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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW): Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B Review

IEW Phonetic Zoo
Over the past few years, I have fallen in love with Institute for Excellence in Writing, also known as IEW. My love affair began a few years ago when The Boy took an IEW writing class at our weekly homeschool co-op. Then I started using IEW writing courses and themed-based writing with him and the older girls. Last year, I was given the opportunity to review Fix-It! Grammar, which just reinforced how much I love IEW's products. In fact, I switched all 4 girls from our previous grammar to Fix-It! Grammar this year. As if having great writing and grammar products wasn't enough, now I've had the opportunity to review their Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B [Starter Set], and I was definitely not disappointed.

IEW Phonetic Zoo

For this review, we received:
  • 5 Audio CDs - Each CD contains the audio lesson for 10 lessons, both the lesson and the corrections.
  • 1 Set of Phonetic Zoo Lesson Cards - These are large card stock cards with a hole punched in the upper left corner, making it easy to put them on a ring to keep up with them. Each lesson has its own Lesson Card. On the front of the card are pictures of animals whose names relate to the spelling rule for that lesson. There are also 3 sample words for the rule for each of the 3 levels of Phonetic Zoo. On the back of the card is the Rule, Jingle, or Hint (I'll talk about that later) and the spelling lists for the 3 levels of Phonetic Zoo.
  • 1 Set of Spelling Zoo Cards - These are pocket-size card stock cards with one for each lesson. The front of each card contains the same animal pictures as the large lesson card for that lesson, and the back of the card contains the Rule, Jingle, or Hint. 
  • Phonetic Zoo Teacher's Notes - a downloadable PDF file
  • Spelling and the Brain video seminar - This is a link to the streamable video.
As I am with just about anything brand new, I was a little overwhelmed when I first received everything so I immediately dove into the Teacher's Notes. Almost immediately, I became much more confident because the instructions in the Teacher's Notes are so clear and easy to follow. On one of the first pages are the instructions for watching the Spelling and the Brain video. As I watched the video, the premise behind the Phonetic Zoo concept made so much sense to me that I couldn't wait to get started using it with my older girls.

After watching the video, I went back and finished reading through the "How to Use the Program" section of the Teacher's Notes. These are written as a numbered list of steps to follow, which made it really simple for me to understand.

Finally we were ready to begin. The twins and Little Red were all ready to start with Level B, so it was nice to be able to use this with all 3 of them. The Teacher's Notes contain notes for each lesson - helpful hints; word lists; the Rule, Jingle or Hint; and discussion points. We started by going over the lesson card for Lesson 1. I held up the card so they could see the front, while I read the "Rule, Jingle, or Hint" from the back to them. The Rule, Jingle, or Hint for each lesson is a cute, usually rhyming, poem or set of short sentences to help them remember what the spelling rule is for that lesson. This is one of my favorite parts of each lesson because it really helps my girls remember how to spell the words.

After reading the Rule, Jingle, or Hint, we talked about the animals on the front of the card and how they fit with the lesson's spelling rule. Then we looked at the 3 words on the front for Level B. We read each word and then spelled each out loud. The last thing we did with the lesson card was read through the Level B word list on the back of the card, and I made sure the girls knew what each word meant since it doesn't really help them learn to spell a word if they don't understand it.

Now it was time for them to use the CDs. The lesson on the CD started off by reviewing the Rule, Jingle, or Hint. Then they are given a "test" of the words for that lesson. Each word is said aloud, then used in a sentence, and then said again. The girls wrote down the word, spelling it the best they could. After every 3 or 4 words on the test, the Rule, Jingle, or Hint was reviewed again, which means the girls heard the rule often, helping to reinforce the spelling rule.

The next track on the CD is the corrections for the lesson. The girls use this to check their spelling during the "test." Any words missed are noted.

The lessons are designed to be repeated daily until the student gets all of the words correct 2 days in a row. Once that happens, they can move on to the next lesson. I like this because it allows my girls to move at their own pace.

Every 5th lesson is a review lesson where they get to come up with a personalized spelling list. We used the words missed on previous lessons as well as any words they had misspelled in their writing assignments over the past couple of weeks.

Another thing I like about Phonetic Zoo is that the Lesson Cards can be used for each of the 3 levels, so when we need to move on to Level C or Sassy is ready to start Level A, all we have to purchase is the CDs for those levels.

My girls have really enjoyed using Phonetic Zoo for spelling, and I have seen spelling improvement in their writing as well. This is just one more reason for me to love IEW! Click on the link to read my review of IEW's Writing Package Level A.

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