How To Teach Microscope Skills in Biology

Using a microscope for the first time is a WOW moment for many science students. You are sure to grab their attention and they will love exploring the microscopic world. It is important to review microscope skills every year to ensure that your students are comfortable with using a microscope and that they are using it correctly.

1. Parts of a Microscope

I always spend some time reviewing the parts of the microscope, even with my seniors. They can never hear it too much! 

Using a card sort is an easy way to assess their understanding and clear any misconceptions. I also love using this virtual microscope. This is great for students who are absent or if you have to teach virtually.

2. Using a Microscope

Before I let my students use prepared slides, we use letters from a newspaper to practice focusing the microscope. It is also great to help them understand how the image is going to move when they move the stage. My students are always amazed at the detail they see on a simple letter.

3. Creating Slides

This is probably one of my favorite lessons to teach. Preparing onion skin cell slides is easy and low prep and it has the wow factor! Even if my students are sharing microscopes, I still let each of them create their own slide. They love it!

4. Introduce Other Slides

Give your students other slides to explore. The mosquito head ones are a huge hit in my classes. Get them to collect their own samples to look at. The more your students use microscopes, the better they will get at it.

I try to incorporate microscope work into as many of my lessons as possible. If we are studying plants, we will create nail polish stomata slides. When we study gas exchange, we will look at the tissues in the different parts of the respiratory system. Blood vessels and blood smears are a must when studying the circulatory system. The possibilities are endless.

5. Practice!

I always have microscopes ready to use for those early finishers. They can never get too much practice! My seniors will often come and work with the microscopes during their work periods. They are very familiar with microscopes and can work independently. The more they practice, the more confident they become in their microscope skills.

Remember to have a look at my blog post about teaching Biological Drawings. These two skills go hand in hand!

You can use this exclusive free set of Microscope Graphic Organizers to use with your students. I hope they find it useful!