Apr 4, 2011

Zeezok Movie Guides

When I recently had the opportunity to review a movie guide by Zeezok Publishing I was intrigued but skeptical. The movie guides strive to incorporate media as a teaching tool by providing ten activities to be used over the course of five days. The movies profiled are movies that are historically based such as "A Man For All Seasons" or those show aspects of pivotal periods of time through the experiences of the characters such as civil rights history in America through "Driving Miss Daisy". The guides provide a structured means to make the most of those movies that we, as homeschooling parents, like to use to flesh out teaching on a specific event or period of history. The guides are published on CD and retail for $12.99 each, making them affordable for almost any homeschooler's budget. (Visit their website for a complete listing of movies and guides available.) These guides would also help assuage your conscience when turning to movies when we really do not have a grasp on the subject matter ourselves or are feeling overwhelmed by life itself and need to feel that we are not totally abdicating our obligation to teach.

The movie guide that we received was "Cromwell", set during the English Civil War. We requested this guide because we had seen this movie a few years ago and found it to be mesmerizing and we just so happened to have recently finished our study of this time period.

The guides are appropriate for high school use. Much of the material in the guide could also be used for upper middle school or Jr high. The guide began with a one page topic overview of the history behind the movie, a synopsis of the movie and movie review questions. These sections are to be read prior to watching the movie so that the student is not passively watching, but actively engaged. This is important because most of us are accustomed to being entertained, not thinking critically during movies. Activity 2 had the student utilize print and internet resources to chronologically examine the span of history covered. It also had students consider ways that the concept of limited government had it's roots in the time of Cromwell.

Activity 3 further explores facets of history; in the guide that we used the New Model army is studied. Activity 4 had the students read a script of, then re-watch a scene of the movie that contains the crux of the movie. The student is drawn into the scene and dissects it, ensuring a solid grasp of the matters at hand and the positions of the proponents. It then has the student extrapolate the issues to their own frame of reference, by asking which of the protagonists the student would vote for if running for president, and why.

In Activity 5 the student summarizes biographical details for the main players in the events of the English Civil War. Activity 6 provides the opportunity for the student to memorize a portion of the movie, in the case of our movie, the students memorized and delivered Cromwell's speech dissolving Parliament.

Activities 7 and 8 were more relaxed, though not un-educational, with a crossword puzzle based on historical facts of the period and the assignment to design a recruitment poster for the New Model army.

Activity 9 is world-view focused, having the students consider the motivations behind specific actions of specific people and the forces and beliefs that spurred the actions.

Activity 10, "The Filmmaker's Art" explores techniques used to craft a movie that will engross the viewer. The use of music is discussed with the question 'The film begins and ends with a choir singing "Rejoice in the Lord". What message does this song communicate?" Concepts such as foreshadowing and irony are also discussed.

The guide was very thorough in helps for teachers. Suggestions were made for grading the activities, complete with a point system and answer key. Family discussion questions were included as well as lists of other resources.

Overall...great concept. I tend to look askew at things that I perceive as "shortcuts". My children do not generally watch movies based on books unless they have read the books. I avoid study guides because as much as possible I want to avoid having their view on matters of history shaped by the opinions of others. That being said--rather than finding the guide shaping how they should view the movie (and hence the time period) I found it to be excellent at tweaking out critical thought and internalizing the importance of this period of time in how our government functions today--in other words the guide did exactly what I believe I do by avoiding guides! I appreciated the fact that there are physical and creative activities to draw out students who are possibly not as history oriented as mine. (It has taken a while but I have slowly come to realize that not every family cheers over the thought of exploring old cemeteries!) I really liked the way the guide is laid out to maximize the impact of the movie in one viewing plus revisiting of a specific scene rather than repeated viewings.

To be honest...much of the facts covered in the movie were facts and facets that my children had already explored, but this is in no way a denigration of the movie guide--we are simply a family that loves history and immerses ourselves in the time periods that we study. As I mentioned earlier, our children do not get to watch movies until I am confident that they already have internalized the subject matter that will be viewed. It is a significant compliment for me to say that this guide more than met my expectations and that I can see us using these guides in the future to ensure that we gain as much as possible from the movies that we use to supplement our history studies. Basically these movie guides are what I, as a history buff and purist would write--if I had the time.

I received our copy of the movie Guide to "Cromwell" free in exchange for this unbiased review. This I do as a part of The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew.


CamsShel said...

Do you think these guides would help with the time periods y'all aren't passionate about? Do they offer any?

They apparently have the same taste in blog format as you, as well... ;-) [ zeezok.blogspot.com ]

LeeAnne said...

Absolutely. As much as I hate to say it, being on teh farm has made it difficult for us to fully flesh out my homeschooling philosophies. I still believe that biographies, living books, good literature and heavy dialectic give and take is at the heart of great education. That being said--our lives simply do not allow for that anymore. This leaves us needing to compromise and products such as this one make the compromise more palatable.