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Phonetic Zoo (IEW) - TOS Review

Spelling, oh spelling! Spelling has always been one of those subjects that the boys have had a hard time to master. Since I started homeschooling I have always heard about Institute  for Excellence in Writing (IEW) but only came to know about their spelling curriculum about 5 years ago. Because of tight budget I had never made the plunge, but I always thought it would be a great product to try with the boys. Well that day came when it was offered on the crew, and of course I jumped on it.  I  signed up to received Phonetic Zoo Spelling Starter Set A We have been using it for the past few weeks, and I have not been disappointed.

First, let me tell you about IEW. IEW is a homeschool product company that has been around for a long time, offering valuable products for homeschoolers mainly writing related, but covering spelling and grammar as well. The crew has had the privilege of reviewing many of their curriculum so you might want to check those out.

Now back to The Phonetic Zoo. This is a Spelling curriculum that uses the auditory side of a student learning abilities. It is a self-paced program. We received the Spelling Zoo starter set A - there are three in total, A, B and C.

Our package included:
  • 5 audio CDs (includes MP3 downloads) - this is the meat of the program
  • Lesson Cards with all three levels of spelling words and jingles - these contain the spelling rules and examples - we did not use these as much but if your children need a lot of help with spelling these would be essential and beneficial
  • Personal Spelling Cards to keep track of your student’s typical misspellings - Great to keep track of your students mistake and for review purposes.
  • Zoo Cards that serve as a way to practice jingles or as rewards - these could be used in several different ways and these are all explained in the teacher's manual, that said they are mainly a review tool
  • Downloadable Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes PDF file - this is such a valuable resource as it contains the how to use the program, a little explanation of the philosophy behind the program and wonderful appendixes that include extra spelling lists, placement test
  • Spelling and the Brain video seminar (link to streaming video)
Phonetic Zoo Spelling lever A is best suitable for ages 9 and up. You can always (actually highly recommended) take the placement test in order to figure out if your child is ready to use this curriculum and/or which level to assign him.

Since this was a curriculum that I had long been coveting, as soon as it got here, I got both boys (grade 7 and 5) started on it.

The way Phonetic Zoo works is that every lesson you learn a new rule/jingle and go through a spelling list illustrating that rule. You keep working on the same list several days in a row until you get them all correct.

Because the emphasis is on an auditory approach, the program recommends the use of headphones. Andrew Pudewa explains how this also helps eliminate distractions and therefore improves focus. So, what the boys would do is get their sheet of paper, headphones, and cd player loaded with the disc and go on with their lessons. Because the boys have made some progress in spelling in the past couple of years, some of those rules they already know but still need more practice, so I  did not bother going over the rule with them at the beginning of each lessons, as suggested in the teacher's manual.They just dug right in.

So, in each lesson, after jingling the rule, the voice on the cd will go through a list of 15 words, one word at a time with dead time in between each word to give the student time to write it down. Every 5 words or so the jingle will be repeated for better retention. Once the list is done, the voice will go over the list again, this time enunciating the spelling for the student to correct himself, and write the right spelling in the case he got it wrong. If the student got any of the words wrong, he is to repeat the process the next day. Once he gets all 15 words right, he can move on to the next lessons. Every 5 lesson there is also a review that is included.

The boys found Phonetic Zoo easy to use and I found it easy to implement in our school day. Each list is made up of 15 words and the whole process, for us, took about 15 minutes. We used it 4 times a week and I was surprised that they did not find having to redo the list the next day when they got some words wrong (granted the most tries they had to do for a lesson Has been about 3 times I believe). I really like that it can be done independently, and the boys actually like that too!

The Phonetic Zoo is a great program that targets auditory students but works well with any type of student. There is repetition, writing, hearing and review, all woven throughout the program.

IEW Review


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