My son almost got to be part of a local spelling bee with a group of homeschoolers in our area this year. Unfortunately there weren’t enough families interested. But it made me realize that we do not spend a lot of time on spelling. I mean intentionally taking time with words and sounds. Sure we spell each day in reading and writing. We spell in a few different languages too. But maybe as he is getting older, we need to spend some time studying spelling itself a bit. So finding out I had the chance to review a spelling program was a great surprise. And the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) has such amazing products so I was quite eager to begin using The Phonetic Zoo Level B [Starter Set] with my oldest son!
There are three levels available within the Phonetic Zoo program: A, B, and C. If this is something you are considering for your kids, there is a spelling placement test on the IEW website you can go through with your child(re) to see where they might best start. I had my oldest take this test and was advised we would be best suited to Level B.
There are a couple different portions that make up this program. There are downloadable materials (mp3 files and an ebook) as well as audio and print materials for use. We received a set of 5 CD’s for this level as well as the downloadable files with the lessons. We also were provided with a set of flash cards and Zoo cards (helpful for review of past spelling rules). The MP3 downloads are automatically included when you purchase the set. There is also a teacher manual (in the form of an ebook) and Andrew Pudewa’s “Spelling and the Brain” seminar. (I love being able to listen as I work around the house; if you prefer though you can watch it Spelling & the Brain). They have lots more great seminars you can watch on their YouTube channel – IEW too!! (I think I could watch their channel all day.)
So the first thing I did when this arrived was to give a listen to Spelling & the Brain, as recommended in the Teacher Notes. This was fascinating, and pretty deep too. I was amazed at how much I didn’t know and how thorough this was; this is an excellent way to get that foundation in the teaching of this program and understand the “how” of it all. I think I get it 🙂 This is definitely a good one to listen to while kids are napping or having quiet time because its pretty detailed. But well worth the time.
We use this program daily in our home. I really wanted to encourage my oldest with this since he loves to write! Each day we use the big flash cards to go over the lesson for the day. These are the lesson cards, and by the way, these have all three levels of words on the cards so you only have to get this pack of cards once. At the same time my son gets the “zoo card” that corresponds to the day’s lesson. Together we read the card and spell out the words that are listed. We also review together the jingle for that lesson. For example:
There are a couple materials that are needed in order to really succeed with this program of course. When you begin using this. it is stressed that headphones are used with each lesson. It is said that in this way the sound goes right into the student’s ears and brain – for my oldest it helps by decreasing the many distractions in our busy little house. So I definitely recommend headphones! It does make a difference, really.
This is a very simple program to use all in all. As the students complete each lesson with success, they add the “zoo” are to their collection. My animal loving boy loves the idea of building up a zoo of his own. As they learn the rules, they also learn that there are exceptions to every rule. I consider this setting them up to succeed; they have all the information. Once my son and I go over the rules and the little jingle the headphones go on and his notebook and pencil come out (we have one just for this program). As he listens the words are given, along with the rule, twice. I like the repetition; I have caught my son singing a jingle or two when working on other things and even correcting his words while he is completing the lesson for the day. To guarantee an understanding, it is expected that all words are spelled correctly 2 days in a row. Great idea to guarantee that they really got it!
The first few lessons my son did really well, although it took a few times for him to understand that it was not a race. Once he became more comfortable with the program, I would catch him pausing, and occasionally replaying part of the lesson which I really liked! The “zoo cards” were a great benefit too because he likes flashcards. As much I believe less is more, he is very visual and so he really likes being able to grab the card if need be. The lessons are short and simple, encouraging for my son who tends to only be able to focus for so long anyway. Its refreshing seeing him sit down to his task willingly and complete it independently!
We really do love this one; what a great way to encourage spelling and phonics. In a gentle and relaxed kind of way. In fact my son says even the voice on the audio makes him feel “totally relaxed while he works.” I highly recommend this one if you have the need for a spelling program (recommended for grades 3 and up).