Paper Plate Cells

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SWBAT describe the function of cells in the body. SWBAT list and describe organelles in the animal cell.

Big Idea

Humans are made of cells. Cells contain organelles which serve specific functions in the cell.


10 minutes

I begin this lesson on cells by showing students a brief video about cells. I then discuss how all living things are made of cells that work together to do jobs in the body. I show students some Lego building blocks and inform students that Legos are like cells. The cells (legos) connect together to create things that one cell (Lego) cannot make on its own. I tell students that just like many Legos can be connected together to make a pirate ship, house, or car, cells work together to make tissues and organs that do special jobs in the human body.

Guided Practice

20 minutes

I then discuss that all cells have parts called organelles and that each organelle does a specific job within a cell. I give students the organelle chart and we work together to complete it. I list the function / role of each organelle and guide students to draw a picture of each organelle. A sample of a student's completed chart can be found here.

If the lesson is running long, or if students have reached a saturation point where they cannot take in any new information, this is a good stopping point. The independent practice section of this lesson can be done on the next day to encourage students to use the information they learned in the first two lesson sections to make a product.

Independent Practice

25 minutes

After students have completed their organelle chart, I provide them with time to make a cell model. I use paper plates for the student cell models as they are inexpensive, easy-to-find, and provide a good template for the cell model. The paper plate has a scalloped edge which can be made to represent the phosholipid bilayer of the cell membrane. As students create a drawing of each organelle on their model, I ask them to record the color they used to draw the organelle on their organelle chart. This reinforces the connection between the diagram / model and the new vocabulary introduced on the chart. Here is an example of a paper plate cell student sample. A video of a student explaining his model can be found here