Teaching Mitosis

Mitosis can be a challenging topic for introductory level biology students. In the past, students only had pictures in a textbook (or copies) to memorize the stages. There seemed to be a disconnect between the memorizing of the stages and understanding the big picture – what is the point of mitosis?

The point should be obvious – that its a way for the cell to divide and ensure that each new cell has the exact same genetic information. Interphase, Prophase, Metaphase, Telophase, and Cytokinesis are all just steps in this process.

Students today are fortunate to have technology to aid them in this study. It is a huge advantage for students to see mitosis as a *process* and not as just individual steps. To this end, my students go to the computer lab (or media center) to view animations of mitosis and fill out the mitosis internet worksheet.

This worksheet sends students to various animations on the web to watch mitosis in action.  Sites like these……..

John Kyrk’s Mitosis Animation
Onion Root Tip Online Activity
Cells Alive (Mitosis Animation)
McGraw Hill Mitosis Animation
Mitosis at Sumanasinc.com

Another trick I use to help students learn the phases is to use plastic models.   I happened to have a set of mitosis models that were left by a previous teacher, but you can probably make your own if you are creative.

The key to using the models is to get students more physically involved.  I’ll scramble the models and pick a student to come up and put them in the right order.  Sometimes the class can help him out or sometimes I’ll ask the class to see if he can do it on his own first.   After getting them in order, the student then names each of the phases.  I’m sure you can use this same technique with magnets or just pictures that students can manipulate.   Models like the ones above can be bought from supply companies,  but they can be expensive.

This animation shows a very clear view of what happens in each step of the cell cycle.   If you are lucky enough to have a digital projector in your room, all the animations linked above can be shown to your class as a whole and you can pause and narrate the images.

Mitosis Animation,  CC licensed by Medportal