Enjoy teaching cells to your fourth and fifth grade students! An introduction to cells and their organelles helps younger students understand processes like photosynthesis.
How to Enjoy Teaching Cells
Introduce cells with engaging videos, simple microscope labs, and a fun research project.
What Is a Cell?
Begin with this powerful three-minute video, Introduction to Cells (2:54) from Frank Gregorio. It will help students understand the vast number, variety, and tininess of cells.
How Do Plant and Animal Cells Look?
Kids love it when you break out the microscopes! If they don’t know how to use them, take one class period for instruction. Ask them to view larger specimens, such as salt, sugar, sand, thread, and hair. Drawing their observations helps them develop scientific skills.
Look inside plant and animal cells with a microscope. Human cheek cells and onion tissue are easy for beginners.
- Human Cheek Cells – Place a drop of water on a microscope slide. Gently rub inside of cheek with a toothpick. Cells are not attached well and come right off. (You won’t be able to see them on the toothpick.) Swish the toothpick in the drop of water. Add a bit of iodine to stain. Add a cover slip. View under microscope. You should be able to clearly see the nucleus, cytoplasm, and cell membrane.
- Onion Tissue – Remove a strip of onion tissue from the thin membrane surrounding a layer of onion. Place it flat on the microscope slide. Add a bit of iodine to stain, if desired. Add a cover slip. When viewed under the microscope, you will see lots of cells joined together. The nucleus and cell wall are evident. Cytoplasm fills each cell, and the cell membrane lines the cell wall.
You can use these free lab sheets to guide students in their cell labs. Click here to download.
What Are Organelles?
The Organelle Trail
This is a favorite in my classroom! In pairs, students research an organelles. Information is then presented with a western-themed wanted poster. It’s a quick, easy, and fun way to learn about organelles and their functions.
Are you looking for more practice? Check out this human cell coloring page and plant cell coloring page. Homeschool Encouragement also has a great set of free plant and animal cell printables. Kids can match organelle diagrams, functions, and terms with animal cell three-part cards from Montessori for Learning.
The Complete Unit
A complete unit, Exploring Cells, is available in my Teachers pay Teachers store. It includes lesson plans, articles, lab sheets, materials for the Organelle Trail, Bingo game, flash cards, and assessment.
I post new ideas, activities, and free downloads every week. Click here for an index (and to see what’s coming soon!)
Enjoy teaching cells!