Katie Blunt
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
Upper Elementary
Lesson Plan, Matter, Seed, filmmaking
Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike
Media Formats:

Education Standards

Matter Documentary Lesson Plan

Matter Documentary Lesson Plan


This lesson plan utilizes filmmaking to solidify student understanding of scientific phenomena related to matter. While the plan is tied to 5th grade SEEd standards, it can be adapted to meet any SEEd standard at any grade level, particularly in upper elementary, middle school, and high school.  

(This resource's preview image was created by the author of this lesson plan.)



In this lesson, the teacher will guide students in creating films that document the behavior of matter as demonstrated in various scientific experiments.

Time allotted: 1-5 weeks

Utah core standards: SEEd strand 5.2

Instructional Priorities: 

  • Explicit Instruction

  • Instructional Hierarchy

  • Acquisition, Automaticity, Application

DOK level: 4

Lesson sequence: This lesson can be taught at the end of the unit as a way for the teacher to review concepts with students and to allow students to show mastery. Or, the lesson can be adapted to be a unit plan in which students record experiments conducted as part of initial instruction instead of review.

Format: This lesson is planned for in-person, synchronous instruction.

Possible schedule:

  • Week 1 - Create groups, assign one objective per group, review background knowledge, choose experiments that demonstrate the concepts for each objective

  • Week 2 - Write scripts and create story boards for a documentary that explains, demonstrates, and applies each objective.

  • Week 3 - Conduct experiments, record data, record video of each experiment, gather all needed photos, and create related graphs, charts, graphics, etc.

  • Week 4 - Edit projects in iMovie, including graphics, graphs and/or charts, narration, video and photos, background music, titles, and credits.

  • Week 5 - Share and celebrate documentaries and submit them to the film festivals and/or contests.

Background for Teachers

Filmmaking can seem like a daunting project the first couple times it is done in the classroom. Consider starting with a smaller, more simple project first so that the students can get used to the basics of iMovie as well as the planning process and filming techniques. In the end, filmmaking is worth the time and effort because filmmaking in the classroom increases student engagement and learning. The following graphic attached at the bottom of this section helps explain this.

To teach this lesson you will need an understanding of properties and changes of matter. The following resources can help you teach this topic:

For more information about filmmaking, visit the Canyons District Film Festival website.


Materials needed:

  • Laboratory equipment and materials as described in the lessons found in the 5th grade resources in the SEEd hub in eMedia

  • Storyboard template (see the template attached at the bottom of this section)

Technology needed:

  • Computer, iPad, or other device that can record video and take photos

  • Mac computer or iPad with Safari, Notes, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, PhotoBooth, and iMovie installed 

Note: This lesson plan references Apple tools and applications. It can also be taught with other software and apps.

Step 1 - Goals and Outcomes

Step 1 Goals and Outcomes

Learning intentions:

  • Students will understand that all substances are composed of matter.

  • Students will understand that matter is made of particles that are too small to be seen but still exist and can be detected by other means.

  • Students will understand that substances have specific properties by which they can be identified.

  • Students will understand that when two or more different substances are combined a new substance with different properties may be formed.

  • Students will understand that whether a change results in a new substance or not, the total amount of matter is always conserved.

  • Students will be able to explain scientific phenomena in an organized, clear, and focused way through the medium of film. 

Success criteria: 

  • Students will conduct scientific experiments demonstrating scientific phenomena.

  • Students will compile research and experiment data that supports them in explaining scientific phenomena.

  • Students will write a script, create a storyboard, and ultimately create a film that clearly explains the scientific phenomena they have observed.

Step 2 - Planning Instruction

Step 2 Planning Instruction

Student background knowledge:

Students will need to have an understanding of the properties and changes of matter as outlined in SEEd strand 5.2.

Strategies for diverse learners:

The lesson progresses, the teacher can use the scripts and storyboards generated to gage student understanding and offer additional support or extension opportunities as appropriate. It may be necessary to offer additional scaffolds for groups that need it, including more direct assistance and modeling of experiment procedures. In some cases, it may be necessary for the teacher to conduct an experiment, rather than the students themselves, while the students film and gather data. The Slides and Nearpod resources list earlier in this plan provide questions, scenarios, and images intended to activate background knowledge. The lesson could be personalized by allowing students to choose various styles of filmmaking to employ. Discussions about digital citizenship and media literacy can and should be part of the filmmaking process as well, particularly for students who struggle with the concepts of safe posting, copyright, and source citation, or if these concepts have not yet been introduced to the students.

Step 3 - Instruction


Students will work in groups to create documentaries that explain the concepts they have learned in science. Each group will research their assigned science objective and choose an experiment that demonstrates the concepts they have learned. They will use Notes to record important information as they research.

Next, they will use Notes or Pages to write a documentary script that explains the concepts in their own words so that their audience can learn the concepts as well. They will then create a storyboard in Notes or Pages that shows how their script will be supported and enhanced using video of their experiment, photos, graphics, graphs, charts, narration, music, and titles.

Each group will conduct their chosen experiment while collecting experiment data using Numbers. They will film their experiment using PhotoBooth or the Camera app on an iPad. They will generate charts and graphs to represent and explain the data collected using Numbers. They will either find openly licensed photos and graphics that represent the concepts they have learned, or they will create their own using Pages or Keynote.

Finally, they will import all the resources they have filmed, created, or found into iMovie to edit together what they planned in their storyboard. They will use their scripts to record narration for their documentary and will add titles for clarification and to focus on important points. They will export their finished documentaries to be turned in to their district film festival or other competition and will use AirPlay to showcase their work to their classmates and teacher.

Learning Activities:
I Do
Review the concepts that go along with each of the objectives in SEEd strand 5.2. This could be done using a Keynote presentation, a Kahoot!, a classroom discussion, etc. The following Slides presentations and Nearpod lessons may be referred to as you review. (You may need to log in to eMedia in order to access these resources.)

Explain the objectives and provide a summary of the student project. Show the students a sample documentary so they have an idea of what their finished product may be like. (This documentary about physical change may be used as an example.)

Divide your class into 4 groups. Assign one of the unit’s 4 objectives to each group, or let the groups choose their objectives.

We Do
Meet with each group individually. With each group, review the concepts related to their objective. Explore various resources that provide further insight into their objective. You may use the databases found in Utah’s Online Library to conduct further research. You may also refer to the Utah OER Textbook for 5th Grade SEEd.

In addition to researching concepts and information, work with the students to select an experiment they will conduct that demonstrates the concepts in their objective. As you research, guide the students in recording important information using Notes. Have them copy and paste the link to their chosen experiment. They may want to create a checklist of materials they will need to conduct their experiment.

Y’all Do
Have each group use Notes or Pages to write a script that explains the concepts in their objective. Their purpose is to explain the concepts in a way that is interesting, informative, and concise. They should write their script so that someone who has not heard the information before could understand it. Encourage them to include their own unique voices in their writing while still being clear and focused on the topic. Once their script is written, look over their work and offer suggestions for improvement and edits. (Attached at the bottom of this section you will find a sample script.)

Next, have each group create a storyboard that will help them plan how they will transform their script into a documentary — one that uses audio and visuals to more clearly explain and keep the audience’s interest. Have the students create their storyboard in Pages, Notes, or Keynote. (Attached at the bottom of this section you will find a sample storyboard.)

You Do
Now that the groups have planned and received feedback from you, it is time for them to conduct and film their experiments, create the multimedia they will use in their documentaries, and combine and edit it all in iMovie.

Have them review filming, multimedia, sound, and editing tips. The Canyons District Film Festival website is a good resource for finding simple, helpful filming tips.

Have each group conduct their experiment while filming. You may want to have one group conduct their experiment at a time so that the class can watch and so you can more easily supervise and offer assistance. They should collect data throughout the experiment using Numbers.

Following the experiment, each group should generate Graphs or charts that display the data collected from the experiment. At this point, they may need to go back and edit their script to include a description of what happened during the experiment and to summarize what the data shows and what was learned.

Each group should create or find graphics to represent the concepts they have learned about. These could be royalty-free graphics and photos found online during their research, or they could be photos taken by the students pointing out real-life examples of the concepts learned, or they could be graphics created by the students in Pages or Keynote.

Each group will use iMovie to create the documentary they outlined in their storyboard. They should import, organize, and edit their photos, graphics, graphs, charts, and experiment video footage. Then, they should add titles to their project for clarification and focus on important points. They will then record themselves reading their script using the voiceover microphone tool in iMovie. They may need to record in pieces to make it easier to align the voiceover with the correct visuals in their project. Finally, they should add music that enhances, but does not detract from, their project. For help using iMovie, visit Apple’s online iMovie guide.

Step 4 - Assessments

Step 4 Assessments

The teacher should observe student progress throughout the experiment and filmmaking process to gage student understanding and offer additional support or extension opportunities as needed.

The scripts and storyboards created by the groups are good indicators of student progress and provide opportunities for feedback and correction as needed.

When each documentary is completed, it is a good idea to preview the projects and offer feedback and suggestions before their final project is due, particularly if this is the first film the students have made. When the final draft is ready, have the students export the file to their desktop, then upload the file into Google Drive for easy sharing with you. Have them submit their projects to their district film festival or other competition, and then hold a viewing party with your whole class. Have the students AirPlay their documentaries for the class to view. Popcorn is recommended. 

The rubric attached at the bottom of this section can be used to evaluate your students’ final projects and their mastery of the lesson objectives.