Spelling – the adversary of so many. It is a struggle I don’t have but am thankful for products like Phonetic Zoo by Institute for Excellence in Writing to help out. I was not too sure about how this would work but we have been rather pleasantly surprised. We received Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B [Starter Set] and it has turned out to be a joy.
Phonetic Zoo is unique. What makes is unique is that it focuses on the sequential patterns of spelling. One of the big mistakes in spelling these days is that it has become a visual learning area. That makes it most impossible for students to learn spelling because the output for the information is sequential. You cannot output sequentially what you don’t input sequentially. That is a nutshell concept but it is key to understanding Phonetic Zoo. (Check out their website for more details.)
Our package came with:
- 5 audio CDs
- Lesson Cards, which have the spelling words and jingles
- Personal Spelling Cards
- Zoo Cards, which have the jingles and animal cues
- Downloadable Teacher’s Notes file
- Spelling and the Brain seminar
The very first thing I did once we received our review package was listen to the talk that Andrew Pudewa gives on Spelling and the Brain. I highly recommend this talk for everyone and it is available as an individual item to purchase. Mr. Pudewa’s understanding of spelling struggles make so much sense. Thinking through the difference between audio input and visual input, I could see the issues so many have and why spelling can be problematic. I could also suddenly see why this program could be the answer for many to an ongoing struggle.
Then I read the Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes. These were helpful and gave me some great information to start the girls out with. A lot of understanding came because of reading this file. It contains information for each lesson, additional spelling words if needed, and some printable files. We have not yet used any of the printable files, or “cages,” that help organize the small zoo cards into categories.
Both of the older girls tested into the program at Level B. Before ordering, there is a placement test on the website to help you correctly place your student.
Here is basically how we use this program:
Each day of our regular work days, the two older giggly girls work through a lesson from Phonetic Zoo. A lesson is titled such because it is a series of words that the student must master the spelling on before moving to the next lesson; it does not designate any set period of time, such as a day or a week.
- At the beginning of each new lesson, I go over the jingle and phonetic rule with whichever girl it is for using the big Lesson Card.
- We look over the list of words for that lesson and I give them the small Zoo Card. It gets hung up outside the hall bathroom where it will be seen often and then she goes to her room to do the lesson.
- They take a piece of notebook paper that is labeled with their name, the date, the lesson number, and the number of times this lesson has been attempted. They use a pen (Mr. Pudewa discuss the purpose of using pen on the IWE site.) and the CD with headphones on. They write down the words from the list as they are given on the CD.
- Then, still using the CD, they correct their own list of words.
- They bring their page to me and we look at their correct and incorrect words. We mark the page with 13/15 or 100% or some variation of the number correct. And that child is done for the day.
- The same lesson is repeated the next day until 15/15 is achieved two times in a row. When they get that, they move on to the next lesson.
This takes 10 – 15 minutes. Tops. And the girls are enjoying it. I rarely have to convince them to do their spelling work. And we are seeing progress in understanding. I don’t necessarily see a major change in their day to day writing yet, but both of the girls were pretty good spellers and many of the words they are working on are somewhat above their daily vocabulary. What I do see is a pride in progress each time a lesson is worked on and growth in understanding of the principle/jingle. This is huge because these are not “easy, get it right the first time” lists. L is working on her current list and is at about the 15th or 16th time on it. She is now up to 14/15 each time and it is a different word tripping her up each time. She will get it, though, and she is not discouraged. She will know those words inside and out when gets that 100% two times in a row and moves on to the next lesson.
We have also experienced a fun little side bonus. Our 6 year old giggly girl has decided that she wants to be a part of Phonetic Zoo, as well. She sees the small zoo cards on the wall daily and stops to read all of the jingles. She can quote, without a mistake, the first three lesson jingles. We just put up number four the other day so that one won’t be long, I imagine. We are already hearing her apply these jingles. The other day when she was writing the word “play,” she quoted the line of the lesson one jingle that was about the a-y spelling of the sound. I can’t wait until she is ready for the first level of Phonics Zoo.
This is a program that is not just for homeschool students. This process and information will be of use and encouragement to all educators. Visit Institute for Excellence in Writing and check out Phonetic Zoo.