Lesson Plan


In this lesson, students will explore the structures and functions of cell organelles and identify key parts and functions that make cells the basic building blocks of all living things. Students will:

  1. identify differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells.
  2. compare cellular organelles and their functions.
  3. analyze the structures and functions of cell components.

Essential Questions


  1. Organelle: A specialized part of a cell with a specific function.
  2. Prokaryote: Unicellular organisms with few internal structures and no true nuclei.
  3. Eukaryote: Mostly multicellular organisms with several internal structures and true nuclei.
  4. Cell Membrane: The outer covering of a cell that controls what enters and leaves the cell. Also called “plasma membrane.”
  5. Cell Wall: Organelle, commonly found in plants, that surrounds the cell membrane and provides structure to the cell.
  6. Chloroplast: Organelle in plants and some algae that uses energy from sunlight to create energy.
  7. Nucleus: Organelle that controls all cell activity and contains DNA.
  8. Endoplasmic Reticulum: Organelle that makes lipids (fats), breaks down drugs and harmful substances, and packages proteins for the Golgi apparatus.
  9. Ribosome: Organelle that is responsible for building proteins.
  10. Golgi Apparatus: Organelle that makes and transports proteins and other materials out of the cell.
  11. Lysosome: Organelle that digests food particles, waste, cell parts, and foreign invaders.
  12. Mitochondria: Organelle that breaks down food molecules to make energy.
  13. Cytoplasm: Fluid portion of the cell that contains all the organelles and provides the space for cell functions to occur. Also called “cytosol.”
  14. Vacuole: Organelle that stores water and other materials.
  15. Flagellum: (plural flagella) Long whip-like structure used in protist movement.
  16. Cilia: Tiny hair-like structures that wave in unison for protist movement.
  17. Specialized: Suited to perform a specific function.


90 minutes/2 class periods

Prerequisite Skills

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Formative Assessment

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    • Identification of structures and functions of cell organelles will be assessed generally through class discussions and formally through a review of worksheets and K-W-L charts.

    • Collect Venn diagrams and the Cell Factory Worksheet for individual assessment.

    • Collect and check the Cell Concepts worksheet in order to assess whether students understand the concepts from Lessons 1 and 2.

Suggested Instructional Supports

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    Active Engagement, Modeling, Explicit Instruction

    The lesson focuses on exploring the components of prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells, both plant and animal. Students will be lead through an in-depth discussion of cell organelles, participate in an activity to identify differences among cells, and analyze characteristics of plant and animal cells using a Venn diagram.


    The lesson incorporates an activity to provide an opportunity to identify differences between two “unknown” cells. Student curiosity will create an interest in identifying structures, functions, and similarities and differences present in common cells.


    The lesson’s group discussions, activities, and assignments will allow students to experience the characteristics of cell types and cell organelles. The lesson will emphasize the role cell structures serve in the whole organism.


    The Cell and Cell Factory Worksheet will give students the opportunity to revisit the principles of shared characteristics and necessities of life. Students will fill out a K-W-L chart, which focuses on revising their initial predictions as well as on the vocabulary terms, and they will create a Venn diagram.


    Students will express what they have learned through completion of their K-W-L charts, as well as through their follow-up questions during class discussions. The Cell and Factory Worksheet and Venn diagrams require students to rethink and incorporate the lesson into their responses.


    The lesson can be modified by modeling completion of the K-W-L chart and adapting the Cell and Factory activity.


    The order of the lesson promotes understanding of how cells are systems. It begins with a comparison of plant and animal cell structures, and then students compare cell organelle functions to parts of a factory. Students answer follow-up questions to review the lesson concepts.

Instructional Procedures

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    Day 1

    Start the lesson by briefly reviewing where the previous lesson left off: “Yesterday we learned that cells are the basic building blocks of all living organisms. Today we are going to learn about how cell parts perform all the functions of living things. They work together with other similar cells to help us move, eat, think, and so on.”

    Display the Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells Poster for the class to see (S-6-4-2_Prokaryotic and Eukaryotic Cells Poster.doc). Make copies for each student if an overhead projector is unobtainable.

    What are the differences between the two cells?” Give students a moment to examine the poster and come up with the answers. Possible answers may include:

    1. Presence of flagella
    2. Number of parts/components
    3. Complexity
    4. Presence of a nucleus

    Explain that the number of internal structures and the nucleus being essential differences between the two types of cells. “The two cells represent prokaryotic and eukaryotic organisms. Can anyone tell me why having a nucleus is important?” Students may be unfamiliar with the terms but give them some time to brainstorm. Review their comments as a class before moving on to note-taking.

    Tell students, “Most organisms are prokaryotes and they have just one cell. They are able to carry out all life functions even though they only have one cell. How do you think they survive? (Hint: Look at the cell parts).” Answers will vary, but should relate prokaryote cell parts with life functions.

    A nucleus is the control center or “brain” of each cell. It allows a cell to perform more functions, and organisms that have these types of cells are able to do more things. We have a nucleus in each of our cells, so we have eukaryotic cells in our bodies. Now we are going to learn more about each type of cell and what parts make them work.”

    Topic: Comparing Cells

    Background Knowledge

    Essential Questions


    What I Know

    What I Want to Know

    What I Learned

    Cells are the basic building blocks of all living things.

    1. What do all cells have in common?


    The nucleus is the control center of the cell and is responsible for more complexity in organisms

    2. What is an organelle?


    3. What are the differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells?


    4. What organelles are found in cells?


    5. What are the differences between plant and animal cells?



    Instruct students to take out their science journals and set up a K-W-L chart with the following information in it.


    Give students time to create their K-W-L charts and fill in the information above. Next, have students pair up with one other student to brainstorm answers to questions 1 through 4 in the W section of their K-W-L charts. When finished, collect responses from pairs to see which group had the most number of cell similarities correct. Assign appropriate rewards reflective of classroom procedures. Provide students with clues to obtain the remaining similarities by asking them the following, leading questions:

    1. Can anything enter or leave a cell?”
    2. How does a cell keep what it wants and get rid of what it doesn’t?”
    3. When more cells are made, how do cells know what job or function to perform?”
    4. What gives cells their shape?”

    Give students a few minutes to discuss their answers in pairs and modify their similarities reflectively. Collect students’ responses again, but lead students toward all similarities through Socratic dialogue/leading questions, for example: “All cells have specific functions. DNA is responsible for a cell’s characteristics like shape, size, color, and function. If all cells perform specific functions, do they all have DNA?”

    Once all responses have been given or students have exhausted their attempt to answer questions 1-4, review the answers and have students correct any mistakes.


    Background Knowledge

    Essential Questions


    Cells are the basic building blocks of all living things.

    1. What do all cells have in common?

    1. Cell membrane: Acts as a barrier to control the passage of material in and out of the cell.

    2. Heredity material: Old cells pass on a copy of DNA to new cells.

    3. Cytoplasm: the fluid inside the cell that gives it its shape. Most life processes happen here.

    4. Organelles: Special structures inside the cell with special functions.

    5. Can carry out life functions.

    The nucleus is the control center of the cell and is responsible for more complexity in organisms.

    2. What is an organelle?

    Organelles are special structures inside of cells with specific functions. They are more abundant in eukaryotes, and they possess a membrane covering.


    3. What are some organelles that are found in cells?

    Cell membrane, nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, ribosomes, Golgi apparatus, lysosomes, mitochondria, cytoplasm, vacuoles, chloroplasts (plants).


    4. What are the differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells?

    Prokaryotic cells do not have a nucleus or structures surrounded by membranes; they have very few internal structures.

    Eukaryotic cells have a nucleus, are more complex, and contain organelles surrounded by membranes.



    Instruct students to put their K-W-L charts away for the next activity, but inform them that questions 3–5 will be addressed after the next activity on cell organelles. Hand out the Cell and Factory Worksheet (S-6-4-2_Cell and Factory Worksheet and KEY.doc) to each student. Provide students with the following directions:

    1. Read through the worksheet first to get acquainted with each organelle and its function in the cell.”
    2. Next, read through the second page, which lists common factory jobs and their descriptions.”
    3. Finally, match the factory job from the second page with the cell organelle with the most similar job function.”

    When students are finished, allow them to work with a partner to review their answers and come up with any questions on the material. Review the answers with students (the key is provided with the worksheet) and address any student questions.

    Day 2

    Display the Plant and Animal Cells Poster for the class (S-6-4-2_Plant and Animal Cells Poster.doc). Ask students to identify similarities between the two cells by raising their hands and providing comments. Examples of similarities and differences are listed below. Do not provide students with more examples than they provide, as you will fill in the K-W-L chart later on.


    1. Similar organelles (mitochondria, endoplasmic reticulum, Golgi apparatus, lysosomes, and vacuoles)
    2. DNA
    3. Cytoplasm


    1. Plants have a cell wall
    2. Plants have chloroplasts
    3. Plants have larger vacuoles

    Then, show students the “What Cells Look Like Under a Microscope” table on the second page of the Plant and Animal Cells Poster. Have them answer the questions in the table. Also, ask “How can drawings of plant and animal cells help us to better understand cells when we look at them under a microscope?”

    Instruct students to take out their K-W-L charts and answer question 5. Use the notes below as an answer key.

    Essential Questions


    5. What are the differences between plant and animal cells?

    Plant cells have a rigid cell wall, chloroplasts, and larger vacuoles; animal cells don’t have those parts.

    When students are finished filling out their K-W-L charts, hand out copies of the Plant and Animal Cell Venn Diagram (S-6-4-2_Plant and Animal Cell Venn Diagram and KEY.doc), and instruct students to read the directions and begin working. This assignment may be used for homework if time is an issue.


    Hand out copies of the Cell Concepts worksheet and have students complete it individually (S-6-4-2_Cell Concepts and KEY.docx). This worksheet includes concepts from Lessons 1 and 2.


    • Students who need more practice with the standards can complete partially-filled out K-W-L charts, which are modified to individual needs. Students may also provide answers to worksheets and diagrams orally.

    • For the Cell and Factory worksheet, it may be helpful to allow students to cut and paste the factory jobs next to the appropriate organelle functions. Students may read more about how the cell organelles function together as a system at the Web site, “A Busy Factory” (see Related Resources).

    1. Students going beyond the standards can complete a second cell function comparison activity in which they compare cell functions of the following organelles to basic anatomical functions in the human body. Students will create a table with the following organelles, including organelle functions and the human body parts/functions that they think best match the organelle functions.


    1. Organelle

    1. Function

    1. Human Body Part

    1. Function

    1. Nucleus

    1. Control center of the cell

    1. Brain

    1. Control center of the body

    1. Organelles to use include:
    Cell membrane
    Endoplasmic reticulum
    Golgi apparatus

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DRAFT 11/18/2010
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