Cell Stations

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Students will review the nature of the relationships between structures and functions in living cells and review the role of cell organelles for both prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Students will also learn how to correctly use a microscope to view cells.

Big Idea

Students benefit from opportunities to remediate content in class.


8 minutes

As students enter the classroom, place a sticker(or small post-it) with an organelle label on each student’s back.  As you greet students, tell them to take their seats and read the instructions for the What Organelle Am I? Review Game, that are posted on the LCD projector.  The game rules are as follows:

  1. Students cannot look at their own sticker, or can they tell other students what organelle is listed on their backs.
  2. Students can select a partner with whom to play the game. Each person can only pose questions that can be answered, “Yes” or “No” in an effort to identify the organelle that is on their own back.   
  3. Students can ask any “yes” or “no” question except, “Am I a ____(fill in the organelle name)?”
  4. Students will take turns asking questions until both of them successfully identify the organelle on each of their backs.

Allow students to play the game for 5-7 minutes.  Walk around the room to listen for the quality of the questions asked in the small groups.  Encourage students to start with questions related to the class of cells in which the organelle is found.  For example, “Am I found in prokaryotes?” or “ Do I play a role in cell division?”

As both students in the group successfully identify the names of the organelles on both their backs, give them each a piece of candy as a reward for their effort.

What am I? is a great way to engage students in the learning process right from the start of class.  I find that students really enjoy the competitive aspects of the game and individuals and groups vie for bragging rights of having correctly identified what organelle is on their back.

Introduce New Material

10 minutes

Remind students that we viewed cells using a computer simulation in the previous lesson, Cell Parts.   Ask students “If I wanted to see a cell today, how would I go about doing that?”  Look for students to identify that a microscope is needed to view most cells. Once it is established in the group that a microscope is needed to view most cells, proceed to show and teach How to Use A Microscope to the class.

Introduce two new terms, resolution and magnification.  Apply the use of both terms in an example.  For example, tell them that making an image bigger is a function of magnification.  But explain that making an image clearer is a function of resolution.

Show the parts of the microscope and name each piece.  Also tell students the function of each part.

Guided Practice

10 minutes

Explain the Cell Stations activity. Review each of the four parts of the performance task with the class:

Station 1: Cells Magic Squares

Station 2: KIM chart Vocabulary strategy

Station 3: Writing Prompt

Station 4: Using the microscope

Use both verbal and written instructions that you project on the LCD projector to ensure that you provide explicit and easily understood instructions for the different learner styles.

Independent Practice

25 minutes

Distribute the group assignments for the Cells Station performance task.  

Note: I use ability based groups for this assignment because I can differentiate the activities for each group, if needed.  Using the student notes from the 3-2-1 close from the previous lesson, Cell Parts allows me to first identify which students have grasped the learning and which students appear to need more remediation of the concepts.   

This fprmat allows me to group a “stronger” student with a student who has more gaps in the content knowledge.  I then am able to  guide students to the activities where they will gain the most value, in terms of increasing understanding.  If there are groups who have shown mastery of the concept, I can release them to spend more time with the microscope activity than others who really need more time to learn cell parts in class.

Explain that each group must have an assigned “scribe”, the person who writes the responses for the group.

Tell students that you are not the primary resource for students on this assignment.  Students should consider each other as first line resources as they work collaboratively to complete the tasks.  Instruct students to use their notes and the group’s collective input to complete each task. Or, they can choose to self-select which task to complete based on where they need remediation.

The stations format is effective because it allows students to engage in a set of activities that aid their review and preparation for a summative assessment.

The student work sample evidences mastery of concepts related to cell structure and function. The magic squares activity shows correct identification of each of the organelles, the KIM chart shows an understanding of academic vocabulary, the constructed response indicates the differences and similarities between bacteria and animal cells, and lastly the using the microscope activity indicates the students wre able to differentiate a eukaryotic cell from a prokaryotic cell and explain how magnification is different from resolution.




5 minutes

Use a brief “ Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down” to quickly assess how helpful students feel the Cells Station activity was helping them remediate the content in preparation for a summative assessment.