Sunday, January 8, 2012

Crew Review: Z-Guides to the Movies

Over Christmas break, we were given the opportunity to review a "Z-Guide" from Zeezok Publishing.  Z-Guides ($12.99) are promoted as ways that families can integrate movies into their curriculum with the benefit of more than just passively watching an movie and then turning it off.

The PDF downloaded guide includes 10 activities for each movie.  Guides are produced with two different audiences:  elementary/middle school and high school.  Zeezok also sells copies of each of the movies that have guides for.

What is in a Z-Guide:
...All of the guides contain ten educational activities that build upon the movie. The guides are movie specific. We tell you exactly which movie we used, and almost all are available thru Netflix. Most you can probably get through your local library. So you don’t even need to buy the movie to use our guides!
Each guide starts out with a topic overview. This overview provides the student with more information regarding the specific time period in which the movie is based. Next is a movie synopsis. The synopsis will assist the student in understanding what is going on in the movie and how relationships, situations, and events all relate together.

We were given a downloadable Z-Guide for the movie "Flyboys."  When I signed up for it, I checked to make sure Netflix had it {they did} and happily awaited its delivery in my inbox.  I guess I had a major brain-drain because I didn't  check the ratings for the movie, nor did I check other sites I use to determine if a movie is appropriate for our family.  I should have! Please, before you purchase a guide like this -- check out why a movie is given its rating.

That said, I contacted Zeezok and they told me that this guide I have is rather new and should have a warning label on it that provides a parental warning.  It didn't when I wrote this review -- but hopefully it will be there in the future.  Let me be clear to say that I'm not faulting Zeezok for putting out a guide for this movie.  It is my responsibility to check what comes into my house. But I do want to warn my readers that this movie has some adult content that you will want to check out before you slide it into the DVD player!
click cover to go to website
The guide is set up so that you complete two activities a day for one week.  The guide recommends you watch the movie more than once.  For Flyboys this is what we had:

Day 1:  Review questions and some history learning about the French Escadrille.

Day 2: Arts and crafts activities.

Day 3: Creative writing activity with a number of  four possible writing prompts.  A crossword puzzle is also included.  The answers for the puzzle are a mix of character names as well as vocabulary words that you were exposed to in the course of the movie.

Day 4: Write a letter to a veteran as well as two reading comprehension passages about a real World War I personalities.  The questions are free-response and encourage critical thinking and reading skills.
Day 5: Worldview activity.  A parallel is drawn between two characters in the movie who experience conflict and two fictional children who experience conflict.

We didn't do as much with this product as I'd hoped, because of our 3-week Christmas vacation.  That said, I was mostly impressed with the activities in the guide.  Since I have both elementary and middle school in my house, there are different activities to use with each set of kids:  Ben {middle schooler} and paper airplanes are a think of the past; Luke and Levi make them often.  But I was pleased to see the worldview component -- which I think is a really important component of middle school home education.  I actually wish there was more worldview suggestions for middle school (I might have to check out the high school version for that)!

I think this is a great supplement to our classical history rotation or to a unit study approach to history. Zeezok has a number of guides that span topics and history and it would be great to incorporate some additional ones into our studies, since we like movies so much.

Check out the Z-Guide Timeline on the left side of the page here.

To see what other Crew members thought of the guides (for lots of other movies), head over to the Crew Blog.

FCC:  In exchange for an honest opinion about this product and how it worked in our homeschool, I was given a free e-book of this product.

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