Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) has long been one of my favorite homeschool resources. Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level C [Starter Set] is a self-teaching spelling program suitable for students in a variety of grades depending upon the results of the placement test that is available for free on the website. I am using it successfully with both my 9th and 11th graders.
This Level C Starter Set that we are reviewing includes the following:
- 6 audio CDs (content also available as MP3s if you prefer)
- Lesson Cards (8 1/2 x 5 1/2 cards printed on sturdy cardstock -- each card contains three levels of spelling words). There are 47 lessons with review lessons built in.
- Personal Spelling Cards that help you keep an easy record of the words each of your students misspells most frequently. These serve as the review lessons.
- Zoo Cards that can be used both as a rewards for good work or practice sheets. We use these to practice.
- Phonetic Zoo Teacher's Notes (a downloadable PDF file). This file helps me help my children.
- and a video seminar link to help parents titled Spelling and the Brain -- I watched this video and I actually had both of my kids watch this one on their own, as well. Andrew Pudewa is a superb speaker and teacher and easily engages his audience. The video presented great fodder for discussion and helped all of us to understand the importance of learning as it relates to how our brains process and teach students to spell correctly.
We haven't done a formal spelling program for the past few years, so I looked forward to starting a new one . . . but I was still a bit nervous. Would my children be able to retrieve all of the "random information" they had stored away? Would they balk when I pulled out "Spelling" in High School? Would they run screaming and flailing from the living room? Thank goodness, my fears were all for naught. There have actually been no complaints with Phonetic Zoo and both the Eagle Scout and the Princess have been happy to comply with the methods used to teach spelling. A note of truth here: the Eagle Scout and the Princess were a bit slow to warm up to the idea of Spelling. There were a few days of "Hey, come do your Phonetic Zoo" reminders before they decided they could handle this one on their own. But when they decided they had this one under control, they took off and never looked back.
Phonetic Zoo is student-friendly and designed to be done without parental intervention. It is completely self-guided which means my children are able to sit independently and finish their assignments without my help. I do put a reminder in their daily checklist that simply says Phonetic Zoo -- they keep up with which lesson they are on and let me know when they move to a new one. They both use the program four days a week (Monday - Thursday) and review missed words and update their Personal Spelling Cards on Friday. It takes each of them about 15 minutes to complete each day's lesson from start to finish. All work is dated and lessons marked in a spiral-bound notebook. Although both of my children tested in the same level of Phonetic Zoo, they are not currently working through the same lesson. Phonetic Zoo customizes to the individual student and aids them as they improve their personal best which is perfect for us as I have one mediocre speller and one poor speller. I have faith that they will both be terrific spellers at the end of this year though.
For most children, spelling is an auditory skill. Kids need to hear sequential spelling of words in order to learn how to spell them for themselves. Phonetic Zoo teaches spelling through auditory input while students gain mastery through repetition. The auditory process used in Phonetic Zoo means that students hear a word (spoken directly from the CD or MP3), they listen to the word read in a contextual sentence, and they write the word down. When they reach the final word in the day's lesson, they listen to a separate track to see how they did. Words are spelled aloud (from the CD or MP3) while students self-correct their work. Using a pen to complete all lessons, students learn how to spell the words in each lesson and are not tempted to "cheat" themselves of the learning experience. Lessons are repeated until mastered which means students do not move on to the next lesson unless they have achieved 100% on a lesson two days in a row. This helps keep my children accountable to do their very best and insures that they are truly learning words and not just memorizing them for a short while.
Phonetic Zoo is different that other programs we have tried because it uses jingles to make learning the many random rules of phonics easier (and even a bit fun) and words are categorized for easier recall. My children don't mind working and re-working through the lessons of Phonetic Zoo. They enjoy that it is an auditory-based program that they can do without their mom being free to call words out to them. (They HATE to wait on me and I'm glad they don't have to with this program.) I like that it organizes words in groupings, but also throws exceptions to the rules into the mix. This makes the spelling lists much more true-to-life and keeps my kids on their toes. I love that Phonetic Zoo gathers words that linguistically have things in common and continually pushes my children to be their very best.
IEW pushes my children to THINK in fresh, new ways as they gain independence in learning and push to develop their own personal style. We have learned so much through the writing, grammar, and classic literature study of IEW -- spelling has been the perfect addition to an already positive educational experience. The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) is a special friend to Long Leaf Academy and I recommend you check them out for great resources in your homeschool, as well. For even more information about IEW and all of their wonderful homeschool curriculum, please visit the following Social Media sites: