Egg cell who?
Egg-Cell-ent ideas for teaching cells!
If you’re looking for some ideas to “cell” kids on your cells unit, these tips might be just what “eu” need… 🙂
Graphic Organizers and Analogies: As students learn the names of all the crazy organelles found inside of bacteria, plant, and animal cells, the key to helping them remember the parts and functions is to use a cell organelle graphic organizer. We like to give student a template for detailing what kind of cell has these organelles, their locations, brief description of their appearance, and their function. In order to further help students retain the information we create a picture or drawing that incorporates all of the info they wrote about that organelle. For example, based on the description of the cell membrane and its ability to determine what goes into and out of the cell, we draw a body guard or a doorman. This visual analogy makes it easy to remember all the details about the cell’s membrane. We also like to get the students thinking more critically, so we add on to this activity by asking them to think about what would happen to the cell if a specific organelle went missing!
Cut and Paste Activities: These are kind of like a card sort but obviously more permanent. Create small cards that students will glue into a template in a particular order to show their understanding of things like the levels of organization, matching vocabulary terms to their definitions and examples, identifying parts of a chemical equation like photosynthesis or respiration, etc. They’re short, sweet, and once they’re done the cut and paste act like a set of notes for them to study. We create a variety of Cells INB Activities for our students to show their understanding of organelles and processes.
Color it: Students learn best with hands-on activities and we often overlook the benefits of coloring. It is not a time waster, in fact it’s quite the opposite. Provide students with a coloring sheet to identify organelles in plant, animal, and bacteria cells and the coloring will give them an opportunity to think about the structure and how it relates to the function of the cell. Colors can also help us better remember details too. Create an enlarged version of the cells you provide your students and hang them up in your room or better yet, make them a part of your word wall!
Model It: Once students have a general understanding of cell functions and processes, have them create a model. One of the most popular models you’ll find when checking out Pinterest are made of edible materials – a cell cookie or cake. We’ve also seen cell pizzas, styrofoam models, shrinky dink versions, and more. The key is to not just request students make a model, but they thoughtfully match the material they are using to represent each organelle, they identify each organelle, write about their functions and locations, and describe the processes that occur with the help of those cell parts.
Get Up Close and Personal: How small are cells? How complex or simple are they? Students won’t know until they see the real deal. Whether you’re using microscopes for the first time by completing a newspaper “e” lab or you’ve got digital microscopes to show images to the class using your projector, students benefit greatly with the hands-on approach to understanding the smallest unit of life. Here are a few tips to get you movin’ and groovin’ with the littlest working units of our being:
- familiarize students with microscope use well before setting them loose on a cells lab. This will ensure they are correctly using the equipment and can find their specimens quickly and easily. We have a FREE Microscope Usage packet in our store!
- prepare slides in advance using taped down and dyed cheek cells, onion cells, or newspaper letter “e”s.
- review commonalities and differences of eukaryotic cells with a microscopic comparison of plant and animal cells.
- get a good look at prepared slides of an onion root tip to show the stages of mitosis in action.
- don’t have enough microscopes to go around? We like to use cell images we’ve photographed with our digital microscopes and project them to the front of the room for a whole-class lab.
Interactive Websites: A quick google search will get you on the right track to finding some great websites about cells. The more interactive the better! Assign a website that contains identification of organelles activities, videos to watch, interactive labs, etc, for homework , use in stations, or use as a class activity and students can come up to the whiteboard to show their understanding. If you’re looking for a set of sites to use, please check out our FREE WEBSITE COMPILATION PACKET which has several organized pages of websites that are perfect for cell studies.
Act it out: Processes like photosynthesis, protein synthesis, osmosis, diffusion, and cellular respiration are extremely difficult concepts to understand, let alone explain, especially when even our best technology can seldom capture these events in real-life. Take these concepts and turn them into mini-plays in your classroom. Go over the concepts beforehand, assign your students to an organelle or chemical, and then have get up and get moving as they perform the roles of those minute cellular parts. Perform endo- or exocytosis by having students line up around the room and form bubbles around each of the large particles (other students) entering or exiting the cell. Play protein synthesis musical chairs as students take their spot in the ribosome and string together a long strand of protein using paper and tape. The possibilities are endless!
Write about it: Bring literacy into your science lessons by having students write about cells. Students can research a recent discovery or a controversy about cell research (such as the one surrounding stem cell research) and write a brief summary about what they have learned. Turn that into an opinion piece and have students write a letter to the President explaining how they feel about the recent event and what they would like to see changed or continued regarding the future. For a light-hearted activity, we like to have students write a love letter or poem in the form of a Valentine to their favorite organelle, but you could do this at any time of year for enrichment or review.
Compare and Contrast: Have students create a variety of ways to compare and contrast cells, their functions, organelles, etc. Venn diagrams can be used to compare and contrast mitochondria with chloroplasts, mitosis and meiosis, endocytosis to exocytosis, photosynthesis vs. respiration, and more! We have a FREE Fortune Teller/Cootie Catcher that is perfect for comparing and contrasting Prokaryotes and Eukaryotes.
Real World Inquiry Labs: Try a simple lab in which students will get a deep understanding of the gases involved in cellular respiration and photosynthesis. Using Bromothyml blue solution in water, students will note the color of the btb and after blowing through a straw into the solution, they will see a color change. What must have caused the change? Was it a gas? The movement of the water? Heat from your breath? Then allow students to take their “breathed-in” solution and place a an aquatic plant like elodea in it. Under a heat lamp they may be able to see the transformation of the solution back to its original color. Now THAT’S real world science!
We hope we’ve given you some ex-CELL-ent ideas for teaching cells. Have any you like to do in your class? Please share in the comments below!
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