Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

This lesson plan, adaptable for grades 5-12, challenges students to use what they know and explore the immune system by playing a game in which they keep an infection from invading a body. The first mission challenges students to command a team of white blood cells to fight against bacteria invading the blood system. In the second mission, they lead an army of macrophages and dendritic cells to fight invading bacteria.


Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Discuss and review what they know and want to know about the immune system.
  2. Read about elements of the immune system and share findings with the class. Watch a movie about the immune system.
  3. Create a concept map identifying and showing the relationships between various elements of the immune system.
  4. Play the game Immune System Defender in which they fight off invading bacteria by commanding a team of specialized cells before infection sets in.



complement system, dendritic cells, granulocytes, lymphocytes, macrophages, phagocytes, B cells, T cells


This lesson features a game called  Immune System Defender by, that challenges players to use a range of immune cells to destroy bacteria that have gathered near a wound site.   Preview and play Immune System Defender to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. Review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations. Preview the BrainPOP movie Immune System to plan for any adaptations. Create a KWL chart on a whiteboard or on a large sheet of paper. Depending on your classroom routines and available technology, you may want to consider these grouping options:
  • 1:1 with students and devices
  • Two to three students sharing one device and swapping ideas and the device back and forth
  • Station model where small groups rotate through using the devices.
Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies: Immune System, Blood, Bacteria, and Boogers.  

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Display the KWL chart. Ask students why we get sick, and how our bodies fight illness. Jot their responses in the K column of the KWL chart. Be sure that by the end of this discussion students recognize that it is our immune system that defends our bodies.
  2. Explain to students that today they will watch a movie and play a game featuring the immune system. Ask them what they want to learn, and write their responses in the W column of the KWL chart.
  3. Divide the class into small groups or pairs. Distribute the article The Immune System--In More Detail to each student. Assign each pair or group a different topic featured in the article: complement system, phagocytes, lymphocytes, T cells, and B cells. All students should read the Introduction and Conclusion. After they review their sections, have each pair or small group present what they learned to the rest of the class. Have them add their findings to the L column of the KWL chart.
  4. After everyone has presented, have pairs or small groups return to their computers to watch the movie Immune System (or you can choose to watch the movies as a whole class). After they watch, have them open the Make-a-Map feature (available to My BrainPOP subscribers) from within the movie and create a concept map identifying different elements of the immune system and the relationships between those elements.  Remind them that they can use clips of the movie in their maps.
  5. Invite pairs or small groups to share their concept map with another pair or small group to ensure that they understand the concepts. If time allows, you can bring the class together again, to identify what they learned so far on the L column of the KWL chart.
  6. Now have students independently open the game Immune System Defender. Tell them they are soldiers in training for the Immune System Defense Forces, defending against bacterial infection, and that they have two missions. First, they are to command a team of white blood cells to fight against bacteria invading the blood system through a finger wound. In the second mission, they lead an army of macrophages and dendritic cells to fight the invading bacteria.
  7. To start playing, direct students to click “Mission Briefing” where they will be given their commands. Explain that in the first mission, they are to target the green bacteria by moving the yellow immune cells toward the green dots. To prevent the bacteria from spreading they should send the immune cells close to the the splinter as quickly as possible.
  8. Upon successfully completing the first mission, tell students they will answer a bonus question and then move on to the second mission. In the second mission, students will navigate within the blood vessel and control immune cells as before, quickly placing a few immune cells close to the splinter to prevent the bacteria from spreading into the blood vessel.
  9. Explain to students that when the macrophages and dendrites have engulfed enough bacteria they will begin flashing to signal that they are ready to alert the rest of the immune system. Students should send the flashing immune cells to the correct organ (the lymphatic system). When they successfully complete the second mission, students are to answer another bonus question.
  10. Conclude the lesson by asking students the Immune System Defender Essential Questions. Add their responses to the L column of the KWL chart. Finally, invite students to reflect on their Make-a-Maps, adding to or editing them based what they learned from playing the game.  

Extension Activities:

Distribute the article The Immune System Pioneers, and invite pairs to research one of the featured pioneers in the article. Or, students may select a different immune system pioneer to research. Have pairs present their research to the class.