4 Ways to Teach Cells and Their Organelles Worksheet Ideas

4 ways to teach cells and their organelles worksheet ideas. Image of a middle school science teacher next to a microscope with students.

Whether your district has adopted the NGSS or you follow your state-specific standards, teaching the cell organelles in both animal cells and plant cells is typically required in nearly every middle school science standard. 

While the standards outline what is required to be taught, they don’t stipulate how to teach it. Many teachers use different instructional strategies to ensure students have mastered the standards. One instructional tool is the use of worksheets. 

This blog post will explore cells and their organelles worksheet ideas. 

Cells and Their Organelles

Before diving into how to use worksheets to teach cells and their organelles, let’s review what most middle school science standards require for the teaching of cells and their organelles. 

Teaching “Cells and Their Organelles” to middle school students aligns with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and plays a pivotal role in fulfilling the objectives of NGSS standards such as MS-LS1-1, MS-LS1-2, and MS-LS1-3.

Text reads - The NGSS and teaching cells and their organelles. Teaching cells and their organelles to middle school students aligns with the Next Generation science standards (NGSS) and plays a pivotal role in fulfilling the objectives of NGSS standards.
Picture of a teacher standing next to a student adding a label to an image of a paramecium on the board.

Understanding Cells (MS-LS1-1): The performance expectation, MS-LS1-1, requires middle school science teachers to conduct investigations that provide evidence that living things are comprised of cells.

This includes teaching students to distinguish between living and non-living things and understanding that living organisms may consist of one single cell (unicellular) or numerous different types of cells (multicellular).

Teachers typically cover the difference between eukaryotic cells and prokaryotic cells under this standard. 

Title in middle - Understanding Cells (MS-LS1-1). Graphic of cell division above and below. Upper left box reads - conduct investigations that provide evidence that living things are comprised of cells. Upper right hand box reads -  understanding that living organisms may consist of one single cell (unicellular) or numerous different types of cells (multicellular). Lower left box reads - distinguish between living and non-living things. Lower right box reads - ex: covering the difference between eukaryotic and prokaryotic cells.

Cell Function and Organelles (MS-LS1-2): The performance expectation MS-LS1-2 tasks students with developing models to describe the function of a cell as a whole and how the smaller parts (organelles) contribute to its function.

Teachers should highlight that the cell functions as a complete system, with the smaller parts (organelles), each carrying out a specific job to ensure the cell maintains homeostasis and survives.

Two images of a cake plant cell model.
A group of my students created this cell model in my 4th year of teaching. Students were given a choice menu and customized graphic organizers to support the planning of their projects. I was NOT expecting a cake model! It was editable and yummy!

This standard only requires you to teach the nucleus, chloroplasts, mitochondria, cell membrane, and cell wall. Assessments should delve into the relationships between the cell wall and cell membrane. Biochemical functions of cells or other organelles are beyond the scope of this standard.

Multicellular Organization (MS-LS1-3): Besides teaching about membrane-bound organelles, the NGSS standards also include levels of organization.

Levels of Organization explores the concept of multicellular organisms as systems of multiple interacting subsystems.

Image of two customized worksheets on levels of organization in the human body. Text reads - levels of organization guided notes - these guided notes act as customized worksheets that support students in learning about the levels of organization.

These subsystems comprise groups of cells that collaborate to create specialized tissues, tissues working together to form organs, organs working to form organ systems, and organ systems working together to form an organism.

Ways to Use Worksheets to Teach Cell Organelles

Here at Lit Science, we use the term worksheet a bit differently than it’s traditionally used. When we use the term worksheet, we refer to supports customized to a specific lesson, activity, or task.

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

Worksheets can take the form of customized guided notes, graphic organizers, step-by-step directions, and space to write for various activities.

Let’s explore four ways to use customized worksheets to teach students about cells and organelles.

Guided Notes: Guided notes are a great way to make direct instruction (traditionally referred to as lecture style) accessible to all students.

In my first year of teaching, I had students copy notes into their notebooks. This was very challenging for my students with special needs and my English learners. Transitioning to guided notes helped my students tremendously.

Simply stated, guided notes are a type of customized worksheet that helps students write down the essential notes from a lesson without overwhelming them with a ton of words to scribble onto paper.

My guided notes typically looked like graphic organizers that helped students follow along with the lesson. An example is Lit Science’s Cell Organelle differentiated and scaffolded graphic organizer.

Text reads - Cells and their organelles worksheet idea 1 Guided notes. Image of a cell customized graphic organizer and cell organelle Google slide deck.

Along with a simple slide deck, students can use these graphic organizers to take notes on the structure and function of each of the organelles and what types of cells these organelles are found in (plant/animal or both). 

Reading Comprehension: One of the ways we, as science teachers, typically teach or reinforce content about cell organelles is through reading comprehension.

Reading from a textbook and answering questions at the end of the chapter was the norm in school. This didn’t work very well in my classroom. It is especially challenging for students reading below grade level.

Therefore, I explicitly taught close reading to my students and modified texts to look more like a worksheet that supported students in annotating and answering questions that appeared directly after the chunk of text where they were found.

I also included scaffolds that helped my students learning English access the text.

Cells and their organelles worksheet idea 2- Reading comprehension. Image of a cells and their organelles reading comprehension worksheet. Labels read - embedded visuals, space for annotations, definitions in the margins.

Lit Science’s reading comprehension resources are created with these students in mind. I made these customized reading comprehension worksheets after having a great deal of success with them in my classroom and the classrooms of the teachers I coach. 

Activities: In science, we can do so many activities. Whether it’s a lab, stations activity, or card sort, we can use many engaging activities to teach and reinforce the content.

An example is this set of worksheets for a plant and animal cell organelles lab. These customized worksheets walk students through the lab step-by-step and give them all the space they need to record their answers, data, and responses.

Cells and their organelles worksheet idea 3- Activities. Images of plant and animal cell lab worksheets.

Projects: In my classes, I found that if I created a customized worksheet to help students prepare for a project, I got much better results than when I gave students an overview of the project requirements.

In a packet of customized worksheets, you can support students with a project overview, a checklist of required parts, graphic organizers to review the required content, brainstorming pages, and even support them in preparing to present their projects. 

Conclusion

Customized worksheets can serve as an excellent aid in teaching students about cells and their organelles.

The key to using these worksheets is to customize them to the specific lesson, activity, or task you require of students.

Part of this customization should also include scaffolding that provides access to grade-level science for all students. 

Unsure of how to begin providing all your students access to grade-level science content? Get started with our FREE graphic organizers.

Image of middle school girl. Images of 3 free science graphic organizers.

I created these graphic organizers to use with many types of lessons. You can begin using these immediately for various lessons and with your English learners, students with special needs, and developing readers and writers.

Thanks for all you do!

Jessica

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