As we find ourselves cooped up more often during the winter, we (unfortunately) tend to watch a bit more TV. I’ve tried to make sure at least some of what we watch is super-productive and the Just the Facts: Understanding Government DVD set fits the bill.
Each of the three DVDs takes a detailed look at one of the three branches of the United States government system – The Executive Branch, The Legislative Branch and the Judicial Branch. Running approximately 50 minutes each, I can best describe the format to be much like you might find on the History Channel. A narrator talks as some photos or footage is shown, while expert interviews pop in to explain more or offer commentary.
The content of the programs is easily understandable for children 5th grade and older, but is quite suitable for adults, too. Undoubtedly, some children will find the DVDs to be boring simply because they are documentary-like rather than cartoon-like. However, the information presented is extremely valuable and worthwhile.
Each DVD sets out to give a bit of history about why the Founding Fathers chose to create such a government as ours and how each entity is supposed to uphold the Constitution and protect our rights. The duties, obligations and limitations of each branch are covered in-depth, as well as such things as where they meet, who helps them in their duties and how individuals are chosen for various positions. After watching the entire set, my children have a very solid understanding of each branch of government!
As the teacher, I like the extras as much as the programs. Each DVD offers a Teacher’s Guide and Bonus Material which turn the TV time into way more than just vegging out.
The Teacher’s Guides – which can be viewed from the menu on your TV or inserted into your computer and printed out as a PDF file – offer:
- Learning Objectives – the things your child should know and be able to discuss by the end of the program, and can also be used as test questions if you desire.
- Vocabulary Lists – important terms and definitions.
- Web Resources – just a few pertinent websites for further study.
- Expert Bios – a bit more about the experts who have been interviewed during the programs.
The Bonus Material includes:
- Another brief, but informative video tied to each DVDs theme. For instance, the bonus track on the Executive Branch DVD is on the topic of the Presidents of the United States. A brief biography, some trivia and pictures or photos of each president are covered.
- An on-screen multiple-choice quiz based on the material from the program. One question at a time is placed on the screen along with multiple choice answers. A narrator reads each question and possible answer to your child, then a check mark comes on the screen to show the correct answer. I wish the check mark allowed for a little more thinking time, but you can easily pause the DVD if you like.
Besides some of the text being a little jiggly on my o-l-d TV, I thought the quality of the DVDs was very professional. They have been a wonderful help as my children have been part of government classes at co-op this year.
*Through 2/29/12, The Cerebellum Corporation is offering you 30% off any of their Social Studies or Standard Deviant DVDs using the coupon code HOME30 upon checkout! (The DVDs are already 20% off and your coupon code will take an additional amount off to give you a total of 30% off the regular price.)