How to Teach Cellular Respiration

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Cellular respiration is the breakdown of sugar in a cell for energy. The process produces water and carbon dioxide as byproducts. A fun and memorable way to teach the complicated process of cellular respiration is through music. Music uses many parts of the brain and is a great way to remember important information and stimulate the right side of the brain.

  • Lesson Idea 1:
  • science songs
  • lyric worksheets
  • Lesson Idea 2:
  • 3 pieces blue paper
  • 6 pieces of red paper
  • 9 pieces of green paper
  • 1 piece of yellow paper
  • 6 pieces of white paper
  • 1 posterboard

1 Cellular Respiration Songs

2 Choose a song

Choose a song about cellular respiration that is appropriate for your grade level from a website like Some songs are quite complicated and should be used for middle school only.

3 Copy the lyric sheets

Copy the lyric sheets. Give these to your students so they can follow along with the song.

4 Make a fill-in-the-blank lyric sheet

Make a fill-in-the-blank lyric sheet for middle school students where they can listen carefully to the song and fill in key words. This will help them to pay close attention to the words.

5 Design

Design your own worksheet to go with the song if you like. Make a word search or crossword puzzle using information from the song.

6 Allow students

Allow students to make a dance or motions to go with the song. This will enhance left and right brain connections even more. Make them dance as a class or allow small learning groups to each make their own and present to the rest of the class.

7 Cell Respiration Walk-Through Activity

8 Prepare for the lesson

Prepare for the lesson by drawing the chemical equation for photosynthesis on one side of the poster board and the equation for respiration on the other. Cut the blue paper in half and label with a large C for carbon. Cut the red paper in half and label each piece H for hydrogen. Cut the green paper and label with O for oxygen. Draw a sun on the yellow paper, draw a large + sign on one piece of white and an arrow on another piece of white paper. Write the words carbon dioxide, water, glucose and oxygen on the remaining pieces of white paper.

9 Find a large area

Find a large area such as an outside play area or field, a gym or cafeteria. A hallway will also work. Give students a piece of paper each. If you have a smaller class, you may need to give more than one paper to a student.

10 Hold up the poster board

Hold up the poster board showing the equation for photosynthesis. Students should arrange themselves to be in position of the equation. Have the students name the molecules they have arranged themselves into.

11 Flip the poster board

Now flip the poster board to show the respiration equation. Students should move and now represent the substances produced by respiration and should name the new molecules. Have the students reposition themselves a third time to represent the byproducts of respiration--carbon dioxide and water.

12 Switch the papers

Switch the papers the students are holding and repeat the activity until all students have had the chance to be every part or each molecule.

  • Make sure students are focused on the song and not using the music as an excuse to become distracted or be distracting.
  • It is okay for a classroom to be noisy and for children to move around while they learn. This will enhance the learning experience.

Susan King is a teacher with 27 years experience with all ages, grade levels and ability levels, including teaching in China. She has written a book, "The Road to Rebecca," about adopting from China. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She also has a ThM from Colorado Theological Seminary in Christian Counseling and recently received her PhD.