Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Cell Types

J.P. Hamilton
Orange County Schools


Students create cartoon characters which compare and contrast two types of cells: nerve and muscle. Cartoon characters show how these two cells are similar, how they are different, and the relationship between the two cell types. Cartoons are presented in the form of a slide show presentation.


The student knows that the cells with similar functions have similar structures, whereas those with different structures have different functions.

Uses technologies to individually access information or tutorials as needed to complete a personal or industry related task, process, or project.


-Drawing paper
-Reference materials
-Colored pencils
-Computers with presentation software, i.e., PowerPoint


1. A discussion of cell types is necessary before beginning this activity. This discussion may be best facilitated via the use of concept maps or Venn diagrams. Students will need the Venn diagrams or the concept maps to develop their characters.

2. Examples of cartoon characters which represent other objects may help students understand their task. Common characters may include Mr. DNA (from Jurassic Park), The Scrubbing Bubble or any others that you may consider.

3. Before developing cell characters, develop a simple cartoon character which represents something easy to understand. An example would be the development of a pen and pencil set of cartoon characters which compares and contrasts the two utensils. A Venn diagram or concept map should also be constructed for these simple utensils to show their relationship to each other and to illustrate how the Venn diagram or concept map helps when creating the character. As a follow up to the development of the characters, costumes could be discussed and personalities may even be assigned to the characters. This may also be done with the cell characters developed by the class.


-Students compare and contrast cell types and define the basic structures and functions of muscle and nerve cells.
-Students know that the cells with similar functions have similar structrues whereas those with different structures have different functions.
-Students identify the primary functions of cell types.
-Students understand that there are many cell types and that muscle and nerve cells are just two examples of cell types.

There are several types of cells, including nerve, egg, bacterium, plant, red blood, and muscle. Each cell type has its own purpose and has evolved to carry out its purpose well. While it is true that each cell type has its own function, it is also true that cells share many similarities, including internal structures and nutritional requirements.

In this activity, nerve cells are compared to muscle cells. The main differences are that nerve cells conduct and pass electrical currents while muscle cells do not, and muscle cells expand and contract efficiently while nerve cells do not. Both nerve and muscle cells have a nucleus and are constructed of the same materials. Both kinds of cell are able to divide and grow; however, muscle cells reproduce more often than nerve cells, and some nerve cells will not divide or repair themselves after they reach a certain age.

1. Have students use the information in their Venn diagrams or concept maps (see Teacher Preparation) to individually create cartoon characters representing nerve cells and muscle cells.

2. Have students determine what type of personality each cell might have, or how the cells would behave when they interact.

3. Divide students into groups of three or four. Instruct them to choose one nerve cell and one muscle cell which best represent their group.

4. Instruct students to prepare a brief slide show (i.e., PowerPoint) and script, which uses their chosen characters to compare and contrast the two types of cells. The show will be composed of three slides.

5. Have students present their slide shows to the class using appropriate voices.

6. Students may vote on the best show and present an award to the best production.


I. Students may judge the slide show presentations using the following scale:

Slide Show Presentation Rubric

5 Excellent..............................1 Not There Yet

1. Used technology to obtain information
2. Noted difference between cells accurately
3. Noted similarities between cells accurately
4. Conveyed information to audience
5. Embedded understanding of differences between cell types in the presentation.

II. Exam questions may include the following:

1. Based on the activity, what may be said about both nerve and muscle cells?
a. Both cells are found in animals.
b. Both cells have a nucleus.
c. Both cells have specific functions.
d. These statements are all true about these cells.

(Answer d. Nerve and muscle cells share these aspects.)

2. Based on the activity, what differences are apparent between nerve and muscle cells?
a. Muscle cells have organelles and nerve cells do not.
b. Muscle cells have cytoplasm and nerve cells do not.
c. Nerve cells have been designed to pass electrical impulses, muscle cells have not.
d. Nerve cells have been designed to contract and expand, muscle cells have not.

(Answer c. Nerve cells primarily pass along electrical impulses.)

Note: Circulate and formatively assess students as they use the technology tools. Provide assistance for students who are experiencing difficulty and monitor accordingly.


- Students research the need for good nutrition to make their bodies grow and to develop strong muscles.
- Students consider the influence of drugs which kill non-reproducible nerve cells in the brain.
- Students research the effects of electricity on the body and the nervous system.
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