This image shows a popcorn and a movie clapboard. The text says "tips for STEM Movies in the classroom"

How to use STEM movies in your classroom

Everyone loves a great movie day! However, if it’s not planned right, students disengage and play around. Then you lose out on a period of instruction and feel stressed while managing student behavior. You can avoid these problems and set up STEM movies for success in your classroom by following the tips below!

7 tips for using STEM movies in your classroom

This image shows a classroom with desks and a projector and projector screen. The class is set up for a movie day.

1. Choose STEM movies with clear connections to your class content

When you really need a break, it’s tempting to just put on something you know the students will enjoy, but when we do this we are missing out on a big opportunity. When you choose STEM movies that connect to your class content, you can get your much needed break while keeping your students engaged in learning.

2. Find or create a movie guide with clear learning objectives

One of the best things you can do to keep your students on task and focused during a movie day is finding or creating a movie guide that will help your students focus on the important concepts in the movie and make connections to the STEM concepts . Meaningful movie guides focus on the larger themes and take-aways in the film rather than making sure the students are paying attention to every small detail. 

This image shows a movie guide for the film Dream Big: Engineering Our World

3. Set the stage with a pre-movie discussion

Don’t jump right to pressing play. Instead, take a few minutes at the beginning of class to get students thinking about the topic and themes they will see in the movie. You can engage them in discussions about common misconceptions or real-world experiences they may have had with the topic. This will get your students wanting to know more and set the tone for a focused movie day rather than a free period. 

4. Prompt students to fill in the first few comprehension questions

I find that it is super helpful for me to pay attention during the first 10 minutes or so of the movie and prompt my students to answer the first few questions on their movie guide. This shows students that you are serious about them completing the assignment and helps kids who get wrapped up in the plot remember they have something to do besides enjoying the movie. After a couple of prompts, my students usually get the hang of it and then I can turn my attention to whatever else I need to do during that period.

This image shows a STEM Movie guide for The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind on a wooden desk.

5. Use popcorn or another tasty treat as in incentive

This is another great strategy for motivating students to stay on task and model good movie etiquette. Bring a treat for the class, but don’t pass it out until students are demonstrating the behavior you want. I usually tell students up front that when the room is quiet and everyone is working on their movie guide, I will pass out a snack. I don’t ever use food punitively. Everyone who wants it, gets it when the whole class is doing the right thing. This strategy has worked wonders for me keeping kids quiet and focused during movie days. In fact, I probably should have made this tip #1.

6. Give students an opportunity to collaborate after the movie

Some students get anxious about missing an answer on the movie guide. I usually tell them that I will give them time to work with a partner after the movie to get help with any questions they missed. This is enough to take the pressure off and help students focus on getting done what they can rather than fixating on missing question #6 and then missing questions 7, 8, 9, and 10.

This image shows a STEM movie guide for Hidden Figures on a wooden desk.

7. After the movie follow up with activities that reinforce concepts

To really drive home the idea that STEM movies are part of student learning, you can follow up the film with activities that build on the movie themes and concepts. For example, you could have students research a topic more in-depth. You could have them create a related diagram or reflect on a quote from the film and what it means to them.

Ready-to-go STEM Movie Guides

This image shows a variety of movie guides for STEM Movies, including Rise of the Robots, Dolphin Tale, Spare Parts, Hidden Figures, and Can We build a brain? The text reads, "Ultimate STEM Movie Guide Bundle."

I would love to help you use STEM movies that connect to your curriculum and positively impact student learning. I have created ready-to-go movie guides for a wide range of STEM movies that your students are sure to love!

All STEM in the Middle movie guides include printable and digital versions. The before, during, and after questions to keep your students engaged and learning throughout the entire “movie day.” This means you are free to catch up on grades, hold conferences, hang out with your students, or take a much-needed sick day.

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