Thursday, January 5, 2012

Z-Guides to the Movies

Z-Guide to the Movies- The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin
Zeezok Publishing

So, first, I will give some basics from the Zeezok website so you know what a Z-Guide is...then I will share about our particular experiences with the one we received.

What is a Z-Guide?
If your student enjoys watching movies, we just made it easy for you to incorporate them into your curriculum. We have dozens of guides— each of them falling within a specific time in history. 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 through 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.

The first activity is always review questions. We recommend the student answer these as they watch the movie. We want to be sure they are paying attention and being an active learner versus a passive viewer.

The next several activities all build around the historical time of the movie. The questions in these activities may be more about the people or events that happened in the movie. These questions cannot be answered from watching the movie. (We all know you don’t get accurate facts from a Hollywood movie.) The student will learn research skills because he will need to use either the library or the internet to properly answer these questions. Some of the activities involve writing an essay. For example, in the Scarlet Pimpernel the student is asked to write a one page essay condemning or condoning the actions of the Scarlet Pimpernel. So the student is learning research and writing skills during the process.

Each guide also contains at least one hands-on activity, a worldview activity, and The Filmmaker’s Art activity. The hands-on activities for the active learner vary depending on the guide and include activities such as creating a treasure hunt, completing an art project, or planning and making a meal for the family.

The worldview activity helps the child to understand the movie’s worldview. This activity is not to impress on the student our personal worldview, but to get the student to think critically through what he believes and what is being presented in the movie. Family discussion questions also develop this critical thinking from the worldview promoted within your family.

The Filmmaker’s Art activity helps the student recognize the tools being used to influence the viewer. The various guides discuss how filming techniques, music, lighting, humor, character development, irony, foreshadowing, and even character names are used by the director and producer to influence the viewer to get their agenda across. We want the student to be able to discern not only the agenda of the movie, but also how they are being influenced by it. The goal is that when the student goes to the theatre and watches Harry Potter or Avatar or Happy Feet, he walks out not thinking it was an entertaining movie, but understanding the bigger message behind each film.

So we chose to receive the Z-Guide for The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin. We came across this movie a couple of months ago from our local is an OLDER Disney movie of a boy who tries to save his family from financial ruin and the proper butler who follows to bring him back home. A series of unbelievable adventures awaits them throughout the film which is set in 1849 and the California Gold Rush. We enjoyed the corny comedy of this movie and thought it would be a fun one to review.

The topics covered by this Z-Guide are the California Gold Rush, Integrity and Honesty, Gold Hunting Techniques, and Slapstick Comedy. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Here is what we did...
First, we watched the movie a couple of times to be sure we were very familiar with the film. Then we sat down and worked through the review questions together while watching the film. The Z-Guide recommends reading the topic overview, movie synopsis and review questions before watching the movie and then answering the questions while watching the film for the first time. We did this over Christmas break, and I did not read through the guide prior to watching the film or I would have done it the way they suggest. These questions were fairly easy for the children to answer. They were all straight from the film.

The Z-Guide also gives a suggested schedule for working through the guide, doing two activities a day. I thought that was very reasonable to add to our daily schoolwork. After we finished the questions, I had my children make the Edible Golden Treasures...and let me tell you...THIS was the HIT of the entire session.

The next day, we went through the Topic Overview together and did some research on the California Gold Rush. While we are all working through this, the focus for this review will be my 4th and 8th graders. They worked on a project of their choice about the Gold Rush and their projects are still in process...I will post pictures as soon as I can.

We skipped over Activity two and will get back to it, but went on to do the Vocabulary. My 8th grader had NO trouble completing this, but my 4th grader had a little more trouble...She had trouble with words like scratch line, grubstake and fisticuffs...

The next activity was the one to decide which route we would have taken to California. We mapped out the three route options and researched the pros/cons of each one.

Panning for gold practice was also deemed pretty fun in our home. We found out that we can pan for gold in a town pretty close to us and I can tell you...we will be doing that! We need to wait until warmer weather though...brrr...One interesting tidbit that we learned was that Gold is a very soft metal and so miners would bite on a nugget (EVER WONDER WHY THEY DID THAT???) and if their teeth didn't break (OUCH) and the nugget showed their teeth marks, they were pretty sure they had the real deal.

Four coloring pages made for good busy work while we listened to Gold Rush songs. We found a fun CD called Hard Times in the Promised Land . We are hard pressed to choose only one favorite, but among the top ones were Promised Land, Wayfaring Stranger, Few Days and Hard Times.

We will be coming back to finish up the guide...we still have a few activities to do.

We loved that there were a variety of Z-Guides to cover a wide range of historical periods from Ancient Egypt to the Cold War. A movie is ALWAYS a breath of fresh air from our regular bookwork.

The Z-Guide we received was 34 pages long, which included the answers. I LOVE that it is enough work to "justify" watching a movie for school work, but also fun and often easy so it is not distasteful.

I really enjoy that the Z-Guide delves deeper into the subject than the movie, so you get a better grasp of the history of the period involved. We learned quite a bit about the California Gold Rush and the long term impact the one year "event" had on our nation.

I REALLY LOVED the movie Synopsis part of the Z-Guide...I am not always able to sit down and watch a movie when it is good for the children. That is EXTREMELY HELPFUL!

I also LOVED that it was could be done within one week and was not a HUGE unit study that would disrupt regular school plans. I thought it fit in well as an add-in. I find this valuable, because I often get a "brilliant" idea to study something that someone finds interesting. Those who want to delve deeper can easily make it a HUGE unit study by adding in books/projects related to the topic.

If you would like to look a little closer at a Z-Guide, there is a Sample for you to "thumb" through. Try it and see what you think.

See what my fellow Crew Mates had to say about Zeezok's Z-Guide to the Movies here

Disclaimer: I received this item for the purpose of writing a fair and honest review. I received no other compensation. All the opinions expressed are my own.

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