Types of Cells Part 1

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Students will be able to recognize the differences between bacterial, plant and animal cells.

Big Idea

Bacteria and plants and animals, Oh My!

Ready. Set. Engage

5 minutes

Students come in the room, get ready (get their stuff), get set (get settled in their seats), and engage in writing the learning goal and answering the essential question on the board.

Learning Goal: Discover the three main types of cells.

Opening Question: How do you think animal cells might be different from plant cells?  


5 minutes

This is an interesting video because it is a discussion between an actual teacher and an actual student.  It is not professionally made and so isn't as flashy as other videos, however it has an added charm and humor all its own!  I introduce it by telling the kids that it is a homemade video so they can understand why it might no be as flashy as other things we have done in class.  Then I tell them that they are going to see a plant and animal cell talking and should pay attention to what the cells say about the differences between them.  I let the kids know that when the video is over we will be listing some of the differences stated in the movie. 

At the end of the video we share out some of the differences we heard.  I also encourage students to ask questions about terms they might not have understood.  


10 minutes

The purpose of this section is to show some pictures of animal, plant, and bacterial cells and display thinking on observations that I see and what I think that means.  I do a focus lesson combined with some think-pair-share here to allow students to see my thinking and get the "right" answers, but also hear their own thinking.  I deliberately chose pictures from microscope slides rather than drawings so that students get used to seeing what cells actually look like.  

Bacteria Cells

I put up the picture and then point out the features I notice like:

- They have a common shape

-They are not connected.

-They are unicellular

Then I ask the students, "What do you notice?"  This is always eye opening to me because the students, freed from prior knowledge, often display interesting ideas, connections, or foundational misconceptions.  Their comments guide many of the noticings I make on the next slide.  Depending on how the students are doing at picking out important features, I might start to release this thinking to the students.  If it seems like they are picking up the important features without me, I let them do the thinking and summarize.  If it seems like they are picking out unimportant features like color or mentioning misconceptions, I keep displaying my thinking first.  

What I notice-

-The cells have a rectangular shape.

-They are all connected.  It is multicellular.

-They are green.

-I can see the nucleus

What do you notice?

What I notice-

-The cells have an irregular shape

-The cells are connected (Multicellular)

- I can see organelles in the cells

What do you notice?

Guided Practice

15 minutes

The purpose of this section is to help the students make a triple bubble comparing and contrasting bacteria, plant, and animal cells.  The triple bubble map is a type of thinking map that pushes students to find commonalities and differences between the types of cells.   It is the same type of thinking as a Venn without having to let students struggle with the size of their circles!  To make a double or triply bubble map you pick the terms you are going to compare and write them in little circles spaces apart from each other.  Then you find the concepts that these terms have in common and place them in the middle of the map, using lines to connect them to the original term.  Students will easily then be able to connect ideas to 1,2 or 3 of the terms.

 I find that having students put these types of notes in their lab notebook also gives them a place to store information for later use.  Not only does this help them with note taking but also adds an authenticity to work.  

A sample map might look like this;


Here is a video of a student from Venezuela describing his triple bubble map. 

Collaborative Practice

7 minutes

The purpose of this section is to give students a chance to process the information with others.  First, I ask students to share their maps and point out some of the ideas that they thought were important.  Then I ask the students to compare the video that we watched at the beginning with the triple bubble map that they made.  This is a very short section of class and primarily it just gives the kids time to make connections and verbally talk about the information. 

I have found that the students cannot usually have solid conversations about a list of topics, so I break them into separate conversation.  I ask the students to turn to their tables and share their maps and point out things they thought were important.  Giving students 1 min for these conversations is generally enough time.  I put a timer on the board and watch it while I'm listening to the sound of the conversations.  It's easy to hear the shift in conversation from content to social concerns!  

When the students are done with the first question, I ask the second question, which is to compare the maps to the video we watched.  This encourages the students to go backwards in time and remember the opening.  After another minute of discussion the students share out how the maps compare with the video.  

Independent Practice

7 minutes

The purpose of this section is help solidify the knowledge that kids have learned and processed on this day.  For this lab I am doing this using a Writing to Think.  This is a powerful tool that I use often for letting kids process.  Kids not only get a chance to practice writing but they also make new connections during the process.  My students use a Writing to Think Log that they keep in their in class folders.  We have an anchor chart in the room to help focus the work and then students write constantly for 3 min.  I tell students that if they get stuck during the writing to just write the word "cells" or "Bacteria" and that might get them started again.  

The writing to think logs are incredibly simply to make.  I take a piece of colored paper and staple it to 5-6 pieces of blank paper.  The colored paper helps it stand out in the student folder.  The students then decorate the front as they like. 

This is my first year of using Writing to Think notebooks, but so far I really enjoy the layer they have added to my classroom and they also serve as a great transition and management tool.  Whenever I need a few moments to set the next activity up or kids need a few moments to calm down and get some ideas out we get the Writing Notebooks out and have 3 min of silent work.  

Here is one student's writing to the prompt of today. 

After the writing I give the students a quiz using the SMART clickers.  I enjoy using the clickers because you can get instant feedback, but you could just as easily use a program like Poll Anywhere.  

Cell Model Assessment follow-up

2 minutes

I am giving my students a project to complete at home during this unit.  At the end of the unit we will display our projects in a cell museum.  You can find the rubric and assignment here.

I like to check in with the students just briefly during class to remind them about the assignment and see where they are in it.  

1) Students chose to do a model or a poster.  I give students the option of a poster to support my free and reduced lunch students.  They can still make a fabulous poster that looks the same or better than anybody else's with no financial outlay.  Models can be made out of any material.

2) Students fill in the structure/function/picture/thinking chart.  This is where students actually show understanding of the structure and function of cell organelles.  Advanced students are encouraged to use metaphors as opposed to make a pure model, as this allows them to display more thinking.  For example, one might say, I chose a whiffle ball for the nucleus because it has holes in it and could hold things inside.  

As the cell models come in, I display them like a museum.  Students are allowed to look at everyone elses and are encouraged to have discussions and give feedback using the rubric.  Depending on time, students can vote on their favorites.  


3 minutes

To close out class today, I ask the students to tell their partner the major differences between plant and animal cells.  I let students know that we will be looking at plant cells and animal cells the next day under the microscope to practice identifying them.