Review the Cell With This One Easy & Unusual Activity!

Looking for a fun way to review the Cell? This activity combines creativity, competition, and collaboration – your class will love it!

The goal is for students to make analogies between the parts of the cell and the very random objects I have give them. 

The activity is the perfect reinforcement after learning the forms and functions of each part of the cell. Encourage them to use their notes as they make analogies. The act of reading back over their notes strengthens what they learned!

Procedure to Review the Cell:

Split up your class into groups of three to four students. 

Give each group a box of random items common to the classroom (easy to collect!). For example:

List of Radom objects to review the cell parts!

Anything you have laying around! Make sure each group’s box is exactly the same, as much as possible (same color markers, same color sticky note, etc). 

Tell students that as they make their analogies, they can not alter the physical characteristics of any item (please do not rip the paper, use the marker on the sticky note, unfold the paperclip, break the pencil, etc) – this way you will not have to replace any items for the next period! 

They may, however, combine items for their analogies (put the string inside the cup = DNA in the nucleus. Pull the pipe cleaner through the straw = double membrane of the mitochondria). 

Student groups work together to choose items that represent each part of the cell. They will really have to stretch their imagination! Try to have at least 25% more items in the box than you do Cell Parts so that they have some flexibility of choice. 

I typically let my Academic students make analogies to the shape OR function of a cell part. This is a bit easier, and typically I get a lot of things that are similar in shape. My Honors students must make analogies to the function of the part only – a bigger challenge!

Digital Learning Adjustment!

When my school had to do distance learning, I made this activity digital. All the random items are images on a Google Slide. Students drag and drop the items into the slides and explain their analogies. Even though we are back in the classroom now, I sometimes use this as an alternate assignment for students who need more structure. It also works well as a fun review activity at the end of the year!

Find the Unusual Cell Analogies Digital Resource on Teachers Pay Teachers – No prep and ready to go for your class!

Digital Cell Parts Review with Unusual Analogies!
Digital Cell Parts Review – Unusual Analogies!

Recording Answers

The first time we did this activity, students wrote down all of their analogies on their own paper. They had a designated space to write it into their notes, right beside each cell part and its description, which we had completed together the day before. This worked great as a study tool later on. 

I really like the kids to be able to share their analogies with the rest of the class. Each group would pick their favorite three analogies or so, and share their thoughts. But it was a bit time consuming, and often lost the attention of the not-currently-sharing groups.

So I added a little tech to the activity with one of my favorite classroom tools: Pallet!

Using Padlet to Review the Cell

Padlet allows groups to post their analogies in a place everyone could see at one time.

The Padlet is made with the Shelf template, one Cell Part per column. Students take a picture of an item, post it under the cell part’s column, with an explanation of their analogy. 

Using Padlet, we could introduce some extra fun: the element of competition

The group with the ‘best analogy’ for each Cell Part wins extra credit! The kids vote using the ‘heart’ feature in Padlet (turn it on in Padlet’s settings). 

With the stakes so high, you will hear some great student discussions as they decide what analogies to use!

We have just a few rules – 

  1. If another group has already used an item for a cell part, it can not be used again (only one group can say the nucleus is like a cup!). This puts a sense of urgency in the kids to make some good analogies quick, and also forced a bit more creative thinking when a lot of the ‘easy’ analogies were already used. Remind students that posts can be made in any order – so if they come up with a great one for the Golgi Apparatus, jump to the Golgi column and record the idea!
  2. Set a time limit – just 20 minutes to work on the activity. This means they must stay focused in order to get to every cell part! If a particular class needs a little negative motivation too (we all have those groups..), I let them know they must finish at least x-number of cell parts in order to get full credit for the activity. 
  3. When posting pictures of the object, NO names and NO faces in the photo- there should be no way of knowing who posted. This will prevent the voting from being a popularity contest. Instead, each group is assigned a number (known only to the group members and teacher). The group number must be the title of each post.

Take a look at one of the Padlets made last year – some great cell part analogies here!

Students working on their cell parts review activity
All of the random items were put into a paper box top – one clever group used the box itself as an analogy to the cell wall – which is great, because cardboard (paper) is actually even made out of cell walls!


Not only does the competition make reviewing a bit more fun, it also gets students to review the cell parts yet again as they read through their peers’ ideas! 

Remind students that ‘best analogy’ means that the group was creative AND accurate. 

Everyone votes independently, not as a group. Students vote for their two favorite analogies for each cell part by clicking the little heart under that post. Allowing for two votes means that they will vote for their own group (of course)….and their actual favorite. 

You may announce the winners for each cell part right away, or wait until the next day. 

I wiat. This way I can look through the analogies myself and add any tie breaking hearts of my own. 

I usually give one point extra credit for the winning group of each cell part. This sounds like small beans – but if you have 12 cell parts, and one group wins five…it is significant! Extra credit can be added to the assignment itself, or to the Cell Parts assessment coming up. 

Or the prize can be anything else – like candy! Always a winner in my room. 🙂

I love finding new and creative ways to teach a topic! For another fun idea, check out this post about using pipe cleaners and pony beads to model the cell membrane!

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