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Movie Night and Basic Story

Family Fun, Reading, Story

Published on: December 7, 2023

Written by: Gina Hagler


When you have kids ranging from beginning readers to advanced, it can be hard to pick a story they all want to hear. Make that story a movie you watch as a family, and suddenly, you’ve got everyone ready to participate. You can talk about the story with pretty much any movie, but here are a few suggestions and some questions to get you started talking about story basics.

Pick the Movie

One of the important things about picking a movie is to pick one with characters and a plot. We’ve found that movies with lots and lots of action and very little to tie that action together are movies that make it difficult to talk about the thread that ties it all together – the narrative, also known as the story. One excellent source of family movie suggestions is the Essential Movies for Kids list on Rotten Tomatoes. The list is broken out by age, but honestly, who doesn’t love Wall-E and Akeelah and the Bee? The most important thing is to be sure the youngest are filled in on what’s happening.

Enjoy the Movie

Treat it like any other movie night. You don’t need to go to extra trouble to explain the story as you go or be heavy-handed in pointing out important things that happen along the way. Just keep an eye on the main characters and the big things that happen so you’re ready to lead the discussion afterward.

Recap the Movie

Recapping the movie is mostly important if you have a mix of young and old kids. When the movie ends, make a game to take turns sharing the main points of what happened. If the younger kids are a little lost, play in teams. Recapping the movie serves two purposes: it makes it possible for the youngest to follow the discussion, and it helps the older kids identify the steps along the way – the plot points – from start to finish.

Talk About the Movie

Ask the kids some general questions: Who was their favorite character? Did the character change? What was the best part of the movie? Did anything make them laugh? Was anything really sad? Did they expect the ending? Would they watch it again? Let the conversation go where it will.

Ask specific questions: What was normal life in the beginning? What made that change? What big steps happened after the change? When did the tension break – the balloon pop – the “thing” that changes things again – happen? What was life like at the end of the movie?

Bottom Line

You just discussed the basics of a story as part of movie night. You’ve identified a beginning, middle, and ending. You’ve identified the inciting incident that causes everything that happens after and the climax that pops the tension. You’ve talked about characters and their development. You’ve given your kids an opportunity to think about the structure behind the movie. You’ve provided a basic understanding of a story without a formal lesson. Nice work!

Read more Support Your Child: Reading

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