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Cells can't be boring!!

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Brenda Guerra Brenda Guerra 1860 Points

Cells is a concept which is very hard to understand because it has many facts to learn. The most important thing is to start with an activity that will engage the students to the topic. In this case it will be a good idea to make a cell structure as a group. Cooperative learning and hands-on activities is very effective for students to understand the concept and apply it for later on activities. Cell is a complex topic but if we make it fun and interesting for the students eyes, they will put their effort to learn this topic. Of course that we need to maintain in consideration that we nee to assist the students if thy might have any misunderstanding during the process.

Linda Ngo Linda Ngo 2775 Points

I think it looks like fun to learn

Mirta Beiza Mirta Beiza 1240 Points

Yes! Cell might seem like a "borring" concept to your students when you are teaching it to them. Here is a video that might get your student to hook into it.

Roxana Rivas Roxana Rivas 1310 Points

I agree with you Cooperative learning and hands-on activities are the most effective ones when it comes to learning something, especially something complicated for students such as cells.

Robin Willig Robin Willig 5625 Points

Students love looking at their cheek cells under a microscope. It is so easy to scrape them off with a toothpick and put them on a slide. It is also easy to look at onion cells under a microscope with just a tiny piece of the onion skin. This allows students to see the difference between plant and animal cells.

Sue Garcia Sue Garcia 42675 Points

Brenda, A little used resource that has some great ideas to use for Cells is in the "Advanced Search" option that the Learning Center has. 1] Go to the Tab "Learning Resources & Opportunities" at the top of the screen. 2) Then select "Advanced Search" on the left hand side of the screen. 3) In "Keyword" type "Cells", scroll down to "NSTA Collections", then hit "Search". 4) Especially check out some of the National Defense Education Program resources (NDEP) - Scroll down...I really like "Printing New Skin". These NDEP resources are wonderful to start a unit with, different and unique.

Grettel Vazquez grettel vazquez 845 Points

Hi, my name is Grettel. I agree with you that cells is a very complex concept to teach. It is definitely something the students need to learn therefore we should make sure they have fun learning about cells through cooperative learning and hands-on activities. This is an interesting concept that maybe could be turn into an inquiry lesson for the students to discover each function of the cell elements.

Colette Fortilus Colette Fortilus 910 Points

Hi, my name is Colette and I am a student from FIU. This is a very interesting topic which I think students should learn step by step because of if complexity. I totally agree with you that cells is very hard to understand because it has many facts to learn. It is not an easy organ to understand. Students need to know their anatomy very well to understand that organ. I remembered being a student in the nursing program that topic was not easy for me. You are very correct about that for students to understand the concept they should learn it through cooperative learning and hands-on activities. In general, science should always be investigation.

Colette Fortilus Colette Fortilus 910 Points

Hi, my name is Colette and I am a student from FIU. This is a very interesting topic which I think students should learn step by step because of if complexity. I totally agree with you that cells is very hard to understand because it has many facts to learn. It is not an easy organ to understand. Students need to know their anatomy very well to understand that organ. I remembered being a student in the nursing program that topic was not easy for me. You are very correct about that for students to understand the concept they should learn it through cooperative learning and hands-on activities. In general, science should always be investigation.

Luz Alonzo Luz Alonzo 380 Points

Having the students Engage will be the most important part of the lesson. Cells is not an exciting topic to teach, but with great activities and a lot of hands on the topic will get the students engage at all times. I think science is a great subject because a lot of hands on activities can get any age group students interact with one another and be able to enjoy the lesson being taught. These type of practices in the field are very exciting to construct because the students will actually get to experiment and explore at all times. I will definitely will include a lot of Hands on and activities in my classroom with all subjects. I believe that it is the best way to learn and actually experience the related topics. Most of my learning that I still have in mind are the ones from when I actually had to do the activity and when we had to explore with manipulative. Also, all students do not learn the same way as you mentioned maintaining the considerations to assist the students that still have an unclear misunderstanding always assessing the students that are in a more need than others.

Lindsey Smith Lindsey Smith 990 Points

Hey! I completely agree with you that this is a difficult concept to teach for students. My coworker did a project where the students had to create a model of a cell using food. This allowed students to think outside the box on how they would go about creating a cell using a variety of food. At the end of this project, she found that students had a better understanding of the material than they had before th activity.

TraciAnn Harada TraciAnn Harada 1540 Points

I think building a hands on cell is a great idea. Another hook you could use is having the students look at their own cells under the microscope. They could also look at plant cells. Then they can make a list of similarities and differences. This would allow them to explore on their own (inquiry.. yay!).

Chelsea Hunt Chelsea Hunt 780 Points

I was just thinking about having my students do this the other day, as I was driving, that is when I do my best thinking! I believe that having them look at their own cells would really be the hook for them! It was for me when we did it, when I was in 5th grade!!

Joselyn Hermoso Joselyn Hermoso 785 Points

I agree with the the idea stated above like observing cells under the microscope. Then for extension part, students can built a cell model or cell analogy model.

Shannon Hudson Shannon Hudson 2555 Points

We also use the Cell City analogy. We have the students list places in the city that equate the parts of the cell. Then they draw and label their creation. is a great website to use when you teach cell! All my students seem to think that all animal cells are round and plant cells are rectangular. Great way to bust that misconception.

Alexis Temple Alexis Temple 485 Points

Hi Shannon! I love the idea of having the students create an analogy between cells and cities - that is so creative! I am a pre-service teacher right now and am always looking for fun and unique ideas to incorporate into my future classroom instruction. Also, I remember learning about cells in fifth grade - we made cakes and decorated them using different foods that we related to different parts of a cell. It was such a fun (and yummy) way to learn about plant and animal cells without simply reading them from a textbook.

Caitlin Stewart Caitlin Stewart 1595 Points

Currently I am putting together a unit in my master's program centered around cells and how they come together to produce a much larger organism. Thank you for the website as it has great information for teachers and students regarding cells as a living organism on its own.

TraciAnn Harada TraciAnn Harada 1540 Points

The website below also has a cool game the students could use to explore the cell

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I love teaching students about cells and having them learn using a hands-on experience. Creating a cell structure in groups would be a great idea to hook students. Looking at cells under a microscope is also a good idea that I would keep in mind.

Edith Copeland Edith Copeland 520 Points

I will be teaching SPED Bio 9th grade for the second year -- time to request resources: Would like recommendations on basic slides to have for exploring/understanding cells -(in addition to preparing slide of your own cheek cells,of course!) Also, any slides that can be used for exploring other other bio concepts.) Thanks in advance.

Christina Hernandez Christina Hernandez 1880 Points

I agree, cells are a hard topic to teach but hands on activities can help students understand this topic easily. Students can create a cell out of material and label the each part. Of course, we can allow for some type of creativity as long as the concepts are right.

Adilene Trevizo Adilene Trevizo 1465 Points

I have actually been able to teach cells before and I agree when you say it is a lot of information and hard to understand, even for me. The easiest way I found to teach it was to create laminated cells for a group of children and guiding and working with them as we label it together. Students are able to see the different parts in color, and they are able to repeat it's name and where it is. They will then be able to see the end result when we are all done labeling and discussing. Always remember to include questioning and allow for student discussion.

Catherine Spitzer Catherine Spitzer 2250 Points

A fun way to make a plant cell diagram that students will enjoy is to make the cell using a Pizza as the base. In the attached file there is a description on how to make a plant cell out of pizza.


Tina Mathews Tina Mathews 125 Points

I always start cells with my ELLs with this great song and we watch it several times throughout the unit, the kids love it and it helps with several vocabulary words which is always a huge struggle, I have 16 out of 24 who are ells if it doesn't come up it is the cells rap on youtube, it is catchy and again my fifth graders love it, it says sixth grade on the video but any students who are struggling could benefit greatly from it. Good luck!

Erin Jasso Erin Jasso 380 Points

This is so fun! I love using songs to get kids engaged in the lesson. This really does help with vocabulary. The majority of the class I'm in at the moment is ELL's and this would be a great way to get them understanding also.

Carmen Cruz Carmen Cruz 2125 Points

I teach it as well by having students swab their cheeks and having them compare to a plant cell under the microscope!

Fozia Baig fozia baig 810 Points

I myself hated learning about cells. So this will be a very hard lesson for me to make engaging and fun. These were great ideas and tips that I may look into while teaching this lesson. Thank you so much!

Emily Keeter Emily Keeter 2530 Points

Hi! Just back from #NSTA15 and I found the Cell Zone booth pretty cool. It had larger than life plastic models of a cell that you could adjust so that what you are seeing under the microscope is what your model on your lab bench looked like. Also, I love Amazing Cell menu at Learn.Genetics. Unfortunately there is a lot of flash so iPads are out. Their mini-labs and interactives rock.

Sarah Powell Sarah Powell 580 Points

Thanks everyone for all of the good links and resources. I teach non-majors so any thing I can do to make cells more interesting is helpful. I find the more I am engaged the more they will follow suit.

Krystal Clover Krystal Clover 455 Points

Cells are fun! but there is a lot to learn and so many structures. I was recently at a science conference where i learned about an awesome app that brings print to life on an ipad! The app is called colAR MIx and you can go to their website and print out various images, one of which is a cell. The students may color the paper, and when you use the app to look at the piece of paper they colored, it becomes 3D on the screen. its pretty awesome. A fun activity to look at cells.

Erika Jackson Erika Jackson 1690 Points

Cells is a more complex idea for students to grasp especially young minds who are still wrapping their mind around life science. Here's a useful website that I found that has engaging activities to help elementary students with the concept of cells

Shaterika Beasley Shaterika Beasley 1045 Points

Great ideas!

Hannah Chacon Hannah Chacon 495 Points

My fifth graders just did an experiment involving yeast, sugar, warm water, water bottles, and balloons. Essentially, the sugar and warm water allow the yeast to grow and release a gas which inflates the balloon on top of the water bottle. This began the conversation about cells and what is needed in order for cells to live. We will be moving into the different systems within the body this week. They loved the experiment and it brought about a great discussion!

Robert Harvey Robert Harvey 935 Points

Wow these are some great ideas!

Carly Deeter Carly Deeter 1620 Points

I think cells can be intimidating because there is so much to learn about them but they can't be boring. I like the idea of using a hands on activity to introduce the students to cells. They could make their own cells, each with the correct makeup, so they can visualize what cells look like. I think another cool option would be to look at slides under a microscope of other cells from plants and even the students cheek cells to compare what comprises each. Cells are a cool topic to introduce to the students because they make up every living thing!

George Mehler George Mehler 1575 Points

Hi Brenda, Cells are most certainly not boring! Here are some videos demonstrations you might find useful. These videos come from a YouTube channel I have been developing called FunScienceDemos. The demonstrations cover a variety of topics and all adhere to the common core standards. They can easily be incorporated into your lesson and will make learning science engaging for your students! Check it out and subscribe to our channel as we regularly release new videos. Cells Tissues and Organs Life is Made of Cells! Best, Dr. George Mehler Ed.D., Temple University

Dejuanica Henry Dejuanica Henry 1065 Points

This is a very dry topic to teach. Thank god for all of the helpful and great suggestions!

Sarah Embree Sarah Embree 1340 Points

This is an awesome collection that was shared with me by a colleague. There are some really great resources in this collection that would be great to use in the classroom and that are incredibly informative.

Gary Wright Gary Wright 40 Points

Hi Brenda, I recently covered the topic of cells in my AP and Honors/Standard class. I adapted an assignment that is readily available online called Organelle Wars. In general, students are assigned to a groups of 2-3 students and work together to "campaign" for an organelle that they choose or you assign to them. Their goals include creating campaign aids (poster, videos, PSAs), creating brochures, and smear campaigns against the other organelles. This is all done to answer one question, "what is the most important organelle?" Throughout the process students are allowed to use a school created twitter account to campaign for their organelle. In addition, students are required to attract as many "guests" to the campaign speeches and are free to hand out campaign tokens in order to increase votes; examples include stickers, cookies, etc. Students are very engaged and are very dedicated to winning the campaign. When working through this project with all of my classes I noticed the same amount of work dedication and quality in AP as I observed in my honors and standard classes. It's a great project and I believe can easily be adapted to fit the needs of your students. Here is a link for you to review if you are interested in revisiting this concept later or for future use. Good luck!

Laura Evans Laura Evans 340 Points

I really love the sound of this Organelle Wars activity. I may have to use this in my own class!

Channing McBride Channing McBride 340 Points

All of these are great ideas. I love the idea of them making a model of the cell. What would be a good way to introduce the cell to students for the first time? What is a quick and easy activity that can be used to get their attention before the lesson?

Nichelle Williams Nichelle Williams 2865 Points

Not sure if anyone mentioned this resource but, Amazing Cells on the Learn Genetics Utah website is an incredibly useful way to help reinforce student learning on cells.  It is also useful for Genetics topics.

Jaida Bennett Jaida Bennett 3730 Points

I, personally, like learning about cells. I think it's a really cool and interesting topic, especially if the lessons are hands-on and interactive. Once your students get into the lesson, they will be really into the topic.  

Alexsandra Batard Alexsandra Batard 965 Points

Great idea!! Run with this, and integrate various cell types in order to demonstrate their differences.  I think even dissecting some plant cells along with small animal cells, such as a worm, would be intriguing to students.  Kinesthetically,  they would be able to have the full learning hands-on experience; putting abstract thoughts and information into a concrete perspective.  I think the trick to making this experience meaningful to students is how "scientifically invigorating" you enrich the presentation of the information; in dressing up, word choice, props and visual tools, and involvement of all students.

Mary Bigelow Mary Bigelow 10275 Points

Check out the March issue of Science Scope--the issue has the theme 'Cells' If you teach high school or upper elementary, you'll still find some great ideas that can be adapted. The article 'Cell Models Student Can Really Get Into' goes beyond making replicas to creating models to explain and explore cell structure and diversity. Students then display their models to others in a classroom museum. Photos of models are included.
Mary B.

Keith Wilhelmi Keith Wilhelmi 60 Points

Two small additions to the reply from Robin Willig .... If microscopes are available, another fun specimen is the aquatic plant elodea (also called anacris (sp?)). In my experience, at least a few students per class will locate moving chloroplasts ('cytoplasmic streaming'), so it is fun to then have all others take a quick look. Of course, seeing things move is always exciting to students. (It's also easy to generate a quick, enthusiastic brainstorming of reasons for this movement).

Also, the underside of a tiny piece of a leaf of the common house plant called 'Wandering Jew' provides an easy, impressive view of guard cells - since the guard cells stand out as bright green 'mouths' amidst the more numerous purple epidermal cells. For this specimen, it is best not to make a wet mount. In fact, it's best not to even use a cover slip - but to mandate that students not switch to the high power objective. The cells are clearly seen under medium power.

[BTW -- I introduced this plant by pointing out that, similar to the Jewish people, this plant has shown itself to be amazingly resilient! A small cut piece of stem (with a few leaves) from this plant will survive for days on its own, and then sprout roots from the stem when placed in water (or in a bit of moist soil). My many Jewish students always seemed to appreciate this quick comparison!]

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