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Cell Organelles

By Joyce R. Calo

Type of Entry:

  • lesson / class activity

Type of Activity:

  • hands-on activity
  • group / cooperative learning
  • review / reinforcement
  • authentic assessment

Target Audience:

  • Life Science
  • Biology
  • Advanced / AP Biology
  • Anatomy and Physiology

Notes to Teacher:

This activity is great as a review lesson. As students work in groups, each student discusses the reason for including or excluding an organelle from a particular classification. Students think about thinking and the process of thinking. They have to give reasons, not just random guesses. The pictures also help to reinforce the structure of the organelle.

Students enjoy this activity because it is like a game. This is especially important for those students who are less motivated.

Required of students:

Students need to have a general understanding of cell organelle structure and function to be successful in this activity.

Preparation time needed:

The preparation time is mostly in making the sets of cards. With 24 students in the class, I have 6 sets of materials. Finding cell electron micrographs (of appropriate size), mounting, and laminating them is a great summer project. To simplify the work, students can do this. Have topics/characteristics you plan to use printed on cards. Laminate for durability. Draw the three overlapping circles on a cloth. One cloth per group is needed. Once you have the cards laminated, cards with topics/characteristics, and cloths, there is NO preparation time.

Class time needed: 1/2 - 1 class period


What question does this activity help students address?

This activity forces students to analyze the structure and function of various cell organelles. Students must compare and contrast features of the organelles. By using cards with electron micrographs, students also learn to recognize these structures.


In this activity students will examine electron micrographs of various cell organelles. Working in groups, students will organize organelles based on structure and function. Students will compare and contrast various features of the organelles. Given an electron micrograph of various cell organelles, students will be able to correctly identify each organelle. They will place cards with electron micrograph pictures of cell organelles into various categories. The term, physical appearance and characteristics become fused into the concept of the organelle. This particularly helps the visual learners.


  • A set of cards with electron micrograph pictures of individual cell organelles

  • A set of cards with various classification topics
    ex. animal, plant, bacteria has 0 membranes, has 1 membrane, has 2 hydrolyzes, synthesizes, transports

  • Cloth with 3 overlapping circles drawn on it


  1. Students are arranged in cooperative learning groups.

  2. Teacher asks students to locate and place on the 3 circles the topics in question. Students should place one topic on the outermost part of each circle. Such as: organelles found in bacteria, organelles found in animals, organelles found in plants. (other classifications given in material section)

  3. Students in each group will then decide which organelles fit into each category. For example: animals only, plants only, bacteria only, animals & plants, plants & bacteria, animals & bacteria, all (animals, plants & bacteria)

  4. Allow time for group interaction. Students learn from each other. They need to analyze organelle characteristics and give reasons for their decisions.

  5. Walk around to evaluate student responses. I never give answers but will answer any questions with other questions which will stimulate more group discussion.

  6. Once all groups have reached a consensus, as a class the decisions are compared and correct classifications given. These classifications are put on the board or overhead so that any student may record the results.

  7. Remove cards, select another topic group and repeat procedures.

Method of Assessment/Evaluation

Student learning can be evaluated through their placement of the organelle cards on the cloth. Alternatively, each group can record their decisions and the papers collected.

Extension/Reinforcement/Additional Ideas

  1. Have students make a poster of cell organelles found in various categories.

  2. Make large, bulletin board sized, over-lapping circles. Have students draw organelles in appropriate areas.

  3. Allow students to sign-out packet and use to study for exam.

  4. Use the cloth with over-lapping circles for various topics. I find it very useful in helping students organize concepts in cellular respiration and photosynthesis.

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