Is there any subject capable of producing more fear and anxiety in the heart of a student than…spelling? It can be pretty intimidating. Rules like “i before e except after c” come with a handful of rule-breaking exceptions, making spelling a complicated and annoying experience, enough to make anyone want to pull all their hair out.
My son is not a natural speller, and neither am I, so I was ecstatic when we were offered the opportunity to review Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A from Institute for Excellence in Writing. I already adore Andrew Pudewa everything, so I had a feeling we were going to loooove this spelling curriculum and you know what, I was totally right.
Institute for Excellence in Writing
The Institute for Excellence in Writing, more commonly known as IEW, is founded and directed by Andrew Pudewa, a homeschool father and teacher. Mr. Pudewa equips parents and teachers, through his wonderful seminars, on how to train their children/students to be successful in the language arts of listening, speaking, reading and writing.
IEW has products for students of all ages and all learning abilities. We were able to review Andrew Pudewa’s Student Writing Intensive earlier this year and, in addition to this awesome spelling curriculum, we started using Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization this fall. More to come on that soon!
Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A
The Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A Starter Set that I received included:
- 5 audio CD’s (also available as MP3 downloads)
- Lesson Cards featuring spelling words and rhymes – these are the larger 8.5 x 5.5 cards
- Zoo Cards – these are smaller business card size
- The Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes – a PDF download
- A video seminar by Andrew Pudewa about spelling and the brain
Phonetic Zoo has three different levels: primary (A), intermediate (B), and advanced (C). Other than an introduction to each lesson by the teacher/parent, students can work independently. It’s also very flexible, allowing each student to use as much or as little time as needed to reach mastery.
Phonetic Zoo is based on a discovery made by Mrs. Anna Ingham, which I found interesting. Although I’ve discovered that my son is a visual learner, this more auditory based spelling program works for my son because “all students learn better when what they see is reinforced by hearing, and when what they hear is reinforced by being seen.” This is Mrs. Ingham’s “blending of sound and sight” method! Her method has been proven to be very successful in teaching language arts to students.
Phonetic Zoo contains 47 lessons. Unlike other programs, lessons aren’t completed in a week or a day. How quickly you move through the program depends completely on the student. As soon as the student masters all the words in a lesson twice, the student can move on to the next lesson. As we’ve discovered, some lessons are easy and some are more difficult, so the time it takes to move through a lesson may vary greatly.
Andrew Pudewa recommends students use headphones when listening to their lessons so that there are no distractions or “auditory interferences”. We purchased headphones for my son to use with this program and I’m glad we did. My son has really enjoyed the experience and has been able to concentrate much better than he would’ve without the headphones.
Thoughts and Usage
My son took the placement test, available on IEW’s site, to determine what level he placed into and then, before starting the course, I watched the video seminar by Andrew Pudewa, Spelling and the Brain. As with all of Mr. Pudewa’s seminars, Spelling and the Brain was very interesting and informative in regards to how and why this “blending of sound and sight” approach to spelling is so very effective. My son watched some of the video with me because he too loves Mr. Pudewa’s humor and friendly demeanor. Did I mention that Andrew Pudewa is doing a seminar in my city next year?! Eeee! I’m so excited!!!
My son chose a spiral notebook to use for Phonetic Zoo Spelling and I presented the first lesson card to him, using the large flash card. I read the rhyme/jingle aloud to him and explained how the rhyme worked with the words on the card. My son read the three words on the front of the card to me and spelled them aloud. The teacher’s notes say that the student can study the words on the card if desired, but it isn’t required. The teacher’s notes for each lesson contain helpful tips on how to present the lesson cards, a copy of the rule/jingle/hint, the word list, and discussion ideas to have with your student.
Each day my son would write at the top of his notebook page what lesson he was doing and whether it was his first attempt or fifth attempt. My son used pen in his lessons as recommended by Mr. Pudewa. He numbered his page 1 through 15 and then popped on his earphones and listened to the lesson. We used the MP3 files available via download so that my son could listen to his lessons on the iPad. Because the iPad is so mobile he could do his lessons on his bed, at the kitchen table, in the living room, or in the car. It was very convenient!
Each lesson takes less than ten minutes to listen to. My son would pause the lesson if he felt too rushed. After spelling all the words that were read to him, my son would play the next track with the corrections. My son was able to correct his own work and write the correct spelling of the word next to the word he misspelled. My son took the same test everyday until he got all of the words correct twice in a row!
Throughout the program students are encouraged to keep track of their own commonly misspelled words. Every fifth lesson is a personal spelling lesson! I loved this idea because my son had many commonly misspelled words that needed attention and he was able to work on those and improve them with this program. Then there is a final exam at the end of Level A.
I’ve tried many spelling curriculums and this one is by far my and my son’s favorite!! I really love that this spelling curriculum requires very little time or preparation on my part. And my son loves that it is self-paced and he can work independently.
So far, my son has mastered the first four lessons. I asked him how he liked Phonetic Zoo and he replied, “I love it! It’s easy and I’m actually learning!” My son has eagerly done his spelling lessons first thing each day, before the rest of his subjects.
I have a twinge of fear that my son may forget previously learned lessons as he moves through the course. I’m definitely used to more cumulative reviews being implemented throughout a curriculum. However, Andrew Pudewa has earned my trust and if he says the student has mastered a lesson after scoring 100% twice in a row, I’m going to take his word for it. We are loving this spelling program and think it’s the best!!!