Using Analogies to Study the Organelles of the Cell (Day 2 of 2)

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Students will be able to understand and connect the roles of each organelle within a cell.

Big Idea

Students will be able to understand and connect the roles of each organelle within a cell. Big Idea Use student created analogies to deepen their understanding of the organelles in a cell!

Notes for the Teacher

This two day lesson series gives students the opportunity to create their own analogies to help them understand and recall the names and functions of the main organelles in the cell.  

During Day 1, students brainstorm potential ideas for their analogy writing and visual project.

Standards: W.9-10.9SL.9-10.1SL.9-10.5RST.9-10.2RST.9-10.4HS-LS1-2SP2SP8XC-SF-HS-2

On Day 2 students share their collaborative work with their classmates for further review and deeper understanding of the organelles and how they work together.

Standards: W.9-10.9SL.9-10.1SL.9-10.1aSL.9-10.4SL.9-10.5RST.9-10.2RST.9-10.4HS-LS1-2SP2SP8XC-SF-HS-2

Students come into biology having first been exposed to cell structure in function in junior high school.  However, the level of understanding and recall varies greatly from student to student and between their previous school sites.  This activity is one that can be scaffolded up or down to meet students where they are and progress them forward in their overall understanding.  All students benefit from the collaborative experience and appreciate getting to choose a partner and a topic unique and interesting to them personally; they enjoy working together with teacher support within the classroom setting and are proud to share their work with their classmates.  Finally, allowing the students to reflect upon their challenges and growth in problem solving though our whole class discussion on Day 2 gives students the opportunity to think about their metacognition and recognize their strengths as a learner.

Our school is currently implementing the CCSS and are beginning to transition to the NGSS.  These new standards emphasize collaborative settings, content area reading and writing, and opportunities to translate information from words to numbers to graphics.  This project is something I will continue to tweak to enhance all three areas already present so that I can better support my students.  I look forward to hear how you have shaped this activity to fit the needs of your students!

The Classroom Flow: Presenting Student Collaborative Work

40 minutes

1.  Remind students that they will be presenting their analogy work today.  Give them five minutes with their partner to review their roles in their presentation along with our public speaking rubric that is on the board:

Volume (speak clearly/loudly)

Enunciation (slow down)

Eye contact 


2. Allow each pair of students a maximum of 2 minutes to present their work.  Be sure to have the audience clap/snap their appreciation after each short presentation.  Each student group should address the following prompts posted on the board:

What is the name of your analogy and how did you and your partner decide to work with that specific topic?

What were the hardest organelles to find an analogy for?  How did you figure out what the best choice would be?

What is the part of your project that you are most proud of? Why?


  • The goal here is for students to see the diverse ways students represented cell organelles and their function and to begin to make comparisons between their own work and that of other teams.  We will be revisiting their analogies in later lessons; today is about an initial exposure to the creativity within the room and an opportunity for student groups to gain practice in order to enhance their presentation skills in a supportive environment.
  • You will find a a large range of creative projects from your student groups!  My students created many interesting analogies for a cell including:  

the Hunger Games arena,

a Midevial castle,

a classroom,

a car,

an MP3 player,


Alcatraz island,

a classroom created from a rug made on a loom, a movie theater, a human body, a model car, a plane, a concert venue, the White House, Hogwarts, Candyland, Santa's workshop, a restaurant, you name it!  Kids love admiring each other's work and approaches to the activity, both 3D and handdrawn.  

3.  Please see the activity guidelines and rubric for consideration while viewing the written student work sample comparing a cell to a hospital.  These two students kept their rationales for each organelle comparison short, but the basic understanding is still evident.    

Closure: Anatomy of the Cell

10 minutes

1. After all student groups have briefly presented their cell analogy visual representation and discussed some of their major organelles, ask each lab group to discuss the following prompts:

Which organelles were the most challenging to fit into your analogy and why?

Which organelles seem to be the most closely linked to one another in the cell?

2.  Use the spokesperson protocol to share out class responses and add to and address any major comments or concerns that you hear about the functions of organelles within the cell.

  • Note:  I know this step can be easy to skip in the interest of time.  But I have found that students appreciate being able to share out their challenges with each other and find that others had similar hiccups in their project evolution.  This lowers stress for my younger students especially and it gives students a chance to find some allies in the class that they might not have known could be a good fit for them otherwise.  I also find that discussing the learning process as well as the product for each big activity we do emphasizes to students in a quiet way that we are interested in their personal learning experiences, both the highs and the lows, and that we place a high value on and trust in their capabilities to solve their problems on their own or with support.  And as we all know, the more our students feel that we believe in them, the more they begin to believe in themselves.