Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

This lesson plan, adaptable for grades 3-8, challenges students to use what they know about cell division to play a game in which they control cell division from inside a cell’s nucleus. They must make sure that each stage of the cell cycle cycle happens in the correct order and that the cell has successfully replicated its genetic material at specific checkpoints along the way.  If they make more than three mistakes during one cell division, the cell is destroyed and they have to start again.

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Lesson Plan Next Generation Science Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Brainstorm and share what they know about cell division.
  2. Watch a movie about cell division.
  3. Create a concept map showing the order of the phases of the cell cycle.
  4. Play a game in which they must order the phases of the cell cycle.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Class set of the Flow Chart (if limited computer access)


anaphase, cell, chromosome, metaphase, mitosis, nucleus, prophase, telophase


This lesson features a game called Control of the Cell Cycle by, in which students play the role of Cell Division Supervisor, ensuring that each cell-cycle stage occurs in the right order so that millions of cells can divide.

Preview and play Control of the Cell Cycle to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. Review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

Preview the BrainPOP movie Mitosis to plan for any adaptations.

Depending on your classroom routines and available technology, you may want to consider these grouping options:

  • 1:1 with students and devices
  • Two to three students sharing one device and swapping ideas and the device back and forth
  • Station model where small groups rotate through using the devices
Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with BrainPOP movies Cells and  Mitosis.

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Remind students that the cell cycle is the series of events that happen as cells grow and divide.  Invite students to brainstorm what they know about cells. Jot their responses on the whiteboard. Prompt them by asking questions, such as:
      • What are cells?
      • How do cells carry out life functions?
      • How are cells organized into working groups?
    Depending on whether you’ve studied mitosis yet or not, you may also want to ask the phases of the cell cycle.
  2. Explain to students that today they will watch a movie and play a game about the phases of the cell cycle.
  3. Have pairs watch the movie Mitosis together at a computer or device. Or,  you can choose to watch the movies as a whole class. After they watch, have the pairs open the Make-a-Map feature (available to My BrainPOP subscribers) from within the movie and create a concept map in which they put the fours steps of mitosis in order and describe what happens in each step, as they watch the movie again. Suggest that they pause the movie as they create their maps. And, remind them that they can use clips of the movie in their maps.  If limited access to computers, show the movie to the whole class, and have students complete the Flow Chart offline.
  4. Invite pairs or small groups to share their concept map with another pair or small group to ensure that their order is correct, and that they understand the concepts.
  5. Now have students independently open the game Control of the Cell Cycle. Explain that as "Cell Division Supervisor" inside the cell nucleus, their job is to control cell division so that the stages of the cell cycle happen in the correct order, and that the cell has successfully replicated its genetic material at specific checkpoints in the cell cycle. The challenge is to complete the game and to make sure that the cell divided correctly.  Point out that if they make the wrong choice, they will have 10 seconds to choose another option before the cell is destroyed. if they make more than three mistakes during one cell division, the energy level in the cell will be too low to proceed and they will have to start again.
  6. To help them succeed, particularly if they are not already familiar with the phases of the cell cycle, encourage students to print out the concept maps they created of the stages of the fours steps of mitosis, or use the their completed flowcharts.
  7. To start playing, students click ENTER. After reading introductory information, they click the entrance to begin.
  8. Circulate as students play and help as needed. Ensure that all students reach the end of the game, where they can choose to watch a short film featuring the final stage of the cell cycle, or see photographs.
  9. Conclude the lesson by revisiting the questions from Step 1.

Extension Activities:

Divide the class into small groups. Invite each group to put on a short play acting out the cell cycle. Each student in the group is to take on a different role in the process.

Students may also  want to explore the BrainPOP game Microbes.