The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) makes spelling curriculum. Who knew? Well, for sure not even an IEW fan like me. I will start this review sharing I am an IEW fan and an Andrew Pudewa groupie, and yes my review will not be biased.
Spelling is a subject I did with my older children when they were younger. We covered it for a few years and then it slowly dropped off of our schedule. I saw the growth in their spelling abilities and never added it again to our schedule. Now that I have a younger child who is learning to read and going to begin a spelling program, I considered introducing spelling back into our school. With River and Lily advancing in grades comes many new words, with more letters and I want them to have a more solid foundation when it comes to the rules of spelling.
I was able to find a program that could have worked for all three children, but thought the presentation may be too elementary for River and Lily. I knew I needed something else, but had no idea where to begin looking. I think this is an example of an instance when you should go with what you know. If you need something academically, check with the companies you already love and see if they have a solution.
The offer to review Phonetic Zoo through the crew was a blessing. It is just what I was looking for to use with my older children. There are three Phonetic Zoo sets: Level A and Level B (geared towards third through eighth graders) and Level C (geared towards sixth through twelfth graders). We reviewed Level B.
I took the time to watch the Spelling and the Brain seminar. It is a little over one hour, but very informative and not without Pudewa’s humor. The seminar convinced me that Phonetic Zoo is what we needed to be using. When it comes to spelling, I agree with IEW and the audio approach to teaching.
“Therefore, since spelling is sequential
in nature, auditory input is the best possible way to accurately store spelling information in the brain. Words correctly stored will more likely be correctly retrieved.” ~ Andrew Pudewa
I never taught my children sight words, because the way words look can be deceiving (especially in the English language).
To determine which level to use, I gave River and Lily the placement test . It was really easy to do and I am glad they both tested into the same level. They were right where I thought they would be (sixth to eighth grade level is where we are in school).
From the website is a list of what comes in the set:
• Five audio CDs (includes MP3 downloads) or MP3 downloads and no CDs (we received both)
• Lesson Cards with all three levels of spelling words and jingles (hole punched and ready for a ring)
• Personal Spelling Cards to keep track of your student’s typical misspellings
• Zoo Cards that serve as a way to practice jingles or as rewards
• Downloadable Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes PDF file
• Spelling and the Brain video seminar (link to streaming video)*
Phonetic Zoo can be an independent study program for older children (sixth grade and older). I like that for my them. There is some teacher interaction (not required), but your child can complete the majority of the lessons on their own. The use of headphones is suggested, but not required. I called IEW to check on that before we applied to participate on the review. Since the program is auditory, concentration should be only on the words/material they are studying and not all surrounding sounds. I am not a fan of headphones, but can see the logic behind using them for the curriculum. River and Lily were able to use their ear buds, but I have an order of headphones being delivered soon.
Pudewa is the only person I allow to make me give a pen to my children for their school work. I am a pencil mommy, but I give in. If you have used other IEW products, you know Pudewa is a pen person.
All levels are included on the Lesson Cards, so the program may be used with multiple children at different levels. There are 46 lessons with 37 that introduce a new rule that is accompanied by a jingle or hint. The latter helps the student remember when to apply the rule in spelling.
We spent about one week on a lesson and followed this schedule:
Monday: I introduced the rule; three example words and the spelling words on the Lesson Card to River and Lily. They took turns studying the cards for about 10 to 15 minutes.
Tuesday: I gave them the option of taking the test on the words or reviewing the Lesson Card again. If they took the test and passed, that gave them one pass for two days in a row. If not passing, they were able to get a good idea of the words they needed to study.
Wednesday: I gave them the option of taking the test on the words or reviewing the Lesson Card again. If they took the test and passed two days in a row, they were ready to move to the next lesson the following week. If they took the test for the first time and passed, that gave them one pass for two days in a row.
Thursday: This was usually another test day or promotion day.
Friday: This was usually another test day or promotion day.
Lessons 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 47 are Personal Spelling Cards. During the previous lessons to each card, students are to write 10 to 20 words, from any subjects they do in school, they may have spelled incorrectly. Each of the aforemention cards are lessons. Students are encouraged to review the words and check them against any rules they have already learned. They also test on them to 100 percent as they did in previous lessons.
I consider myself a good speller. I think my children have also acquired that skill. Even so, Phonetic Zoo does offer them a challenge. For one, they are learning the rules, which I do not remember from school. I just know how to spell the words. The spelling words on each card are challenging and as I look on some of the future lessons, I can see the lessons will be more difficult.
We did not use the Spelling Zoo Cards, because they were more elementary and something I will probably use with Canyon, when he is ready to use the program. I will need to purchase the CDs for Level A.
River and Lily both love the program. They enjoy spelling and like the challenge of achieving 100 percent spelling proficiency on the tests. I think it also appeals to them, because their advancement is dependent on their effort. Once they learned how to spell the words, they were able to move on.
I am pleased to say I have found the perfect spelling program for them. Phonetic Zoo has been added to our schedule for the school year and we will continue through Level C.
You can read more reviews of this item by fellow crew members.