Archive for the ‘Wednesday Movies’ Category

Movie Wednesday: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Movie Night: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

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One of the most successful book series of all time, Harry Potter has enchanted several different generations and inspired millions. The books have all been adapted into an equally successful film series, beginning with the first one, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (links to digital edition).

Orphaned as a baby and living with his horrible aunt and uncle, Harry James Potter isn’t the happiest boy in the world… until a giant kicks down the front door and tells him he’s a wizard. Enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry’s life becomes quite literally magical. He makes new friends, Ron and Hermione, learns extraordinary spells, and discovers a secret hidden at the heart of the school. The teachers at Hogwarts are protecting something, and it may be in a lot more danger than they think…

You may well have seen it before, but the first Harry Potter film is still a marvelous experience for the whole family.

Discussion Questions

  • If you’ve read the book, how do you think the film compares?
  • A character arc is the “transformation or inner journey of a character over the course of a story.” How do you think Harry, Ron and Hermione change throughout the film?
  • Is Hogwarts really a safe place for children, considering how many dangerous animals live in the grounds? Would you want to actually go there? Why or why not.
  • Harry essentially kills Quirrell at the film’s climax, unlike in the novel. How do you feel about this rather dark alteration?
  • When a series is loved by millions, as Harry Potter is, we can sometimes lose sight of what makes it so special to us. What does the story of Harry Potter mean to you personally?

Additional Resources

Potter Party Mania! – How to plan and execute a very Harry Potter party!

Harry Potter Crafts – A great resource for all things Potter crafts. Everything from knitting to food.

Harry Potter Recipes – 13 recipes every Harry Potter fan will love.


Learn language arts with the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Arrow!

The Arrow is the monthly digital product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel (you purchase or obtain the novels yourself). It’s geared toward children ages 8-11 and is an indispensable tool for parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.


Movie Wednesday: The Great Gatsby

Movie Wednesday: The Great Gatsby

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Written in 1925 by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby is widely considered a masterpiece. Over the years it’s been adapted into ballets, plays, and several films; and in 2013 it was made into a film again, a luscious extravaganza directed by Baz Luhrmann  and starring Leonardo DiCaprio (in order to evaluate whether or not this PG-13 movie is appropriate for your family, we recommend watching it first and/or using the Kids-in-Mind website).

Plot Summary

In the 1920s, Nick Carraway spends a summer on Long Island, experiencing the wild lifestyle of the East and visiting his beautiful cousin Daisy. Nick’s neighbor, Mr Gatsby, throws the most expensive and exciting parties in the country, even though he himself is never seen. All these parties are held for one reason—to attract Daisy, whom Gatsby has loved for years. But is there any hope for Daisy and Gatsby when they finally meet again? And what will happen when Daisy’s brutal husband Tom finds out?

Discussion Questions

  • How do you think the film compares to to the book?
  • Which character do you sympathize with the most and why? Do you think any of them are irrefutably right or wrong in what they believe and do? Explain.
  • The film is full of visual metaphors—the clock Gatsby nearly breaks, doors banging open, Daisy’s pearl necklace and the green light at the end of the dock. What do you think these represent?
  • The ending of the film is extremely downbeat, with none of the main characters ending up truly happy. Do you prefer happy endings in films? Why or why not.

Additional Resources

Great Gatsby Fried Chicken – How to make Great Gatsby fried chicken!

How to plan a Great Gatsby themed party – Tinsel chandeliers, table settings, and flowers—everything you might need for your Great Gatsby themed party.

Boomerang The Great GatsbyLearn language arts with the Great Gatsby Boomerang!

The Boomerang is a monthly digital downloadable product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel. It is geared toward 8th to 10th graders (ages 12—advanced, 13-15) and is the indispensable tool for Brave Writer parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.

Movie Night: How to Train Your Dragon

Movie Wednesday How to Train Your Dragon

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Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon has captivated millions since it was first published, and in 2012 it was adapted into a film. The film is very different from the book, but it’s a gorgeous piece of work that’s definitely worth a watch.

On the storm-tossed island of Berk, Vikings and dragons are locked in a brutal war. Hiccup, teenage son of the Chief, has a lot on his shoulders and is desperate to prove himself. But when he shoots down a dragon in battle, he can’t bring himself to kill it—and the dragon can’t bring itself to kill Hiccup.

In utmost secret, Hiccup gradually befriends the dragon, whom he names Toothless. Their friendship might change the world. But Hiccup’s friends are growing closer to discovering the truth, and the Vikings and dragons are getting closer and closer to wiping each other out. It might already be too late.

Beautifully animated and with an important message at its heart, How to Train Your Dragon is a superb film for the whole family.

Discussion Questions

  • The movie is quite a loose adaptation of the book. It uses the original idea to create new characters and a new story line. Do you enjoy films like that or do you prefer adaptations that stick more closely to the source material? Explain your answer.
  • How does the soundtrack contribute to the cinematic experience?
  • Would the film work as live action? Give examples where it might or might not work as well.
  • Though the tribe call themselves Vikings, they bear little resemblance to historical Vikings. Does historical accuracy matter in a fantasy film? Why or why not?
  • Would you like to own a dragon? If so, what kind?

Additional Resources

How to Train Your Dragon party ideas – DIY ideas for a How to Train Your Dragon themed kids party.

Make Your Own Viking Helmet – Create your own Viking helmet.

Arrow How to Train Your Dragon Learn language arts naturally with the How to Train Your Dragon Arrow!

The Arrow is the monthly digital product that features copywork and dictation passages from a specific read aloud novel (you purchase or obtain the novels yourself).

It’s geared toward children ages 8-11 and is an indispensable tool for parents who want to teach language arts in a natural, literature-bathed context.

Start With What They Do

Start with what they do

A mom in the BraveSchoolers Facebook Group asked what to do when her son was asked to write a movie review but wrote a summary instead.

Start always with what he did do! A summary is challenging. That he wrote one is a great place to start. Most reviews include a summation of the movie, so notice that. Say: “Great job summarizing the story. That’s a high level writing skill” (it is). Then talk a bit about what he liked and didn’t like about the movie. While he talks, take some notes. Then hand them back to him and say: “I’ve noticed that reviews also include the personal opinions of the reviewers about the movie. You have so many good ones. I jotted a few down. As you take another look at your review, I wonder if you can think about ways to incorporate your opinions as well.”

Don’t do this too quickly after you’ve given positive feedback. Allow him to experience your pride in his work. He can then narrow and expand the content to include opinions. He can give full attention to the opinion part of his thinking and can do some freewriting around that. Then he can take these two pieces of writing and “stitch” them together on yet another day. You might even read some movie reviews together to get ideas about how to do that. Make sense?

Concentrate on how he writes! Start there. Talk about the power of his vocabulary, his ability to grab the reader’s attention, his deft handling of the storyline without boring the reader, or his pacing.

Then talk about the assignment—the purpose of a review. You might read some reviews so he gets a feel for them. Ask him if he wants to take another stab at it, using some of this material, but not giving away the entire plot. Talk to him about how film critics analyze: what are the categories, what are the focal points (Acting? Camera work? Storyline?). Do most reviewers tell the end of the story or do they simply hook you with part of it? And so on. Perhaps don’t even revise this one. Just get to know the genre of reviews, reading them and talking about them. Then he might try another movie with those ideas in mind. Make a list of aspects of film to consider as you write about one when you are reviewing. He just needs more support to do what you are talking about, but his writing is just fine. He’s doing great!

Resist the temptation to say he didn’t do what he was supposed to. Work with what he offered!

The Homeschool Alliance

Calling all armchair travelers to our fall movie club, now boarding!

Movie Club for Globetrotters: India

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Brave Writer Minister of Magic, Nancy GrahamNancy Graham joined Brave Writer’s fulltime staff this year as our Minister of Magic. She has been teaching with Brave Writer since 2011. We interviewed her about the upcoming Movie Club for Globetrotters: India.

How does Movie Club for Globetrotters: India differ from Brave Writer’s other movie clubs?

This will be the first in a series of movie discussion clubs devoted to movies from around the world. Another thing that will distinguish this club is the amount of subtitles, which is great reading practice!

What movies will the club be discussing?

Movie Club for Globetrotters: India

Our first film, Pather Panchali, is considered one of the great classics of world cinema. It’s the first of a trilogy of films that follows a Bengali boy named Apu as he grows into a man. The images are so beautiful that watching is like stepping into a black-and-white version of Bengal in the 1950s. The director, Satyajit Ray, was an eloquent visual storyteller who showed great compassion for his characters. He was influenced by other world-renowned directors such as Jean Renoir and Vittorio De Sica.

Movie Club for Globetrotters: India

From there we will jump to Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India, a more recent, more commercial Bollywood musical! Set before independence, Lagaan is about a cricket match between a British regiment and the local villagers that they are unfairly taxing. I think everybody will be cheering by the end.

Movie Club for Globetrotters: India

Our third movie, The Lunchbox, somehow manages to be a love story and a sociology lesson at the same time. In Mumbai, lunches are delivered by 5,000 dabbawallahs who rarely make a mistake. In this story, through a mix-up, lunches start going to the wrong man and he and the woman who prepares them strike up a correspondence. It’s a sweet story and I highly recommend anyone watching it have some dal, rice, and curry on hand because it will make you hungry. So does writing about it: my daughter read over my shoulder as I wrote this paragraph and we decided to break immediately and head for our favorite Indian restaurant.

Movie Club for Globetrotters: India
Now that I’ve had my arugula dosa and chai, I’ll tell you about our final movie, My Name is Khan. This one stars Shah Rukh Khan, a major Indian film star, in a story that takes us from India to the US where its protagonist, a Muslim with Asperger’s traits, finds himself in the midst of tragedy and anti-Muslim sentiment after 9/11. This movie is a great discussion starter and relevant to today’s conversation about appearances, immigration, violence, and kindness.

Why sign up for an online movie club class?

Here’s how Brave Writer Movie Clubs help kids develop as writers:

1. Movies are great writing prompts. Few if any of us can watch a movie without sharing an opinion. Typically other family members watch too, so discussions ensue that help prime the pump for conversing with other members of the movie club. This is writing-as-conversation rather than as a solitary activity, and it helps writers tune in to their inner conversations. This kind of dialogic writing gradually eases the second, solitary form of writing demanded by high school composition.

2. The movie clubs offer breadth and depth in terms of developing media literacy, a complex set of analytical and creative abilities essential to 21st-century communication. We consider shot composition, transitions, lighting, scoring, sound effects, narrative development, qualities of performance, camera movement, costumes—the list goes on and on. And these topics are rarely introduced by me—it’s the participants who generate insights; I elaborate and invite further exploration.

3. Movies begin as literature with a screenplay, novel, or short story. So discussing movies is often necessarily also a consideration of the art of adaptation from one medium into another.

4. Cinema writing shares much of the language of literary analysis. Thanks to the internet, many young people are now familiar with tropes, archetypes, and other elements of literature, and regularly apply them when discussing animé, manga, and games. Our movie clubs validate and deepen the application of this terminology to the works of popular culture. Participants come to view what they do for entertainment as existing on a continuum with what we think of as high art and literature.

5. We try to make the clubs a blend of commercial successes and movies that get kids’ feet wet with independent or lesser-known works. I hope that as they grow, their increased awareness of alternative film will lead to their having expanded taste and going off the beaten track to screenings at universities, community centers, and art house cinemas.

I hope you’ll join us for our trip to India on September 19th!

Movie Discussion Club