Like, every day, every class.
So could this topic be any more perfect for me to blog about?!?
And you'd think I would find it easy, right?
Leave it to me to struggle trying to narrow down what I actually want to share with you wonderful readers.
I've been brainstorming ideas for weeks now to no avail. My solution? The other day I asked my students to write an informal essay telling me what their two favorite units from fifth grade science were and WHY they liked them so much. #worksmarternotharder
The top three units were...
So today I share some of the fun ways I teach about plant and animal cells.
Honestly, it's one of the first units I teach each year and I really DO love it.
Here's the catch, though...
My fifth graders have already LEARNED about cells in fourth grade. The only difference is that in fifth grade we add in the mitochondria to the list of organelles. I hate to literally repeat what students have done in the past, so I try to find creative ways to review what they (should) already know from FOURTH grade before "digging deeper" into the cell and what they should know in FIFTH grade.
I like to start my unit on cells by asking students to classify cells as either plant or animal cells based on the structure of each cell. In fifth grade, that means understanding that a plant cell has three specific differences from animal cells.
1. A plant cell has a cell wall that provides structure and added protection to the cell.Usually after a think-pair-share, we are able to complete the notebook pages shown below (with a little guidance from me).
2. A plant cell has chloroplasts filled with chlorophyll where energy from the sun is used to create food for the cell through photosynthesis.
3. A plant cell usually has 1-2 larger central vacuoles rather than many smaller ones as in animal cells.
My students have a great time acting like Crime Scene Investigators as they try to determine which cells found at the location of an imaginary burglary are plant cells and which are animal cells. My favorite part of the CSI Challenge is that students are given actual images of plant and animal cells to work with. I have found that more often than not, students have the misconception that a plant cell is rectangular and an animal cell is a circle. They fail to look at the specific organelles. Also, most students have only had experience with drawings and/or diagrams of cells, so seeing actual images taken by an electron microscope forces them to apply their understanding in a different situation.
Another favorite activity for my students is "Let's Take a CELL-fie!" Come on, it's cheesy, but it's funny too! Students liked this activity because they got to work in groups to use a really cool app called "ThingLink" to create an interactive image. I liked this activity because students actually start to remember the functions of each organelle since they must select objects from home that have a similar "job" to be used in their group's "Super Cell". Here is one of the better examples of "CELL-fies" from this year.
I like to use lots of analogies and ask my students to do the same. I also display visual vocabulary posters on my word wall so students can reference them as needed. Each poster includes an analogy that compares the organelle's function to an other "real life" job.
Throughout the unit, I have students complete different interactive notebook templates and review sheets to help further solidify their understanding of each organelle of a cell and it's role in the plant and/or animal cell. I love this activity where students imagine what each cell organelle would say if it could actually talk. Students were super creative and quite accurate for the most part. Here are a couple examples of student work.
I hate to disappoint anyone who might have been hoping that I'd share how I teach the solar system or states of matter, so here is a link to some of my favorite resources as well as the Pinterest boards where I store even more great ideas for these units!
I hope you found some of the ideas here inspiring, because when a teacher is excited and motivated to teach science the students also look forward to learning more about science concepts.