Monday, October 26, 2015

IEW's Phonetic Zoo Spelling- Schoolhouse Review

i before e except after c
change the y to i and add es
Oi in the middle, oy at the end

Good grief!  It is no wonder that spelling can be so difficult for some of us.  Many of us!  Including two of my children in particular.  Which is why I jumped at the chance to review Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B Starter Set by Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) when it was offered. By jump, I mean begged.  If you are not familiar with IEW, you should jump quickly to their web site and soak it all in, or read our previous Writing Curriculum review to get you started.

Here is what we received in the Starter Set-
5 CDs (with MP3 downloads)
Lesson cards- These are large flash cards that include all three levels of spelling words on them with the associated jingle

Personal Spelling cards- This is where you can keep track of your student's specific misspelled words
Zoo Cards- These cards are little versions of the lesson cards for easy use for your student

Phonetic Zoo Teacher's Notes in downloadable PDF form - This 67 page teacher's guide explains the background of the program, shows you step by step how to use the program, and has a page of notes for each of the spelling rules.  Each lesson introduces the spelling rule to be taught, the rule, jingle or hint, discussion points you can use with your student, and word lists for all three levels.
Mr. Pudewa's Spelling and the Brain video seminar (video streaming link) - I know, I know, we are all busy but you NEED to listen to this seminar.  First of all, Mr. Pudewa is funny.  He just is and we all need more laughter in our lives.  Beyond that, he presents information that just makes since about spelling and our brain and why some of us get it and some do not.  I had a lot of ah-ha! moments while listening to this lecture.  I highly encourage you to watch it before your child begins the Phonetic Zoo program.  You will not be sorry.
Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B Starter Set consists of 47 lessons as well as a final exam.  Each lesson focuses on a specific spelling rule.  Additional examples to the ones mentioned above are
A-w and a-u the sounds of Y and qu and gu.

So here's how it works-
When your child first begins, they read the rule, review the words, and then take the test.  Well, there are a few more details, but it really is that simple.  By using the Lesson cards provided, your child sees a spelling rule explained in a cute little jingle as well as an animal that represents it.  After reading the rule, they are to read and spell the three words on the front of the card.

Now they are ready to take the test!  By using head phones, a practice highly recommended by Mr. Pudewa, the child listens to the words dictated and writes the words in their notebook, one by one. They may pause the CD at any time they feel rushed, but on average the lessons take no more than 10 minutes.  15 words will be called.  After the child has taken the test they then go to the next track on the CD to correct their own work.  If they miss the spelling of a word they cross it off and rewrite it correctly.  They then simply repeat the process the following day.  Once a student scores 100% two days in a row, they can consider that list mastered and move on to the next list.

Every 5th lesson is considered a personal spelling lesson. They are to collect words during the previous 4 lesson periods that they have struggled with in all other areas of their school work to create that list of new words to work on.  Appendix 3 has additional words that fit the rules and Appendix 4 contains 240 frequently misspelled words you can use as well.  Also contained in the appendixes of the Teacher's Notes are creative ideas for storing and displaying the Zoo Cards.

A final exam for each level is included at the end of the program.  Be ready!  It is a long test and includes words from each spelling rule.

How we used it-
Just as stated above really.  Well, mostly.  Isn't that the glory of homeschooling - you can tailor programs to fit your needs.  Like the little Zoo cards.  We put those away pretty quickly.  I am sure that my girls would have used them and loved them when they were doing spelling, but my 13 year old son, not so much.  I get it!  I also taught him the lesson only once- the first lesson.  He has reached the point of doing much of his school on his own, and spelling is no exception  He simply does not need me to read through rules with him.  He now keeps the teacher's manual with him and reads the lesson page before he begins a new lesson.  While I would not recommend this for younger children it has worked well for us.  He does come tell me when he has passed a level to keep me up to speed and I occasionally check on his work to see how he is progressing.

What we think-
As with every other product we have ever used from IEW, we like Phonetic Zoo a lot!  Through my 17 years of homeschooling I have used a lot of spelling programs, many with little success and most with great frustration.  This son, in particular, is an auditory learner, and so listening to someone (other than mom) call spelling words is a good fit for him.  While he does not particularly love the jingles (he's a teen boy!), they are helping him remember rules and we have seen steady improvement in his spelling.  The thing he appreciates the most I think is the fact that this program is not a bunch of fluff and silly exercises.  He loves that he is not wasting time doing crossword puzzles and such.  He also loves that Mr. Pudewa encourages the students to use pen when writing.  Yes, pen!  It may seem silly to some, but I think there is just something about using pen that makes older kids feel like a real student, not a little kid.  Hey, whatever it takes!

Phonetic Zoo comes in three levels.  If you already have the starter program and are ready to move on to the next level , you can order just the CD sets.

If you are looking for a new way to teach spelling for grades 3 and up, we highly recommend IEW's Phonetic Zoo Spelling!  You can take a placement test to see what level you need to start with.

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