Our family loves products from Institute for Excellence in Writing. Phonetic Zoo is another great program put forth by them.
Phonetic Zoo – Excellence in Spelling
The Phonetic Zoo is a phonics based program from the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) that uses auditory input to ensure students absorb and retain the correct spelling; students receive auditory input and spell the word aloud, letter by letter, to help them accurately remember the correct sequence—rather than simply looking at the word as a whole.
They recommend you have your student take a placement test to ensure the correct level placement, because we know as homeschoolers it is better to meet your child where there are at, then to put them in an arbitrary grade level.
- Spelling Level A – for Grades 3-5
- Spelling Level B– for Grades 6-8
- Spelling Level C – for grades 9-12
How it Works
The core of this program is the lesson cards. Each card has is a separate lesson with a rule, jingle or hint to help you remember the spelling rule. (I will say that some of these are confusing until you decipher them a little, but that can be a fun puzzle too).
There are a list of 15 words, no matter what level you may be on (A, B or C). The levels get more difficult as they go up. The second component to this program are the CD’s. The CD has the voices of two alternate people giving the spelling quiz. This auditory component is priceless.
The first day you explain the rule, go over the words and make note of the part of the rule being explained. Older children do not need your help with this. The remainder of the lesson is completed by them. Then they listen to the CD and write the words down how they believe they are to be spelled. Then the next track on the CD helps them correct it. The next day they quiz themselves again, if they get 100% two days in a row then they move to the next lesson. They continue to take the quiz every day until they master the list 2 times in a row.
My Experience with Phonetic Zoo
What I like about this program is that they give the rule, jingle or hint after every 3 words. This helps them memorize it. I also like that the CD’s are doing the quizzing and checking for me. This virtually makes this an independent program!
Phonetic Zoo has been wonderful tool for me as a mother to many to put my time in to the fun subjects, like history and science. Spelling can be mundane and boring for all people involved, but the Phonetic Zoo has made this an independent program for the student for grades 3rd and up. The animal theme concept is better for the younger children, but I hear no complaints from my oldest. When each lesson is mastered, you can choose to give them an animal card to collect or hang proudly on their wall.
What I Added
Here are the 2 things that I added to this program to make it work for me. For my student that doesn’t click really well with spelling, I have him choose an activity to help him remember his spelling words from a list like this:
- Linking it together – wiring words on strips of construction paper and linking them
- Colorful spelling – use different colored markers for each letter when spelling the words
- Keeping in shape – write the words inside a simple shape, like a tree, over and over again
- Ribbon spelling – use a ribbon to outline each spelling word in the air
- Bend and shape – use pipe cleaners to make each letter of a word
- By the color – write consonants in red and vowels in blue
- Spell back – spell the words on a willing persons back
- Poof its gone – write the words on a dry erase or chalk boards, then erase them with your fingers as you spell them again
- Alphabet stamps – use rubber stamps to spell the words
I have also used the Spelling Power notebooks instead of a regular notebook. These are great in that on the backside of the quiz there is a part where they can write a sentence with the miss-spelled word and a little system to help them memorize the word, by covering it up and spelling it. Also the lines are on the page according to level, so you can get one with fatter lines for younger writers.
More Spelling Help
- Evan-Moor Building Spelling Skills Review
- Homeschool Spelling with Spelling Power
- Soaring with Spelling & Vocabulary
Originally posted April 2009, written by Brenda