Single-Cell Organisms: Lesson Plan

Learn about protists—single-celled organisms that carry out the basic functions of life.

UNC-TV Media

Alignment to NC Essential Standards

  • 7.L.1.1 — Compare the structures and life functions of single-cell organisms that carry out all the basic functions of life.

Learning Outcomes

  • Students will describe the basic structures and life functions of euglena, amoeba and paramecium—single-cell organisms known as protists.

Essential Vocabulary

  • Amoeba
  • Paramecium
  • Euglena
  • Protists
  • Single-cell organism
  • Vacuoles
  • Flagella
  • Cilia


Students will view the PBS Learning Media video “Single Cell Organisms.” 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How does the actual size of the single-cell organisms you are looking at compare with that of a familiar object? 
  2. What do these single-cell organisms have in common? How do they differ from one another? 
  3. What characteristics do these single-cell organisms share with multicellular organisms such as insects, birds, squirrels and humans?


Perhaps the most devastating single-cell organism is Plasmodium falciparum, which is the parasite that causes the deadliest form of malaria. 

Students will view the PBS Learning Media presentation History of a Lethal Disease to learn more about Plasmodium falciparum, and then discuss the following questions in class.

  1. Approximately how many children every year are infected with malaria?
  2. What are Plasmodium falciparum, and why are they so dangerous?
  3. Why does the fact that plasmodia has a short life cycle make it so difficult to treat malaria?
  4. What are “vector” animals and insects?


Students will view the NC Now Animation “Protists,” and answer questions on the attached PDF as they watch.


Some molds, and most bacteria, are single-celled organisms. Students can view the NC Science Now video Hurricane Matthew: The Science of Cleanup, and answer the questions on the attached PDF.


Students will choose one of the types of single-celled organisms described in the Protists video, and create a poster board that includes answers to the following questions: 

  1. What are examples of this type of single-cell organism?
  2. Where does the organism live? 
  3. How does the organism move? 
  4. How does the organism eat? 
  5. How does the organism excrete waste? 
  6. What are some potential dangers of this type of organism?

Additional Resources

  • What is an Amoeba? — 
  • Amoeba — 
  • What is an Amoeba? —
  • What is a Paramecium? —
  • Paramecium — 
  • What are the characteristics of a paramecium? — 
  • Euglena: Characteristics, Classification & Structure —
  • The Euglena —