Friday, January 6, 2012

TOS Review - Z-Guide to the Movies

Using movies as part of a social studies curriculum sounds like a great idea, doesn't it?  It has grabbed my attention more than once when I've been at curriculum fairs and browsed some of the offerings from Zeezok Publishing.  As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we had the opportunity to give it a try with a Z-Guide to the Movies.


Zeezok has been around since 1993, and Z-Guide to the Movies is one of the newer products.  Z-Guides are available for a large number of movies and are designed to help students learn more about the historical setting of the movie, use research and critical thinking skills, do related hands-on and art activities, discuss worldviews, and learn more about the film-makers art.

There were so many great film titles to choose from, it was hard to narrow it down, but I decided to try the high-school level guide for the movie "Amazing Grace."  We already owned the movie, although my kids hadn't watched it, and although Spencer (my high school student) is studying American history this year, it turned out that our little detour to study this movie coincided with his look at Frederick Douglass and the American abolitionist movement!  Great timing!


We watched the movie as a family, and worked together on the Z-Guide's Movie Review Questions.  Landon and Kennady contributed answers as well, and just pausing the DVD to jot down the answers started a couple of good discussions.  We took a brief look at the Research activities and it was interesting that some of the suggested research areas were questions that we had already raised about the background to the story, and we all wanted to find out more!  Another activity in the Z-Guide was some work on Frederick Douglass's Speech Against Slavery.  We didn't do the activity, but as I mentioned, Spencer had just been reading Douglass's autobiography and so he was immediately able to make the connections and tell the other kids a little about it.  (I cheered silently, because this is one of my favorite signs that a kid 'gets it' - teaching somebody else what he learned, and without being told to!)  The art activity is to design a poster opposing the slave trade, and although I didn't ask Spencer to do this, we did talk about it and this also opened up some family discussion.  We very briefly discussed the Filmmaker's Art questions in the guide as well.

What We Liked Best:
  • many movies to choose from - classic, family-friendly films representing many historical periods and different geographical settings.  And I loved that the website sorts the movies by historical periods!
  • "pick and choose" format for the activities.  You don't need to do every activity, and each of them could stand alone.
  • hands-on and artistic activities included along with research to engage all learning styles.
  • at least in the movie we looked at, I was able to engage my younger students in the discussion even though the guide was designed for high school students.
What We Weren't Crazy About:
  • I would love to see more Z-Guides for younger students, particularly middle school age.  That said, we were able to adapt our discussion to include the younger kids, and I don't think it would be difficult to tweak the activities a bit to make them suitable for a younger student.  This would depend on the movie content, obviously.  
After we finished with the activities and discussion, I asked my boys what they thought about using movies to study history.  Not surprisingly, they both thought watching a movie and then discussing and researching its content and background was far preferable to just reading and research.  It makes sense because the subject matter is presented to appeal to more senses and to our emotions as well.  We had a very positive experience using the Z-Guide, and I am currently working on my wish list of Z-Guide titles to use in my history lesson plans from now on!

Would you and your students like to go to the movies with a Z-Guide?  Here's what you need to know:

Each Z-Guide is movie-specific, and sells for $12.99.  The movie is not included with the guide, but Zeezok does sell the DVDs. Prices for the movies vary, so check the website for pricing.  Most of the movies are also available on Netflix.  You can find out more at What is a Z-Guide? and see the entire list of Z-Guides and movies at Zeezok Publishing - Z-Guide to the Movies.  You can also follow Zeezok on Facebook.

Visit the TOS Homeschool Crew blog for more information, and to read other Crew member reviews.  The other Crew members used Z-Guides for different movies!


Note: As part of the TOS Homeschool Crew, we were provided with the Z-Guide in exchange for our honest opinions.


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