Friday, October 23, 2015

IEW ~ Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A

I had the opportunity to review Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A ~ Starter Set by, Institute for Excellence in Writing. The goal of Institute for Excellence in Writing is to equip educators and train students to become strong and confident in their ability to think, communicate, and write. Level A of the Phonetic Zoo Spelling Program is geared for grades 3-5. 

The Starter Set includes:
  • 5 audio CD's or MP3 downloads
  • Lesson Cards (contains all three levels)
  • Personal Spelling Cards
  • Zoo Cards
  • Downloadable Phonetic Zoo Teacher's Notes in PDF
  • Spelling and the Brain (link to streaming video)
The Institute for Excellence in Writing, Phonetic Zoo utilizes an auditory approach for teaching spelling. Is your child not learning to spell well? Are you frustrated with standard, look and reproduce spelling programs? Is your child bored with their current spelling curriculum? Well, this may just be the spelling program you have been searching for. 

Phonetic Zoo works by helping the child to self correct against what they hear, as well as by having the student learn spelling through sequential storage of information. 

To get the most out of the program and gain a thorough understanding of exactly how the program works it is important to watch, Spelling and the Brain. This 57:49 minute video is very informative and worth the time. Do not skip over this step, you will regret it. Andrew Pudewa does an amazing job presenting vital information for the teacher as well as the student. 

Before beginning the program it is highly recommended that you have your student take the Placement Test. This test takes the guess work out of where your child should start. After completing the test your child will be placed in the appropriate level based on how many words your child correctly spells. I really like that as an educator I did not have to try and decided where my child needed to start. There are three levels in the Phonetic Zoo A program. The lesson cards contain all three levels: A, B, and C. The core phonetic idea is the same in all three levels. The level of difficulty is in the vocabulary used in each level. If your child doesn't pass the placement test it is suggested that the student go back to All About Spelling which is the spelling program that precedes Phonetic Zoo. 

So how does the program actually work? 
In a nutshell these are the guidelines:
  1. Present the lesson rule(s) found on the flash card
  2. The student listens to the corresponding lesson track on CD
  3. The student listens to the next lesson track which give the correct spellings
  4. The student continues to test until they make 100% twice in a row
  5. Once two 100%'s are achieved the student moves to the next lesson
To learn more about how and why Phonetic Zoo works, IEW has an amazing page entitled, Getting Started with The Phonetic Zoo that thoroughly explains how the program works. 

The Lesson Cards are printed on card stock and are hole punched in order to add a ring to keep them all together. Animals drawings accompany each lesson that correspond to the rule, jingle, or hint being taught for that lesson. Again, all three levels of words are included on each card. What is unique about this program is that you do not have to use the cards in sequential order. If you have two students in the same grade or different grades that are utilizing the same level you can assign each student a different lesson. The lessons do not build upon one another so order does not matter. 

The Phonetic Zoo Teacher's Notes via downloadable pdf is absolutely incredible. The extensive amount of information contained in the notes is truly like a teacher's pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! I would highly recommend printing out this 76 page pdf as you will find yourself referencing it a lot. In the appendix you will find a spelling text template, a fun zoo that your student can create with the zoo cards, reference charts, and so much more. Here is a sample from the IES Teacher's Notes that is found on IEW's site.  

How we used the curriculum
I used this curriculum with my 4th grader. My daughter is an avid reader and a good speller. Going into Phonetic Zoo I was curious to see what results we would get. First, when being introduced to most new curriculums there is the groan and sigh that comes along with it. Well, after explaining how this curriculum was different and exactly how it worked my daughter suddenly decided it sounded pretty great. Up until now we have use the classic spelling programs that incorporate various activities to learn the weekly spelling words. 

First off I gave my daughter the Placement Test to see exactly where to place her in the program. She ended up starting in level B of Phonetic Zoo A. 

My daughter loved that she only had to listen to words being spoken alone and then in sentences and that it only took minutes to accomplish the task. She caught on easily as to how to use the Audio CD's

On her very first lesson she misspelled two words and on the second try got a 100%. In subsequent lessons she usually misspelled one to three words and would spell them correctly the second or third go around. She was able to move through the lessons at a pretty steady pace. 

There is another element that makes Excellence In Spelling unique, and that is what they call Personal Spelling. Every fifth lesson your child will use words in their other studies or suggested words in Appendix 3 or 4 to master words that the student is struggling with. 
My daughter loves reading and so it was very easy to compile an ongoing list of unfamiliar or challenging words that she could use for her Personal Spelling weeks. Not only would I have her learn to spell the unfamiliar words but I also made sure that she looked the words up so that she knew the proper meaning of the word and was able to understand the word in context. IEW has Personal Spelling Cards added into the curriculum.

One more reason that my daughter loved this curriculum was because it had animals incorporated into the curriculum. My daughter is an ANIMAL LOVER and so once she saw that there were animals she was hooked. Score!! She loved the Zoo Cards. The cards are about the size of a card deck and are fun for kiddos to use much like trading cards. My daughter loved having her own "spelling trading cards" as she called them to use and reference. 

You may be wondering exactly how Phonetic Zoo got it name. Well, I wondered the same thing and the explanation is pretty fitting. We all know the saying, "It's a zoo in there!". How many times do you find yourself saying to your child/student, the English language is crazy, unpredictable, and sometimes just don't logically make sense. Well, IEW likens the English language to wild animals - crazy, illogical, and challenging. Kiddos love animals so IEW decided to pair animals whose names match the spelling rule, jingle, or hint being taught. That is how Phonetic Zoo got its name. I would definitely have to say that it is a very fitting curriculum title. 

Overall Thoughts
I really liked IEW~Phonetic Zoo A. I would definitely recommend this spelling curriculum to other educators and homeschoolers. I have used other curriculum produced by IEW and have been impressed with all of it. If you are looking for a great writing program to accompany IEW's Spelling Program you can check out my review of the Deluxe Combo Teacher/Student Writing Package Level A, for grades 3-5. 

To read more reviews click HERE.

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