Activity 2.1: Zooming into Plants, Animals, and Decomposers (40 min)

Target Student Performance

Students “zoom in” to animals, plants, and decomposers, describing how all of these organisms are made of cells with special structures and functions.

Resources Provided

Recurring Resources


Print one copy of 2.1 Comparing Plants, Animals, and Decomposers Worksheet for each student. If you do not have the Three Questions 11x17 Poster on the wall from the Systems and Scale unit, print it and put it up. If you decide to have students explore the Powers of 10 sliders (Slide 10 of the PPT), make sure that they have access to laptops or other computers.


1. Use se the instructional model to show students where they are in the course of the unit.

  • Target challenging vocabulary to build background knowledge that is assumed for American learners
  • Provide lists with definitions and relevant pictures to students
  • Begin a word wall with pictures to accompany important vocabulary
  • Have students highlight challenging vocabulary in the reading to add to the word wall

Use the 2.1 Cells: The Building Blocks of Organisms Reading with students who have not had significant exposure to cells in prior classes.

Note the three options about how to engage students in discussing the size of cells Slide 10.

Extending the Learning

Slides 10-13 provide a VERY superficial introduction to cells, including information essential to tracing matter and energy through cellular processes, but nothing more. If your curriculum goes deeper into cell theory or into cell structure and function than these lessons, then you may want to consider adding activities, either here or in later lessons:

  • You can add information about specialized functions of different cells in association with Slide 12, discussing a wider range of organismal functions and how each one is carried out by cells acting in concert.
  • You can discuss organelles and their specialized functions either here or in later lessons focusing on cellular respiration (mitochondria), photosynthesis (chloroplasts), and biosynthesis (cell membrane, ribosomes).