Tag Archives: reading and writing

Phonetic Zoo Review

Do your kids struggle with spelling?  Most kids do because the way sounds are spelled in the English language can be confusing.  If you want your kids to become great spellers, you might want to check out The Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A [Starter Set] by Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).

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The Phonetic Zoo

Levels A, B, or C.
Take the placement test and choose the right level for your child before you begin.

Grades 3 – 8

Retails for $99.00

Each Phonetic Zoo Starter Set includes:

  • 5+ audio CDs (includes MP3 downloads)
    or also available for purchase as MP3 downloads and no CDs
  • Lesson Cards with spelling words and jingles
  • Personal Spelling Cards to keep track of your student’s typical misspellings
  • Zoo Cards that serve as a way to practice jingles or as rewards
  • 75 page Downloadable Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes PDF file

In addition to the materials, you are encouraged to watch two videos to help you as the parent / teacher:  the “Excellence in Spelling” video and the “Spelling and the Brain Video Seminar”.

Each Lesson in The Phonetic Zoo has similar steps:

  • Phonetic Rule, Cards with Corresponding Zoo Animal, Jingle or Hint,
  • Discussion,
  • Word Lists (audio and print), Spelling Test, and Correction.

You move through the lessons at the pace set by your child.  Each lesson takes about 10 minutes and they will learn a phonetic rule, have discussion built into the lesson, and learn to master spelling 15 to 20 new words using the rule they have learned.

It is suggested to go as slow as, or as fast as it takes for your student to get a 100% score two times on a lesson to show they have mastered the material.  So a lesson may only take you two days, if your child can get 100% each time, or a lesson may take you 7 or 10 days.  Just keep repeating the material for 10 minutes a day, until they have mastered the given lesson twice before moving ahead to the next lesson.  If you taught the same lesson and did the same spelling words for 4 or 5 days each week, then start a new lesson the following week, program should last you the full school year.  But again, the key is to remain flexible and allow your student to progress at their own pace.

How we used Phonetic Zoo:

We were sent the Phonetic Zoo Level A Starter Set for the purpose of this review.  Level A contains 47 Lessons on 5 Audio CD’s (or MP3) ; large zoo rule and word cards, small flashcards, and the Teacher’s Notes e Book also includes all of the lessons, teaching notes, the final exam, printable word posters, zoo card pages, word lists and printouts.

I decided to write this story as a series of HOW TO steps.  WHY?  Because it helped me and it might help you too.   You can follow these steps too to help make sense of what you need to do, what your child needs to do to complete this wonderful program.  It is different than other spelling programs, and I think it may help you to see some steps we took to make it successful for us.  It is divided into two sets of steps: “Prep”, and “Lessons”.

Prep

Step 1:  I watched the 9 minute “Excellence in Spelling” video.

Step 2:  We took the  FREE Placement Test.  This is a great resource and helps your child start right where they need too.  There are three levels to this program: Level A,  Level B, and Level C.  You will want to place your child in the right level so they can be successful.

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Step 3:  Placed my order for the correct level (A, B, or C) of Phonetic Zoo my student needed based on what we learned from the results of the free placement test (see the red link above). We ordered Level A.

Step 4: Watched the 1 hour Spelling and The Brain video seminar.   You can wait for the product to arrive before you watch the video, or you can get jump started while you are waiting by watching this video now!

Step 5:  Organize my Zoo (my materials for Phonetic Zoo).

Have you ever heard the saying “not my monkeys, not my zoo” ?  Well in this case these are my monkeys and this is my zoo.

We are homeschooling 6 kids and it is so easy for the shelves and stacks of books and supplies to get messy and piled up fast (see the example behind him,  that shelf holds math manipulatives, crayons, pencils, flash cards, and notebooks and the kids get in a hurry and when they are done using them, they just shove their stuff in fast and go, and it quickly becomes a mess).  Since we were about to enter the Phonetic Zoo, and knowing how fast books and supplies can go missing or stacked in the wrong place in “our zoo”, it is best to set my self up for success,  be a good “zoo keeper”, and get my self organized!

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When you receive your Phonetic Zoo shipment, organize the kit you receive and your supplies (large and small zoo cards, CD’s, headphones, notebook, pens NOT pencils (or use a pencil without the eraser), etc.),  in an easy to access storage box (shoe box, milk crate, table organizer, book basket, shelf, or whatever works for your family, etc.).

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Put a metal ring (or use a clip) on the large cards, and a rubber band (or a baggy) around the small cards.

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Be sure you have a computer that can play an audio CD (or MP3 device), and it is helpful to have headphones (we have ear buds) for your student to use while listening to the CD’s (or MP3).

Step 6: PRINT out the Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes  e-Book (Teacher’s Guide) from the link on the IEW website you are provided with after making your purchase, and put your teacher’s guide into a binder.  This is a 70+ page teaching resource you will want to keep handy.  You can also download the MP3 files of the CD’s and store them on your computer device too.

Teacher's Notes e-Book

Teacher’s Notes e-Book, Phonetic Zoo Level A

Step 6:  Yahoo!  We let out a shout and smacked ourselves on the back!  Great Job!  We finished our prep work and were ready to get started!

Lessons:

In this section, I will walk you through Lesson 1.  It may look like a lot, but each lesson only takes about 10 minutes a day.

Step 1: We got out our zoo supply basket we made.  This was so nice to have everything all together and ready.  I read through our first lesson in the Teacher’s Notes that I also keep in the basket with everything.

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Lesson 1, Phonetic Zoo Level A

Step 2: I read the phonetic rule from the lesson and provided him with the large zoo flash card to review. The rule is listed on the back, and on the front are a picture that corresponds with the rule and words to practice using the rule.  It is a nice way to practice going over the rule and remembering it.

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Step 3:  Next I gave him the small flash card to read.  It has the rule we just learned on one side and the zoo animal on the other side.  He can use this to remind himself about the rule we learned.IMG_1212 - Copy

Step 4:  He set out his paper to write on, set out his flash cards, put in the CD for Lesson 1, and his ear buds.   When he started the lesson, on the screen popped up a small box that controls the lesson.   The lesson is all audio (not a visual lesson) and requires him to listen closely to what is being said on the CD.

Step 5: My son numbered the lines on his paper from 1 to 19 (some lessons were to 18 and some were to 19).  You can pause the CD lesson as needed.  If you don’t want to print out your own numbers, there is a pre-numbered printable you can keep re-printing for your student to use for each lesson.  We just used a spiral bound notebook instead.

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Step 6:  Next he wrote out the words in the spelling test spoken by the instructor on the CD.

Step 7: Next he corrected his words on the list by writing a second column of the same words on the same lines next to the first words he wrote.    The correct words are both on the CD and on the zoo flashcards.  This process allowed him to see how he did and where he needed more practice.   The instructions from the curriculum are that he must receive two 100% scores on the material before he can proceed to the next lesson.

Step 8:  Personal Spelling.  We repeated the same steps for every 4 lessons BUT on the 5th lesson (lessons 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, and 47) we were instructed to use his favorite words he picked himself.  These words could come from each section of 4 lessons, or be other words he wanted to use.

Step 9:  Final Exam.  We have not completed this yet.

That is it in a nut shell.  10 minutes a day.  Master the spelling test by 100% twice then move forward to the next lesson.  BOOM!!!

I am excited about using this spelling curriculum with my kids.  For the purpose of this review, I started this program with my 5th grade son.  But now that we have used it and know how simple it is and how much confidence he feels from mastering this technique, I will be using it with my other children as well.  This will give them all the added confidence in knowing how to spell a variety of words, and it only cost them 10 minutes of their day.  WOW!  I wish everything could be accomplished in 10 minutes a day.  Maybe it can and I just need to see a new perspective on how it can be done, just like mastering spelling.  Definitely worth it for both of us.

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Institute for Excellence in Writing makes learning fun and easy.  IEW has a way of making Language Arts skills easy and interesting to kids, those very skills that kids might otherwise find hard or boring.  Kids develop an internal motivation to challenge themselves and reach their achievable goal.  They have developed simple systems of teaching parents and teachers how kids really learn effectively and their materials are top notch.  I would encourage you to check out how you can fit these wonderful curriculum resources into your homeschool learning.

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Check out what others on the TOS Review Crew had to say about using The Phonetic Zoo and other products from IEW with their families.

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IEW Teacher and Student Writing Package Review

If you haven’t yet heard of the Institute for Excellence in Writing  (IEW) curriculum company, I would encourage you to check them out.  We were sent their Teaching Writing: Structure and Style, Student Writing Intensive Level A  Package for review.  This would be a great curriculum to add to your schedule this coming school year. 

IEW Writing Level A Package

 

Teaching Writing / Student Writing Package Level A

Package Combo Retails for $249 (Save $49.00!)

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVD seminar

Student Writing Intensive Level A

For Elementary Grades 3-5.

Grades

 

What We Received

Teaching Writing: Structure and Style DVD Package Level A:

12 Seminar DVDs 

  • Nine DVDs with instruction on the nine structural models and multiple stylistic techniques (14 hours total viewing time).
  • Three DVDs of sample Student Workshops at four different grade levels.

TWSS Seminar and Practicum Workbook

  • 3 ring binder with dividers  and printouts.  The binder serves as the syllabus and workbook for the seminar and contains charts, word lists, sample lesson plans, and more.

1 year Online Subscription

  • Streaming video of the entire Teaching Writing: Structure and Style teacher training course, providing instruction on the nine structural models and multiple stylistic techniques (14 hours total viewing time—may be watched all at once, or viewed one disc at a time throughout the school year)
  • Streaming video of sample Student Workshops at four different grade levels to help you with the first lesson
  • Free access to our monthly training webinars, August through May
  • Audio MP3 downloads of Andrew Pudewa’s most popular conference talks
  • Several PDF downloads

Student Writing Intensive Level A
5 DVDs
SWI Level A Student Notebook with student handouts, a student 3 ring binder with dividers, and daily lesson suggestions for the teacher/parent

Here is the author Dr. Pudewa, explaining more about the program.

 

How We Used IEW Writing Curriculum

We did a trial run for a few weeks at the end of our school year to see if we want to include this curriculum in our studies this fall.  I was really impressed with the quality of the materials we recieved.  The 3 ring binders are heavy duty and we were sent over 100 pages plus nice dividers to put into each of them and help us stay organized and on plan.  The case that holds the Teachers Seminar DVD’s is really nice too.

I found the Level A Package to be a wonderful writing program and useful for teaching English to Elementary 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades.  This curriculum fits right into our life right now as we have several in this grade range, and some older ones who can sharpen their skills too.  This program is helping improve my skills as a teacher so really all of my children will benefit from this.

For this review, I used this program with my 12 year old to help him get a better understanding and improve his writing skills. This program will work great for older students who might not like writing.  My 12 year old does not enjoy writing and would much rather do math. This curriculum would also be useful for teaching English as a Second Language, and also for remedial learning for older students who need more practice with writing skills.

IEW has put so much together for the parent teacher.  The Teacher Seminar gives you the tools you need to confidently teach your students to write well, think and express themselves clearly. It helps parent teachers learn how to effectively teach their kids to:

  • Outline and summarize
  • Write paragraphs
  • Create stories
  • Write critiques and reports
  • Develop essays
  • Communicate their thoughts and ideas into writing
  • Change sentence structure
  • Use vocabulary in interesting ways

When we first received the materials, I put the binder notebooks together.  Then I viewed the lesson on the corresponding disk in the Teacher’s Seminar DVD’s before having my son watch it with me. Then we watched the lesson together, and followed the teacher notes and presented the lesson to my son.

The lessons are designed to do one a week, but some students will take two weeks to do a lesson. The teacher’s portion of teaching the lesson and use of the DVD takes about 1 hour at the start of the week.  Then he can work on the daily practice assignments the rest of the week. We did not need to watch the Student version of Structure and Style overview as it is basically the same as the teachers DVD.

After watching the Lesson on the DVD, we used the checklists to complete the lesson assignment.  The workbook has sample assignments and ideas to help,  and there are also student workshop videos to watch that can help give more ideas on implementing the lesson.   I found these to be very helpful.  In a nut shell so to speak, my son is learning how to create an outline from a paragraph using key words.  Then learning how to use his outline to write and add adverbs and verbs to make it more interesting.  He is learning to be more creative in writing stories.

Our first few weeks of lessons:

Teacher’s Notes: Lesson 1

“Sea Snakes”

Key Word Outline,

Composition Checklist

Key Word Sentence: 1 word

Key Word Sentence:  2-5 words

Key Word Sentence:  6 words

“Desert Tarantula”  Optional Resource

Repeat steps learned

“Pillbug” and Composition Checklist

Repeat steps learned

Teacher’s Notes: Lesson 2

“The Boy and the Nuts”

“The Cocks and the Eagle”

Once we complete the first lesson in the teacher’s seminar (or student set), we can move ahead and master the material in the next one.   Not all of the lessons use the disk system, some can be completed without it.  For example, Lesson 1 used the disk, but Lesson 2 did not.  You can easily keep track of what’s what as everything is layed out very nice and easy to follow.  I am saving the rest of the work to begin in the Fall at the start of our school year.

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Before we start our next school year, I hope to get a couple of my boys set up with this curriculum too so they can work through it together.  You are allowed to make copies of the student workbook for use within the same family, so this will be really nice to have the boys working on this together and strengthen their writing skills.

There are some additional items available through IEW to help with this curriculum.  I hope to purchase the Portable Word Walls and A Word Write Now before our Fall school year begins too.   IEW also has a clearance section and you can find a lot of discontinued items there. Many of these are previous versions that have now been updated. For example, I found some Word Walls and Bible Based Writing Lessons workbook on clearance for 4th-12th grades. Kids learn to outline bible passages, diagram them, and write paragraphs retelling the story. There are also US History Writing Lessons too. How cool is that?

I can really see how this curriculum is going to help my kids learn how to write with excellence and help me learn how to better help them too.  I am thrilled to schedule this material for their daily writing curriculum for the coming school year.

I hope you will check it out IEW, and all of their various writing curriculum products and see if their curriculum would be a good fit for your family too.

IEW Writing Packages

 

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IEW Review

Be sure to check out what other homeschool families on the Schoolhouse Review Crew had to say about using IEW writing products with their families.

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