Derek & the Detritivores

In our TeachFX workshops, we guide teachers through rewriting questions from their lessons to be more open-ended. A couple of my favorite examples of this come from an 8th grade science class taught by Derek Payne of Caliber Beta Academy in Richmond, CA. Derek’s class was about detritivores. What the heck’s a detritivore??, you may be thinking. (That’s what I thought, at least…) As I learned from Derek sharing his class with us, a detritivore is a creature that feeds on dead organic material.

So, here are a couple moments where Derek thought, “Wow, that’s a lot of teacher talk” — he was using his TeachFX class report to identify missed opportunities to promote more student engagement.

As you read the transcript and look at the student/teacher talk breakdown below, ask yourself, “What could Derek have done differently to encourage more student engagement and less teacher talk?” If you want, you can even write me with your answers!! (Derek’s own answers are the bottom of this post.)


TeachFX Moment #1



TeachFX Moment #2


*Names are changed to preserve the anonymity of the students.



Bonus Question

Okay, this is a little silly, but doesn’t “Derek & the Detritivores” sound like the name of a ’90s grunge band? So I thought we should all vote on our favorite fake album cover for the imaginary band, Derek & the Detritivores :




Let me know which you like best — “Can of Worms,” “Pie in the Sky,” or “This Mortal Coil.” This is important stuff!


Answers, from Derek

Moment #1: “I actually asked a pretty good question when I said, ‘So would that be the case?’ I just didn’t let Jeymani answer! Instead, I answered the question myself. I could have even asked other students if they agreed or disagreed with Jeymani that humans are detritivores, and why. It could have been a class debate, and a great way to teach the concept.”

Moment #2: “This one’s easy: I should have asked the class, ‘What would the world be like without detritivores?’ My whole lesson could’ve been structured around this question.”

Bonus Question: “I gotta go with ‘This Mortal Coil.’ Look at those gonopods!”

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