Plant and Animal Cells


Plant and Animal Cells introduces students to some basic facts about plant cells and animal cells. Students will learn to distinguish between the two based on what the cell looks like and what organelles it contains. They will be able to identify the names and functions of these cell parts.

There are a few suggestions in the “Options for Lesson” section that you may want to incorporate into your lesson. For example, you could have students work in pairs or groups for the activity, rather than on their own. You could also plan a “Cell Day” and use food items to make models of cells.

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What our Plant and Animal Cells lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Plant and Animal Cells teaches students all about the cells of plants and animals. Students will learn the differences and will be able to identify a cell based on the parts inside it. The lesson will explain the functions of many of these cell parts, or organelles. By the end, students should be able to look at a drawing of a cell and easily identify its type. The lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th 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.

Options for Lesson

The “Options for Lesson” section provides a number of suggestions for additional activities or alternatives for the lesson. Regarding the activity, for instance, you could have students work in pairs or groups. You could also assign them just one cell to work on. Another idea is to create two large groups of students, with each group making a giant plant or animal cell using the supplies you provide. If you can obtain a microscope, students could benefit from seeing different cells up close. Another option is to plan a “Cell Day” where students use food items to create models of a plant cell and an animal cell. Then they could later eat the different “parts” of the cell. You could also invite a biologist to the class to speak with the students about cells.

Teacher Notes

The paragraph on the teacher notes page provides a little extra information or guidance for the lesson. It suggests using videos, pictures, and drawings often to reinforce the differences between the cells of plants and those of animals. You can use the blanks lines to write down any other ideas or thoughts you might have before you begin the lesson.


Introduction to Cells

The Plant and Animal Cells lesson plan contains four pages of content. It begins by defining cells as the basic building blocks of life. Without cells, living things would not exist. Billions of cells join together to make living things, both plants and animals, as well as other organisms. Nearly all cells are too tiny to see without peering into a microscope. They come in all shapes and sizes, colors, designs, and functions.

Speaking of functions, students will learn that every part of a cell serves a unique function. Every cell has three parts in common: a nucleus, cytoplasm, and a cell membrane. However, there are a few differences between a plant cell and an animal cell. Plant cells, for instance, contain parts that animal cells do not, such as an additional cell wall made of cellulose.

Students will discover that there is a name for the cells that have a nucleus: eukaryotes. These cells are similar in many ways. The page provides a picture that compares a generic animal cell and plant cell side by side. It labels the different organelles, many of which are similar between the two. But different cells have specialized functions. Bone cells differ from liver cells, which differ from nerve cells, and so on. These all develop in different ways that enable them to perform their specific duties.

Common Parts of Plant and Animal Cells

Students will go through a list of common cell organelles. The list provides some information about the function of each organelle. A nuclear membrane surrounds the nucleus, which looks like a sphere. The nucleus contains mostly DNA in chromosomes. It controls many of the functions of the cell, like a command center, and regulates various processes. It is generally in the center of animal cells and on the edge of plant cells.

Cytoplasm is a jelly-like fluid that fills the cell, which suspends the other organelles within the cell. Located outside of the nucleus, the cytoplasm is where most chemical processes take place. Enzymes control these processes. The cell membrane is a thin layer of protein and fat that surrounds the cell. It controls the movement of various substances in and out of the cell. It allows some substances to come in, but it blocks others from entry.

Both animal and plant cells contain mitochondria as well. These spherical or rod-shaped organelles have a double membrane. Mitochondria convert the energy stored in glucose into ATP. It converts food into energy and actually contains a small amount of DNA. Active cells contain more mitochondria. For this reason, plant cells have less of this organelle.

Ribosomes are small organelles made of RNA. They generate protein and amino acids. Some float freely while others attach to other parts of the cell. Vacuoles are sacs that serve as storage units. They are very tiny in animal cells. They carry substances out of the cell or remove undesirable substances. Plant cells have a single large vacuole that stores food, water, waste, and other materials. These help keep the plant cell rigid and maintain water balance. Students will learn that when a plant wilts, it is because its cell’s vacuoles have no water.

Uncommon Cell Parts

There are two functions in plant cells that animal cells do not require. One of those functions is photosynthesis. The second has to do with supporting the weight of the organism. The reason most animals do not need this function is that they have a skeleton to support the body. As a result, there are a few organelles that only plants contain and one organelle that only animal cells contain.

The cell wall is an organelle plants have that includes a layer of cellulose fiber for support and structure. It is outside of the membrane and strengthens the cell. In conjunction with the vacuoles, it helps the cell maintain its shape and rigidity. Chloroplasts are another plant cell organelle that houses the photosynthesis process. These organelles look elongated or disc-shaped and contain chlorophyll, which gives plants their green colors.

Animal cells, on the other hand, contain centrioles, which help move chromosomes during cell division. They are only visible when this division is happening. They ensure that chromosomes are in their proper location.

Key Terms

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

  • Cells: the basic building blocks of life and living organisms
  • Eukaryotes: the cells that have a nucleus
  • Organelles: a term to describe all the structures within a cell, such as the nucleus
  • Chromosomes: a part of the nucleus that contains DNA, or genetic information
  • ATP: a molecule that releases energy to fuel other cellular functions
  • Photosynthesis: a process plants use to produce their own food
  • Plastid: an organelle that contains food or pigment


The Plant and Animal Cells lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. Through the worksheets, you can gauge students’ comprehension of the material. Use the guide on the classroom procedure page to know when to hand out each worksheet to your students.


You will provide a number of supplies for the activity worksheet. Students will review the content pages for instructions on how to create their own models of a plant cell and an animal cell. They will have to label each of the parts and add as much detail as possible. In addition, they will include some facts about each part. They can use the internet to find more information that what the lesson provides.


There are two parts of the practice worksheet. First, students will mark whether each organelle is in a plant cell (P), an animal cell (A), or both (B). Next, they will write the correct cell part that matches a description. There are 16 total statements in this section. Students may need to refer to the content pages to complete this section.


The homework assignment is split into two parts. For the first part, students must match a definition to the correct term from the word bank. There are 10 definitions total in this section. The second section requires students to answer 10 questions or prompts based on the lesson content.

Worksheet Answer Keys

The last two pages of the document are answer keys for the practice and homework worksheets. The correct answers for both are in red. It is possible for students’ answers to vary on the section part of the homework assignment. Keep that in mind as you grade the assignments. 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


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade



State Educational Standards

CSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.2, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.2, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RST.6.2, LB.ELA-Literacy.RST.6.4, LB.ELA-Literacy.RST.6.7

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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