Friday, April 1, 2011

Z-Guide to Kit Kittredge (Zeezok Publishing) (TOS Review)

Media is an overwhelming influence in today's society.  I'll admit that we are a media family - my girls love to watch TV and movies.  I admire families who are media-free, but that will likely never describe our family.  I do my very best to make sure that their viewing strikes a balance between "strictly fun" and "educational", although much of it tends to be both - since they love to learn, they think educational is fun.  In the current TOS review product by Zeezok Publishing I discovered a method to make great movies even better.  

In our house there is usually at least one American Girl doll within sight at any given time, along with a smattering of AG accessories.  When I learned I would receive one of Zeezok Publishing's ZGuides to the Movies for review, there was no question which one to choose - Kit Kittredge: An American Girl. (Note that the version we received to review was a pre-production version, so editing/changes have likely occurred.)


The story of Kit Kittredge is set during the Great Depression.  For those of us old enough, we heard stories from our parents and grandparents of what it was like to live through the this period in history.  The difficulty comes when we attempt to convey those stories to our children - children who have become accustomed to living in the "land of plenty."  That's where the Z-Guide to the Kit Kittredge movie becomes useful.  

Product Details

The Z-Guides are unit studies built around movies, which are provided as a CD containing a .pdf of the complete study guide or as a downloadable e-book.  Each guide is written for a specific version of the movie - the Kit Kittredge Z-Guide uses the 2008 New Line Cinema version starring Abigail Breslin).  

The guides include a topic overview, a movie synopsis, ten learning activities (together with an answer key in the back!) for in-depth study of the topics covered in the movie, and (my favorite) a "For Family Discussion" question list.  For the Kit Kittredge Z-Guide, those activities include movie review questions, a research assignment, decoding (and making your own) hobo codes, vocabulary, a "who am I?" activity (one of my girls' favorites!), and several other fun and educational activities.

The guide is designed for use over five days, with two activities per day: 

Day 1:
Activity 1: Movie Review Questions (you watch the movie in its entirety this day, then
          review other days if necessary)
Activity 2: Research the Great Depression

Day 2:        
Activity 3:  I Need a Sign...
Activity 4: Vocabulary can be Depressing

Day 3: 
Activity 5: Something New, Fresh, and Real
Activity 6: Fashion Runway: Great Depression Style

Day 4:
Activity 7:  Who am I?
Activity 8: Literary Devices:  Ironic Foreshadowing or Foreshadowing Irony

Day 5:
Activity 9: Worldview Activity
Activity 10: The Filmmaker's Art and Dramatic License 

The study allows you to pick/choose the activities to do, but the girls wanted to do them all.  However, we took a more than 5 days,  because we tend to follow a lot of rabbit trails.  Also, some of the activities are fairly lengthy (there are 25 questions in Activity 1!), so I suspect that two activities a day, depending on the age and attention span of the children, might be too much.

What I like

Watching the movie with purpose (instead of as simple entertainment) provided a different dimension. The family discusions questions spurred some fairly in-depth conversations, and I've seen the result of those conversations as we've driven around town and encountered homeless people stationed on street corners asking for help.

The Z-guides are affordable at $12.99. 

Doing the activities were very thought-provoking, even for me.  We learned a lot more about the Great Depression than I anticipated, and were forced to think through several issues that I would not have considered otherwise.

This study is also very timely for any family (depending, of course, on the age of the children) facing unemployment in the current economic environment. 

The activities cover a wide spectrum of topics regarding the movie and the historical period.  For example, Activity 10 incorporates filmmaking concepts - lighting, irony, music and color - and poses questions about how each of those elements is used in the movie to convey mood/atmosphere.

There are Z-Guides on several books that are used in literature-based curricula - A Tale of Two Cities, Johnny Tremain,  My Side of the Mountain, etc.  Using Z-Guides for these books would add another dimension compared to reading them, and would be great for auditory or visual learners.

I wish… 

While I know I can google for helpful websites to go along with the study, I'd love to see each guide include suggestions for 3-4 quality websites covering the topics in the study suitable for the age range of the guides.  (Recall that I received a pre-production version of this Z-Guide to use for this review, so this wish may very well have been added to the final version.) 

I wish the guides would include several suggestions for "younger students".  

Watch out for

Note the movie is not included with the guide.  Zeezok Publishing also offers the movies (and appears to have very competitive prices), or you can purchase/borrow them elsewhere. 

Some of the Z-Guides are available in downloadable e-book form, although the price is no different from the CD version. 

Be sure to

Check out the other Z-Guide offerings here.

Note the following license info from their website:  "This file is licensed to the original purchaser and is not to be resold. Permission is not granted for classroom, district-wide, school-wide, system-wide, or co-op use."

Final thoughts

Reviewing this Z-Guide added a fun and welcome break from our usual studies, and greatly enhanced our knowledge about the Great Depression.  Our local homeschool conference is coming up in May, and Zeezok publishing is a new vendor this year.  I'll be stopping by to add a couple more Z-Guides to our collection and plan to intersperse them throughout the year.

Thoughts of my crew mates

My crew mates reviewed this and other Z-Guides.  To see those reviews, click here. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:


Disclaimer: As part of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received the product described in this review at no cost in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.


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