Grade Levels: 6-8, 9-12

This lesson plan accompanies the BrainPOP topic, Cancer, and can be completed over several class periods. See suggested times for each section.



Students will:

Activate prior knowledge about cancer, including what it is, its effects, and treatments.

Identify sequence of events that lead to cell mutation and cancer.

Use critical thinking skills to identify how knowledge can alleviate fear of cancer and lead to effective treatments.  

Demonstrate understanding through creative projects, such as planning an awareness campaign and coding a medical breakthrough headline.

Present projects and reflect on new understandings.


The INVESTIGATE and CREATE sections of the lesson require students to use Make-a-Map, Creative Coding, and Make-a-Movie projects. Assign the Cancer Make-a-Map to the class in advance of the lesson.  


Approximate time: 20 minutes

Begin the lesson plan by activating students’ prior knowledge and making real-life connections.  Then show the movie to introduce the topic. 

  1. DISPLAY this Anchor Question on whiteboard and read it aloud: How does knowledge about cancer make it less scary and lead to new and effective treatments?
    Tell students they will investigate this question over the course of the lesson and will return to it at the end.
  2. ASK students how they think cancer happens and how it affects people who have it. Read aloud the description below the movie player. 
  3. MAKE CONNECTIONS by asking students about cancer survivors they know and their experiences with the disease.
  4. WATCH the movie Cancer as a whole class on the whiteboard. Turn on the closed caption option to aid in comprehension.  



Approximate time: 20-25 minutes

Prompt students’ inquiry and critical thinking skills by having them find key details to build knowledge and understanding.


  1. Students open their Make-a-Map Assignment and create a sequence of events concept map. They type the question they will investigate at the top: How do cells mutate and lead to cancer?   
  2. As students watch the movie again, they identify evidence that shows the sequence of events that lead to cell mutation and cancer. The events can be identified text, images, and movie clips.
    EXTRA CHALLENGE: Prompt students to expand on their maps by identifying how understanding of cell mutation and its effects can make cancer less scary and lead to new and effective treatments.
  3. Students SUBMIT their maps when they are done.



Approximate time: 20-30 minutes

Students demonstrate their understanding by synthesizing their ideas and expressing them through one or more of the following hands-on, creative projects.  They can work individually or collaborate. Remind them to use evidence from their concept maps in their creations.


  • Cancer Awareness Campaign: You’ve been hired to create a campaign educating the public about cancer. Plan your campaign with a story map.
  • A Cell Story: Make a movie from the point of view of cancer cells. Describe what happens each step of the way, from the time of cell division through mutation, and finally how the cells affected the body they live in. As an added challenge, describe how treatment led to the cancer cells eradication. 
  • In Medical News… : Code a newscast about a cancer medical breakthrough. Examples include a new cancer treatment or an understanding of cancer cell mutations. 



Wrap up the lesson with student presentations and a final reflection on learning.

PRESENT: Students present their completed projects to their classmates. 

WRAP UP: Draw attention to the Anchor Question again: How does knowledge about cancer make it less scary and lead to new and effective treatments? Students answer the question using their new knowledge.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments