Review: The Phonetic Zoo: A Self-Teaching Spelling Program

IEW The Phonetic Zoo

I’ll admit, I’m a bit of an Institute for Excellence in Writing groupie.   I heard the founder, Andrew Pudewa, teach at a homeschool convention I attended last spring, and I went to every lecture he gave.   When we were offered the opportunity to review the Phonetic Zoo, I jumped at it.  Actually, I begged.  Pretty please, with sugar on top, let me review this product!   The kind folks over at The Old Schoolhouse agreed, and pretty soon this fabulous product arrived at my mailbox.  We’ve spent the last couple of months using this program: Institute For Excellence in Writing’s The Phonetic Zoo A Self-Teaching Spelling Program Level A Starter Set.

Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A_zpsiac4zab5

I love lots of things about this spelling program.  The biggest one is that Super D can do it all by himself.  Read the name of the product again – that says Self-Teaching.   Angels.  I hear angels.  I love self-teaching programs because they help him learn how to learn, it’s his responsibility, and he doesn’t require my attention to do it!

We have tried a few other spelling programs before, and this one is a winner for us.  The others either required too much of my attention, he didn’t seem to really learn the words, or both.

In the Phonetic Zoo Starter Set, we received:
* 5 audio cds (and mp3 downloads)
* Lesson cards with all 3 levels of words and jingles
* Zoo cards to serve as practice for jingles and as rewards
* Downloadable The Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes pdf file
* Spelling and the Brain video link

I set up a little shoe box for him that would hold his cd’s and spelling cards.   The first couple of times, I showed him how to set up his notebook page.  After that, he could do it on his own (although it wasn’t quite as… neat as the one I did for him.  🙂

The premise behind Phonetic Zoo is that we learn to spell the best when we hear the words spoken aloud.   Once we are proficient readers, we see words as a whole.   Hearing the words, and then spelling them out letter by letter, ensures that we memorize the words correctly.  Then we can correctly retrieve and spell the words later.

Each lesson begins with a quick introduction to the spelling rule that this particular set of words is covering.   The words are carefully chosen to have similar characteristics.  For example, these are the words for Lesson 1 in Level A.  (Level A is for 3rd – 5th grades).





This is the first part of the jingle that goes with that set of words:

When a-i says ā
as in claim and chain
It comes in the middle
as in train and pain.

The teacher on the cd says each word out loud, so the student can write them.   After saying all the words, the teacher then repeats the words with the correct spelling, so the student can fix them.  The student repeats the same lesson until he gets all of the words correct, twice in a row.   This can go quickly, or take a while, depending on the student.   We are spending about a week and a half per lesson, at the moment.  Super D gets really excited when he beats his previous score in his spelling – it makes it like a game!

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