Cell Organelles Worksheets for Middle School – Scaffolded


Middle school science is a critical juncture where students delve into complex topics, including cell organelles. Therefore, it’s imperative that middle school students have access to high-quality instructional materials, such as worksheets. These materials play a crucial role in making these concepts accessible and engaging. 

This post will explore how to create engaging and accessible cell organelles worksheets for middle school classrooms. While we won’t spend too much time delving into the content of cell organelles themselves, we will equip teachers with the strategies, tips, and resources needed to create and/or find middle school cell organelle worksheets that are accessible to all students, regardless of English language proficiency or reading level.

Understanding the Middle School Classroom

Middle school is a unique and transformative stage for adolescents. Teaching science to middle schoolers can be incredibly challenging for even the toughest and most experienced teacher. However, it can be equally rewarding. I’ve had great days and bad days. Great months and bad months. Great marking periods and horrendous marking periods.

It’s impossible to predict how your students will behave from day to day. Being prepared with engaging and accessible lessons can help mitigate the anxiety that often comes with the territory of teaching middle schoolers.

My mantra as a middle school teacher was, “The best classroom management is engaging and accessible lessons.”

To create effective lesson plans for this age group, it’s important to understand the characteristics of middle school students, recognize the role of worksheets in effective teaching, and the importance of adapting worksheets to the specific needs of your students. 

Characteristics of Middle School Students

While the point of this post isn’t to take a deep dive into the psychology of middle school students, a basic understanding of middle schoolers’ cognitive, emotional, and social development can help us tailor our instruction (even in the form of a cell organelle worksheets) to meet their diverse needs.

Picture of 4 middle school students in school.

While no one middle schooler is the same, they exhibit several key characteristics:

  1. Increased Independence: Middle schoolers are exploring their independence and autonomy. They want to be more self-reliant and make decisions for themselves.
  2. Varied Learning Styles: Students in this age group have diverse learning styles and preferences. Some are visual learners, while others are auditory or kinesthetic learners.
  3. Growing Curiosity: Middle school students are naturally curious and eager to explore the world around them. They often ask questions and seek explanations.
  4. Short Attention Span: Their attention span can be relatively short, so keeping them engaged and focused is essential.
  5. Peer Influence: Peer relationships become increasingly important, and students may be influenced by their friends’ interests and opinions. (This was one of the most important for me when it came to understanding my students’ behavior).

The Role of Worksheets in Effective Teaching

Keeping the above in mind, worksheets are powerful tools for educators in middle school science classrooms. They serve several essential roles that align with the characteristics of middle school students outlined above:

  1. Reinforcement: Worksheets can reinforce concepts taught in class by providing opportunities for practice and review.
  2. Assessment: Teachers can use worksheets as formative assessments to gauge student understanding and adjust instruction accordingly.
  3. Organization: Well-structured worksheets help students organize information and concepts, fostering better comprehension.
  4. Independent Learning: Worksheets encourage independent, student-centered learning, helping students develop problem-solving skills and self-discipline.

Importance of Adapting Worksheets to Meet Students’ Needs

Adapting worksheets to the specific needs and characteristics of your middle school have the following implications:

  1. Engagement: Tailored worksheets that align with the interests and cognitive development of middle school students are more likely to engage them effectively.
  2. Relevance: Worksheets that relate to their daily lives or future interests make the content more relevant and relatable.
  3. Accessibility: There is no rigor without access. Customizing worksheets to accommodate different learning styles and abilities can provide access to all students, regardless of their strengths or challenges. Accessibility also has a direct impact on engagement and classroom management.

Cell Organelles and Middle School Curriculum

Regardless of where you teach or the standards your state uses, teaching cell organelles is central to middle school life science curricula. Understanding cellular organelles lays the foundation for comprehending the complexities of the human body, living things and their functions.

At the very least, most states require at least a basic understanding of cell structure. The following is an example of a brief overview of what most standards require to be covered at the middle school level:

Cell organelles are like the tiny organs of the cells, each responsible for a specific job. In both animal cells and plant cells, which are examples of eukaryotic cells, these smaller parts play vital roles in the lives of living things. Key organelles include the cell membrane (plasma membrane), akin to a cell’s skin, controlling what enters and exits, and the cell wall, found in plant cells, offering structural support.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) state the following in regard to cell organelles:

Disciplinary Core Ideas

LS1.A: Structure and Function

  • All living things are made up of cells, which is the smallest unit that can be said to be alive. An organism may consist of one single cell (unicellular) or many different numbers and types of cells (multicellular). (MS-LS1-1).
  • Within cells, special structures are responsible for particular functions, and the cell membrane forms the boundary that controls what enters and leaves the cell. (MS-LS1-2)
  • In multicellular organisms, the body is a system of multiple interacting subsystems. These subsystems are groups of cells that work together to form tissues and organs that are specialized for particular body functions. (MS-LS1-3)
Image of model of animal cell. Text reads" The NGSS & Cell Organelles. LS1.A: Structure and Function: Within cells, special structures are responsible for particular functions and the cell membrane forms the boundary that controls what enters and leaves the cell.

Performance Expectations: 

  • MS-LS1-1. Conduct an investigation to provide evidence that living things are made of cells; either one cell or many different numbers and types of cells. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on developing evidence that living things are made of cells, distinguishing between living and non-living things, and understanding that living things may be made of one cell or many and varied cells.]
  • MS-LS1-2.  Develop and use a model to describe the function of a cell as a whole and ways the parts of cells contribute to the function.

The Texas standards (TEKS) require the teaching of various cell organelles. The standard specifically mentions the cell membrane, cell wall, nucleus, ribosomes, cytoplasm, mitochondria, chloroplasts, and vacuoles in plant or animal cells. 

It’s important to check your state’s standards to understand what you are required to teach before customizing your worksheets. 

Effective Cell Organelles Worksheets

Once you’ve internalized your state’s requirements, it’s time to create or find effective cell organelles worksheets. Effective cell organelles worksheets should include the following elements:

A. Clear Learning Objectives: Setting clear objectives is paramount. These objectives serve as a roadmap for both teachers and students. They not only guide the content but also ensure alignment with curriculum standards. By having well-defined goals, teachers can measure progress and students can understand what they are expected to learn.

B. Age-Appropriate Content: Avoid overwhelming terminology by simplifying complex concepts (This can be done without compromising the use of content-specific and academic vocab). Use language and terms that resonate with middle schoolers, avoiding jargon that might confuse or frustrate them. Relatable examples and analogies can make abstract ideas more understandable. For instance, comparing the cell membrane to a gatekeeper controlling who enters and exits the cell can be more relatable than complex biochemical descriptions.

Picture of young girl's hands completing a worksheet.

C. Visual Elements: Visual elements play a crucial role in engaging middle school students. Incorporating diagrams and illustrations can help students visualize abstract cell organelles. This is especially important when scaffolding for English learners.

D. Interactivity and Engagement: Middle school students thrive on interaction and engagement. Incorporate interactive questions and activities that require more than passive reading. Additionally, hands-on experiments or simulations, even if simplified, can make the learning experience more immersive and memorable.

Lit Science Cell Organelle Worksheets

Here at Lit Science, we use the term worksheet to mean customized graphic organizers specific to a particular topic, lesson, activity, or task.

Our worksheets are also differentiated and scaffolded to support teachers in meeting the diverse needs of students (including special education teachers, teachers of English learners, and students performing below grade level). 

Image of Lit Science Cell Organelles Worksheets. Text reads: Lit Science Worksheets - customized graphic organizers that walk students through lesson activities step by step.

Customizing worksheets to the task and to account for diverse students’ needs is a great way to make your instruction accessible to all students. We acknowledge the amount of time it takes to customize worksheets.

Therefore, Lit Science is committed to creating the right resources teachers need to support their diverse learners. We have a number of cell organelle resources to support your instruction. 

Cell Organelle Reading Comprehension

This reading comprehension passage focuses on cell organelles’ functions. To support developing readers and writers, questions are embedded throughout the text.

This resource also includes a graphic organizer that allows students to capture notes as they read. The graphic organizer is in the form of a simple table that includes the organelle names, function, structure and a space for capturing whether the organelle is found in plant cells, animal cells, or both.

Like many of our resources, it includes both PDF and digital versions, a teacher lesson plan and answer key for easy grading.

Cell Organelle Poster Project 

Through this project, students demonstrate their understanding of cell organelles through the creation of a poster. It is a great follow-up to the Cell Organelle Reading Comprehension. It serves as a creative assessment and has a great deal of flexibility in use (small group project, expert group presentation for a jigsaw, etc.). 

Cell Organelle Social Media Project

Students demonstrate their understanding of cell organelles through the creation of a social media profile. This project is a great way to engage students with a theme (social media) that is engaging and relevant to their lives.  

Cell Organelle Project — Student Choice

This is my favorite Lit Science cell organelle resource. The reason for this — students get to choose which project they want to create. The photo below is one of the cell models my students created when I taught Living Environment in a Brooklyn high school (yes, this resource works for both middle and high school).

Image of student project- cell model cake. Image of thumbnail for Plant and animal cell activities science project.

What I love about this project is that students always surpass what I expected with their final projects. Additionally, the planning worksheets keep students accountable to include grade-level content and project requirements. 

Looking for multiple cell organelle worksheets and resources? Check out Lit Science’s money-saving bundle. 


Creating effective and engaging cell organelles worksheets for middle school science classrooms provides students with a solid foundation in biology. Middle school is a unique stage in a student’s education, characterized by diverse learning styles and growing curiosity.

Customized, differentiated and scaffolded worksheets serve as powerful tools, reinforcing concepts, assessing understanding, and promoting independent learning.

Teaching cell organelles aligns with state standards and curriculum requirements, and well-designed worksheets can simplify complex concepts.

Two middle school aged girls in science class. One is raising her arms in triumph.

Effective worksheets should include clear learning objectives, age-appropriate content, visual elements, and interactive elements to enhance engagement. Customization and differentiation are key to ensuring accessibility for all students, including those with diverse needs.

At Lit Science, we offer a range of cell organelle resources, including reading comprehension passages, poster projects, and social media projects, designed to support teachers in meeting the needs of their diverse learners.

We look forward to partnering with you in making grade-level science accessible for all your students. 

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