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, the first two levels of the Affective Domain are:

The lowest level; the student passively pays attention. Without this level no learning can occur.

The student actively participates in the learning process, not only attends to a stimulus, the student also reacts in some way.

Most of my students were either receiving or responding in some way. A few were at the third level:

The student attaches a value to an object, phenomenon, or piece of information.

GROUP WORK 3:00-3:25 twenty-five minutes


The students began drawing at 3 o’clock. You walked around the room assisting students as they drew their cartoons.


Ms. Principal’s version of the twenty-five minutes that students spent drawing about the immune response is very sparse. This was the part of the lesson when students could demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the immune system. As I walked around the classroom, I asked questions like: What part of the immune system does this represent? What is happening here? What is the difference between the Helper T-cell and the Killer T-cell? How are you showing the Interferon? How are you showing that the Macrophage displays the germs it engulfs? I was not only helping them, I was assessing their understanding and looking for misconceptions. I took this time to emphasize that these “superheroes” were busy at work inside their bodies at that very moment. Most of the students were very involved. Ms. Principal did not notice that often the students who were less enthusiastic about “Ask and Answer” were now the ones taking the lead in drawing the cartoons.


PRINCIPAL’S Recommendation 4.

Student participation was limited to a few.

All students did not….participate in the drawing/cartoon during the group or pair sessions.

MS UNTAMED’S Response to Recommendation # 4

Ms. Principal accepted and validated the excuses that a few students had for not doing the work. I have taught science for 24 years. I have heard all kinds excuses from students for not doing their work. To the excuses “I don’t understand” , “I don’t know what to do”, I usually reply by giving a very simple task that will get the student started and bring him/her immediate success. It is important to help students take responsibility for their education and not give them an excuse to sit passively and do nothing. It would have been simple enough to say “Draw a cell being attacked by a germ”. After they complete one drawing, and they have momentum, have them draw a “Big Mac” saving the day by engulfing the germ. The other immune functions were harder to understand and draw, but the students could have been lead step by step to success.

Sadly, this was the moment for those few students to shine. They were no longer dependent on reading and writing. The fact that they couldn’t even produce a drawing of
a cell being attacked by a germ with all their video game and cartoon experience, demonstrates that  Principal was enabling their passivity.

I acknowledge that these three or four students needed much more attention and encouragement than I was able to give them. I repeat my recommendation that they be placed in an educational setting that meets their needs.

PRINCIPAL’S Recommendation #7.

The students seemed unaware of the purpose of the lesson. The objectives of the lesson were stated but were not specifically taught.

You state the objective, but the students did not understand how the immune system protected us from germs. The students could not articulate why they were drawing a cartoon, or how it related to the immune system.

MS UNTAMED’S Response to Recommendation #7

As I walked around the classroom assessing my students I found many who could in fact articulate how the cartoon related to the immune system.

CLOSING/SHARE/HOMEWORK 3:25-3:35 ten minutes


At 3:25, you asked everyone to stop so that they could listen to and see what each group had done. You called on one group to share their work. A representative from the group began to explain the group’s cartoon/drawing. As the student explained the group’s cartoon/drawing, you then noticed that you had misinformed the students about the function of the Killer-T-cells. You asked for everyone’s attention and explained the correct function of the Killer T-cell, the group completed their presentation. You then asked the class if another group wanted to share. No one volunteered, and you verbally assigned homework. The homework assignment was write a story or paragraph about your group cartoon/drawing. After assigning the homework, you began to get the students ready for dismissal.


Principal has no alternative but to acknowledge that a group presentation took place in which the immune response to a viral infection was correctly explained by students using a drawing that they themselves had created. More than one group had such a drawing, but we were out of time. The next day there were other group presentations, but Ms. Principal was nowhere to be seen. How else could she claim that “very few participated” and “no one volunteered’.

We ran out of time at the end of the period for me to write the homework assignment on the board. I told the group to write a story or paragraph about their group cartoon/drawing.


PRINCIPAL’S Recommendation #6

The closing/share did not actively engage all students, or effectively summarize major concepts.

…ask each, all, or everyone to write an evaluative, synthesis, or application question that they would like to ask the presenter. Monitor the questions, and have students ask the key questions that address the major concepts.

MS UNTAMED’S Response to Recommendation #6

We did not have time to have a question and answer session at the end of the presentation. If I had made the students write evaluative, synthesis or application questions, we would not have had time for even one presentation. The students who did participate satisfied the requirements of the Share segment by helping to summarize the learning of the day.

PRINCIPAL’S Recommendation #10

Homework was dictated and not meaningful.

Homework should be meaningful and we should expect that all students complete assigned homework. Dictation of assignments fosters misinterpretation on the student’s part, and often leads to misunderstandings and failure to complete homework assignments. Many of the students did not record or write the assignment in their notebooks. I suggest that all homework is written at the beginning of the period, and students are instructed to copy the homework into their agenda books.

Homework should reinforce what was done during the day’s lesson, and be inclusive of all students. You did not model the story assignment, or give any criteria for the written story. In order for students to successfully meet our expectations, we tell and show them what is expected. Some of the students did not participate in the cartoon drawings. In the future, please assign a homework assignment that reinforces what was done during the day and one that all students are able to complete.

MS UNTAMED’S response to Recommendation #10

Homework was assigned verbally, but it was a homework assignment that I often give. It did not need to be modeled. I had previously demonstrated the technique of summarizing a lesson in paragraph form. Criteria had already been established. Students knew how to successfully meet expectations.

Moriah Untamed

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