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Cell Structure and Function – Major Concepts and Learning Activities

These Teacher Notes present key concepts and suggest learning activities that engage students in active learning and counteract some common student misconceptions. Students often think of a cell as a static structure consisting of multiple independent parts. They often do not understand how the parts of the cell work together to accomplish the multiple functions of a dynamic living cell. All of the suggested learning activities will help students to meet the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Section I presents key concepts and learning activities concerning cell structure and function, including differences between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells and different types of eukaryotic cells. Section II presents key concepts and learning activities concerning the structure and function of cell membranes. The cell membrane is a particularly clear example of how the structure and function of a cell part can be understood in terms of the types and organization of its component molecules. The structure and function of mitochondria and chloroplasts are discussed further in the overview of cellular respiration and photosynthesis ( Nucleus and ribosome function is discussed further in the overview of molecular biology (

 The attached files have the key concepts and suggested learning activities.

CellStructFunctOverview.docx30.4 KB
CellStructFunctOverview.pdf149.21 KB


iwaldron's picture

2020 revision

This overview has been expanded and revised to cover more aspects of cell biology.

Serendip Visitor's picture

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Learning Activities
A. Video and animations provide an excellent way to give students an intuitive feel for the dynamic nature of living cells. Two of the best for this purpose are:

Neutrophil (a phagocytic cell) Chasing a Bacterium – a video of two cells in motion,
available at [...]

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this needs to be addressed (its a casino advertisment)???
Z. Shaikh

iwaldron's picture

Here's the correct URL

Thank you for alerting me to this problem. The video is now available at: and


iwaldron's picture

2014 revision

The suggested activities and links have been streamlined and updated.

iwaldron's picture

2013 revision

This revision includes some helpful new learning activities and updated links.

Mildred T. Bankhead-Smith's picture

8th Grade Science

Searching for Lesson Plans

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