Introduction to Cells


Introduction to Cells teaches students about the world of the microscopic building blocks of life. Students will learn to distinguish plant and animal cells and explain how the two types are similar and different.

There are a few suggestions listed in the “Options for Lesson” section that you might want to incorporate into the lesson if you have time. One such suggestion is to obtain microscopes for students to use so they can see different kinds of cells and draw what they observe. You can also have students write a story from the perspective of a cell.

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What our Introduction to Cells lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Introduction to Cells teaches students how to recognize different cell types and their differences. Students will learn what makes plant and animal cells different. They will also learn that both types have a few traits in common. In addition, they will be able to label basic parts of a cell. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade and 4th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the yellow box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. The supplies you will need in addition to the handouts are scissors, glue or paste, markers, and construction paper.

Options for Lesson

On the classroom procedure page, you will find the “Options for Lesson” section that contains suggestions for additional activities or alternatives. For example, you may want students to work in pairs for the activity as opposed to alone. Another suggestion is to obtain microscopes that students can use to observe cells up close. Students could draw what they see on a piece of paper. If you have older students, another idea is to have them write a story from the perspective of a cell.

Teacher Notes

The information on this page gives you a little more guidance as you prepare the lesson. It reminds you that this is an introductory lesson that does not dive deep into complicated terminology. It provide basic and foundational information that students will eventually build on in later years. You can use the blank lines on this page to write down any thoughts or ideas you have before the lesson.


The Basics

The Introduction to Cells lesson plan contains two pages of content. The first page introduces cells using a comparison to Legos or building blocks. Legos come in many shapes and sizes, some fairly big and others really small. The same is true of cells. Cells make up all living things. They are essentially the building blocks of life. Every living thing in the world is made of different kinds of cells.

Cells make people, dogs and cats, bugs, fish, and all other animals. They also make flowers, trees, and all the other plants that live on land and in the water. Most are so small that they are only visible under a microscope. Students may know what a microscope is, or perhaps they have seen one before. The lesson page then displays what cells might look like under a microscope.

Because there are so many kinds of cells, they all appear different up close. The lesson shows three photos of what actual cells look like. It also shows drawings of two very different types of cells. Students will then learn that, just like building blocks, cells come in many shapes, sizes, colors, and designs. Cells also have different jobs and create different living organisms. One type of cell might only exist in plants while another only exists in certain animals.

Parts of a Cell

The next page of the lesson plan describes the parts of a cell. Both plant and animal cells contain a few basic parts: a nucleus, a cell membrane, and cytoplasm. Plant cells also contain a cell wall and chloroplasts. Students can review the diagram at the top of the page to familiarize themselves with the different parts.

The next part of the page defines the functions of each of the five basic cell parts. The nucleus is essentially the brain or control center of the cell. The cytoplasm helps cells work properly. The membrane on the outside guards the cell. Chloroplasts produce food for plant cells through the process of photosynthesis. And finally, the cell wall protects and supports the plant cell structure and helps keep its shape.

In summary, bricks build houses and other buildings, and cells build animals and plants. Nearly all cells are too tiny to see without a microscope. However, it may surprise students to learn that there is one kind of cell that they can see—an egg!

Key Terms

Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in this lesson plan:

  • Cell: the basic units of life that make up all living things
  • Microscope: a tool scientists use to magnify very small objects, like cells
  • Nucleus: the part of a cell that acts like the brain and controls the cell
  • Cytoplasm: the part of a cell that keeps everything within it working properly
  • Cell membrane: the boundary outside the cell that guards it
  • Chloroplast: the part of a plant cell that produces food through the process of photosynthesis
  • Cell wall: the part of a plant cell that protects and supports the cell and helps it keep its shape


The Introduction to Cells lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Each worksheet will help students solidify their grasp of the lesson concepts. Use the guidelines on the classroom procedure page which outline when to hand out each of the worksheets.


If you want, you can have students work with partners or in small groups for the activity instead of alone. The activity requires students to cut out the shapes on the two worksheet pages. Then they must create both a plant cell and an animal cell by gluing the parts to construction paper and labelling them. They will also need to list the parts’ functions.


There are two sections of the practice worksheet. For the first section, students will label the different parts of a cell. There are two cell diagrams, one for a plant and one for an animal. Students must label which cell belongs to a plant and which cell belongs to an animal. The section section requires students to fill in the blanks in a short paragraph using the eight terms in a word bank.


The homework assignment also divides into two sections. For the first part, students will color and label parts of the cell on the worksheet. The worksheet provides the colors for the membrane, nucleus, and cytoplasm. They can use whatever other colors they want for the remaining parts. For the second part of the worksheet, students will match terms to their correct definitions. There are five total statements to match.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The final pages of the lesson plan document are answer keys for the worksheets. The activity worksheet does not have an answer key. However, you can refer to the diagram on the practice worksheet answer key if needed when reviewing students’ completed posters. The answer key for the practice worksheet provides the correct answers in red. There should be no deviation in students’ responses. For the homework worksheet, the second section that requires students to match terms to their definitions gives the answers in red. On the diagram, students’ work will vary slightly depending on the colors they choose for the different parts of the cells. Only the three given colors should be the same regardless. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


3rd Grade, 4th Grade


Science, Video

State Educational Standards

LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.1.2, LB.ELA-Literacy. RI.1.7, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.2.2, LB.ELA- Literacy.RI.2.7, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.2, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.3.7

Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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