My unit lesson plan focused on the topic of DNA history, structure, and function, and RNA and

protein synthesis. The enduring understanding that I wanted students to realize was that DNA and RNA are
the blueprint for all of life’s activities and this provides instructions for our cells to function. Students should
also understand that all organisms use the same molecules, DNA and RNA, to provide information to cells.
Different instructions are given for different purposes, hence the diversity throughout the world. Based on
these realizations and understandings, I used backwards design to create my unit plan.
My assessment goals included the following: 1) students were assessed using activity sheets with
open-ended questions pertaining to the material covered, but also to my overall goals; 2) students were
given hands-on and minds-on activities that helped them to make the abstract idea of DNA, RNA, and
proteins more concrete; 3) students were able to relate activities and labs to things that may occur or affect
their everyday lives in order to give a deeper meaning to the material; and 4) a short quiz was given for the
understanding of DNA structure and function, the differentiation between DNA and RNA, and the overall
idea that nucleic acids are the building blocks of the material that gives instructions for the function and
differentiation of our cells. I did not include a unit test in my analysis because the cooperating teacher asked
that we add other information before we tested the students.
My cooperating teacher used the term “bell ringer” in place of engage for assignments done in the
first 5-10 minutes of class and I continued using this throughout my placement. These questions were used
to assess students on what they already knew and/or what they were thinking about a particular topic. From
the few weeks I had taught the students, I could tell that they were somewhat uncomfortable answering
questions about their own thoughts and some students had difficulty thinking outside the box. Most students
wanted to know what the “right” answer was instead of taking steps to figure
it out for themselves. This became very apparent when I analyzed students’
discussion questions as a formative assessment for the DNA extraction lab
on day 2 of my unit plan. In order to have more consistent data, I have chosen
3 students to discuss in this reflection.
In figure 1a, this lower achieving student did the minimum amount of
work and did not collaborate with other students to get her answers during
class. I was positive when giving feedback, but gave answers instead of
asking questions that could engage her to think more about the topic when
she received her paper back. In figure 1b, this
is work from an average achieving student and
she is not allowing herself to fully think
through her answers. She did, however, figure
out the answer to the last question is “yes”
Figure 1a: Lower achieving student work.
because she saw evidence that DNA is in food
when it was extracted from the banana. Figure
1c is work from the highest achieving student
(by average grade percentage) in my classes.
This student’s answers are somewhat abstract,
so this tells me that he is thinking about the
topic in a different way. In question 7, his
answer shows that he is seeing the evidence
Figure 1b: Average achieving student work.
for DNA in our food from the experiment.
Along with the other students in my classes, he is not verifying that he
realizes one of the essential understandings of this unit – all organisms are
made up of the same DNA molecules. After analyzing this data, both classes
discussed the importance of DNA for all organisms. With this guided
discussion, I feel that I was able to help most students realize the enduring
Figure 1c: High achieving student work.
understanding.
The DNA quiz was a summative assessment given as a semi-pop quiz (hints were given throughout
class) and graded for student understanding using a rubric. I had a difficult time deciding if I wanted to

enter the grades into the gradebook as a quiz grade or just a classwork grade because the range was so great.
Over all, students in my academic classes scored an average of 77% and the percentage range of correct
answers was 44-100. One class did much better than the other, which is usually the case for all assignments.
The students who did not do well left many of their answers blank, including question 6 that asked their
opinion of why DNA replication is important in organisms and question 7 that asked them to summarize
DNA replication in complete sentences. They still did not answer these questions after I told them several
times that they could get partial credit. All students answered questions 1, 2, and 5 correctly. These were
questions that had definite right and wrong answers. I made sure there was enough time left in the period
to glance over the quizzes and discuss the answers with the class. I wanted to be sure that students
understood DNA and the important role it has in protein synthesis before moving on. After seeing that many
students did well and had the basics, I knew that we could continue with the unit. In the end, I decided to
enter the grades as a quiz that was more weighted than classwork because most of my students did well and
most grades increased instead of decreasing.
The last elaborate activity had students building an actual human body cell using Lego blocks that
represented amino acids and various other representations of the rest of the process. Students had specific
jobs and these represented the different types of RNA. The activity sheet for this lab was formatively
assessed using a rubric. Students answered pre-lab questions before starting the lab so that I could make
sure they had the basic foundation of information to understand the process of
translation and protein synthesis. I informally assessed students at this point by
listening to their discussions with their group partners. When students needed
scaffolding, I did not directly answer questions, but asked more questions to
jog their memory and guide them to the correct answer.
The discussion questions for the Lego lab
were graded using a rubric. In hindsight, I feel
that I should have been more lenient on grading
these questions because I was not able to have a
whole class discussion with the students after the
lab was over due to the miscalculation on my
part of how long it would take students to
Figure 2a: Lower achieving student work.
complete the hands-on activities. In
figure 2a and 2b, it is clear that the low
achieving student did not answer any of
the discussion questions, even after I
handed her paper back asking
Figure 3a: Average achieving student work.
her to finish completing it
without further deduction of
points because of lateness. She
refused to answer the questions
Figure 2b: Lower achieving student work.
telling me that she did not
remember the lab and did not know the answers. Many of the
students were this way, handing in work over and over that was not
complete, and points were always deducted for unanswered
questions. Figure 3a and 3b show that this average achieving student
completed her work, except for the opinionated question at the end,
Figure 3b: Average achieving student work.
and had the answers correct. She collaborated with the other students in
her group and together they figured out the importance of this activity. She completed the body cell graph
and I was told this helped her to answer the discussion questions. Motivation and interest were huge factors
for this student to do well and understand this assignment. The high achieving student’s work is shown in
figure 4a and 4b on the next page. This student has clearly grasped the fact that different proteins code for
different functions in cells, but his answer to the last question tells me that he is lacking in motivation and
interest for the subject. Many students either did not answer this question or put similar answers that showed

disinterest. He, like almost all other students, was able to complete the graph for the activity and receive
full credit.
Unfortunately, the exit slips that I had planned on formatively assessing my students with did not get
done because we ran out of time each day. The exit slips would have been used to assess student
understanding by asking how much they felt like they understood the material presented so far in the unit.
I hope to be able to manage my time better in my own classroom and add these exit slips so that I can
prepare accordingly for future lessons.
It was very difficult to properly assess each student because so many students were used to not turning
their work in on time and still getting full credit for their efforts, or students did not complete all of their
work. I added completion criteria to each rubric because I feel that it is
Figure 4a: High achieving student work.
important for students in order to review and reconstruct their own thoughts
about a topic. This also opens doors for discussion and brings about
questions that other students may have, but are not asking for various
reasons.
Now that I have had time to reflect on my student assessments,
both the creation of the activity sheets and the grading, I have learned
a few things about my students and about my own teaching practices.
I feel that I may have put extra pressure on them to perform faster
than what is reasonable and my standards were too high when I took
Figure 4b: High achieving student
off points because the answers were not fully explained. I realize that
work.
I am much pickier about how students answer questions than
someone who teaches science by inquiry should be. One other thing I have learned is that I spend a lot of
time grading papers for correct answers when I have discussed the same answers with students before they
turn the assignment in, either in small groups or as a class. This has helped me to decide I will be grading
student work that was mainly or solely completed by them without much help from me. Not only this, but
some assignments will be kept at the end of class by the students instead of me taking up every activity
sheet I give them. In the future, I hope to support student learning by having high standards while keeping
in mind that each student is unique in their understanding and ideas. If I want to successfully teach using
inquiry methods, then I need to loosen some of the restrictions that I have put on my students by assessing
their understanding so specifically.

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