Let's Talk Science: Seeding Argumentation About Cells and Growth

Science Scope, by Deena Gould
Type Category
Instructional Materials
Experiment/Lab Activity
This resource, vetted by NSTA curators, is provided to teachers along with suggested modifications to make it more in line with the vision of the NGSS. While not considered to be "fully aligned," the resources and expert recommendations provide teachers with concrete examples and expert guidance using the EQuIP rubric to adapted existing resources. Read more here.



This is a sequence of lessons that have been developed to help middle school students learn and argue about the core concept of how a plant root grows at the cellular level. The first part of the sequence begins with a corn seed germination activity and the initial phase of teaching the students argumentation. The second part of the sequence consists of a microscope investigation to provide data upon which students will base their arguments explaining growth at the cellular level. In the third part of the sequence, students use their data to publicly make a claim, and provide evidence and reasoning to support their claims. This sequence unfolds over the course of three weeks.

Intended Audience

Educational Level
  • Middle School
Access Restrictions

Available by subscription - The right to view and/or download material, often for a set period of time, by way of a financial agreement between rights holders and authorized users.

Performance Expectations

MS-LS1-1 Conduct an investigation to provide evidence that living things are made of cells; either one cell or many different numbers and types of cells.

Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on developing evidence that living things are made of cells, distinguishing between living and non-living things, and understanding that living things may be made of one cell or many and varied cells.

Assessment Boundary: none

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this performance expectation.

Comments about Including the Performance Expectation
There are two simple investigations. Recommend facilitating chart or note-taking design as explained by the author for both activities. As the author describes this as an early-in-the-year experience to begin teaching argumentation skills, so it must be with experimentation skills as well.

Science and Engineering Practices

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this science and engineering practice.

Comments about Including the Science and Engineering Practice
In addition to the author's designed scaffolds for argumentation, role playing for group science talk, and talking about cells, I recommend a few teacher-designed practice sessions as well. When they begin the 3rd and final part of the sequence, they will have had practice using this special language of scientific discourse. This will be of particular value for building confidence in shy students.

Disciplinary Core Ideas

This resource is explicitly designed to build towards this disciplinary core idea.

Comments about Including the Disciplinary Core Idea
Since this is meant to be taught early in the year, I would show a series of slides of chromosomes to help them recognize what they are observing under the microscope. Clarify that plants themselves are multicellular organisms yet make comparisons that demonstrate a part of the cell theory, "all cells are produced from other cells".

Crosscutting Concepts

This resource appears to be designed to build towards this crosscutting concept, though the resource developer has not explicitly stated so.

Comments about Including the Crosscutting Concept
Clarify with students that what they see on the microscope slides explains what is happening in the corn seedling.

Resource Quality

  • Alignment to the Dimensions of the NGSS: This is a closely aligned sequence of lessons to the DCIs, SEPs, and CCCs.

  • Instructional Supports: Students will also need a preceding lesson on cell structure and be trained to identify chromosomes before beginning the microscope investigation. This should be followed by much scaffolding throughout the investigation on recognizing the changes in chromosomes in the root cells that the students will be observing.

  • Monitoring Student Progress: As written, much of student progress is based on formative assessment. I would require the formal public poster as recommended (but not used) by the author.

  • Quality of Technological Interactivity: - none -