Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Confession: I love Jimmy Stewart.

Okay, I've been married 32 years, and the dirty secret is out: I'm in love with another man.

Now here's where it gets complicated: My 22 year old daughter and I have a crush on the same man!

No, wait, it gets worse! We're both in love with a man who passed away many years ago!

There. It's out. I have confessed.

Just coming out of the Christmas season, and my full, sweet dose of Jimmy Stewart in It's a Wonderful Life, I roll into more cerebral viewing with Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Sadly, my current student, a 12 year old boy, does not yet appreciate the wonder of James Stewart, and cannot yet see through the black and white of old movies to fully appreciate their content, but I am working on him.
 The importance of the movie, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, should not be overlooked in this, an election year. I'll grant you, it is fictionalized, but unlike many movies, fictionalized movies from the 1950s were frequently still largely factual, and created to help you learn and make you think.  To broaden my ability to glean from this movie and to help my son benefit from this movie, I was blessed to receive the  opportunity to have the Zeezok Publishing's Z-Guide to the Movies for Mr. Smith.

I received a PDF download of the Movie Review for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, for the High School Level. First I'd like to say if you have never seen this movie yourself, please view it! It is an education on many levels -- government in the early-mid-1900s; honesty vs. corruption in government; types of pressure placed upon government representatives, to name a few. There are so many levels on which I can still learn from this movie that I look forward to going through this review again very soon for my own edification!

About Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (High School) Z-Guide:
  • beautiful, and very professionally made;
  • PDF download;
  • 36-page document;
  • available for levels elementary, middle-school, and high school;
  • Z-Guide price, $12.99; DVD price: $15.98;
  • material presented in a religiously-neutral format (not offensive to anyone).
From the guide: "Designed for the high school student, this guide contains a topic, overview, movie synopsis, and ten learning activities based on the film."

I like the way the guide lays out, day by day, recommendations for using the guide. It tells you step-by-step, "Do this, do that, have student do this, follow up this way," all as suggestions which you can either follow closely or can divert from as suits your situation. 

I like the way, at the very beginning, it advises the teacher to read through the entire guide before even watching to movie. I often try to short-cut, and don't actually ever get to the step of reading through the instructions, which can be so very helpful and important.  The use of this guide, however, proved to me how inadequate my own education of our government has been.

I was embarrassed, annoyed to find vocabulary in the guide that was over my head. The guide contained the word "bicameral", which I was unfamiliar with, but which was not explained in the guide. (Bicameral means, "having two branches, chambers, or houses, as a legislative body", but I didn't like having to stop reading to go look it up when the definition could, so easily, have been inserted into the guide where the word was used.) I don't mind learning new vocabulary, but when I'm using a guide that is supposed to prepare me to teach, I don't want to have to go researching as well on my own. The wording used with the word "bicameral" could be changed slightly just to clarify that paragraph for the teacher.

Explanation was given regarding how Senators were chosen before the Seventeenth Amendment vs. how they are chosen after the Seventeen Amendment, which left me wondering, "But what did the Seventeenth Amendment say?" Maybe, reading the amendment, it would be obvious to me that the amendment's content is explained in the paragraph, but it doesn't say so, and I don't want to stop what I am doing to go look it up and check...

These two objectionable items I found were in the notes to the teacher. I did not find any other areas in the guide where there were any similar issues.

I did like the excellent explanation of filibuster given in the guide. I know it would make it longer, but explanations like that are what I wanted for other bits here and there as well.

I consider the "Movie Synopsis" contained in the guide to be excellent. It gives a clear picture that enables me to understand certain aspects of the movie better, even though I've already seen it before.

The ten possible activities offered for the students for their enrichment were excellent. One activity had questions the student was to try to find answers to while watching the movie. Another activity was a crossword puzzle, which looked fun. There were questions that could be answered in essay format, or brief format, whichever you prefer. There were creative-thinking activities, such as create a set of questions a reporter might prepare for an interview with Senator Smith. The student could even create a mock interview and record it for posterity. That is a fun activity similar to activities I have done with my past students, that I remember fondly (even though we did not get them recorded at the time).

One activity asks the student to consider and write about foreshadowing found in the movie. This is an excellent activity to require, and is an example of material that high school students need to become familiar with. This activity goes through many literary techniques, requiring the student to understand the techniques and give examples of them found in the film.

There is a complete answer key to each activity at the back of the Z-Guide. I was glad, because even I had difficulty finding some of the answers, but that's okay because even correcting your wrong answers helps you to learn.

It helped that I really love this movie, but I really loved this movie guide. I have long felt that I was inadequate to help my children glean as much as they should/could from great classic movies such as this one. I would highly recommend this guide (or the age appropriate version for their family) to anyone.

There were very few negatives to be found, and what I list may cause you to say, "Duh!", but here they are:
  • It is a PDF download, which means you need to print it out. I ran out of ink.
  • You need to have a copy of the movie. I don't own it. My movie internet download didn't offer it. My library only let me borrow it for seven days. This was annoying. I hope to buy the movie soon.
I cannot tell you what my student's reaction to the material is/was because:
  • My son is Middle School, and I was reviewing the High School level, and he's not ready for it yet;
  • My library required the return of the DVD before I got a chance to watch it with him. (I had it during Christmas week; it was a 7-Day borrow.)
  • I immediately requested a copy to borrow again, but it has not yet come available for us to use;
  • As I stated, my printer ran out of ink, So I don't have the Z-Guide printed out, and we're not going to get it done while we don't have a hard copy of it.
So, that's it. I hope you enjoyed my review.

In addition to the Z-Guide for Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Zeezok also carries Z-Guides for a wide variety of movies at the various grade levels. Here are some of the movies that I like that there are Z-Guides for:
The Great Escape (High School);
My Side of the Mountain (Middle School);
Johnny Tremaine; and many more.

In addition, Zeezok carries the corresponding movie DVDs if you wish to purchase them.  Zeezok also carries a large line of Composer biographies and music CDs. They also carry materials for the study of History and Government, Reading and Literature, as well as e-books, audiobooks and Penmanship. Zeezok guides cannot be sold or shared, but you can use them again and again as you work your way through your different children as they reach the appropriate age for each movie or or guide.

Disclosure: I received a free  Zeezok Publishing Z-Guide of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (High School)  in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I received no other compensation (other than the aforementioned), and this page contains my honest opinions.

This has been a TOS Homeschool Crew Review.


To see other reviews of this, and other Zeezok Movie Reviews, please visit the
TOG Crew Review page for this product.Throw me a bone! Leave me a comment! I love comments!


  1. Check out the movie for free online here: http://video.google.ca/videoplay?docid=-897129633961255565#

    I was having trouble getting a copy of it and hubby found that it is in the public domain and available for free...if only I had known earlier we would have watched the movie sooner!

    I hope you enjoy it.


    Heather @ Blessings Pour Out

  2. Oh, thank you! That's fabulous! Can't wait to check it out. I never thought to "Google" search for it...