Institute for Excellence in Writing: Phonetic Zoo Spelling level A REVIEW

IEW Phonetic Zoo
Hello friends! Earlier this year in June I was given the opportunity to do a review of Student Writing Level Intensive A for the  Institute for Excellence in Writing. We really love Student Writing Intensive, so I was extremely excited when I heard I was chosen to review another great product from IEW! For this review, we were given a complete Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A starter set. The starter set we received includes Teacher Notes, Student word list cards, Audio CDs, Rhyme cards for the "rules," and digital mp3s. Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A  is a fun, independent spelling program. Phonetic Zoo uses phonetics, but also incorporates spelling rules via rhymes, while using an audio CD for a more independent mode of learning. Repetition is required for ultimate mastery, and this only reinforces the mastery gained from the program. 
 IEW Phonetic Zoo
How We Used This:

This spelling program is different than most. It is not a workbook with different worksheet like pages. It is a set of disks and cards. On the larger cards it has a picture of animals on one side that correspond with the lesson that is being learned. On the other side it has a large list of words, arranged in groups. There's also a smaller card that includes the same animals, and the rhyme that is associated with the spelling rule being used. the smaller cards are around the size of the "chance" cards from Monopoly, and the larger cards are roughly 5x7 sized. The idea behind Phonetic Zoo Level A is a more independent style of learning. Your child learns the words on the card, listens to the CD, and writes down the words as s/he hears them. they must score a 100% to move on to the next level, and this can take several attempts. The CD moves fast, but the conversation on each level is pretty entertaining.

With all of that said, that's not exactly how we ended up doing things. With Autism and ADHD, we sometimes have to mix it up a bit! So each day we would go over the little rhyme, until Mr. B had memorized it. On the first day I would take the card and give him a traditional style spelling test. The words he had issue with, I would put a dot next to. Each dot represented the number of tries it took to get it right. This allowed us to focus more on the problem areas to reduce any sort of confusion. We did this daily, focusing on the words he needed more help with while still throwing in some of the ones he knew, until he was getting them all correct. Once he could get them all correct with me speaking them slowly I would put in the CD. At that point, I had him do the program as designed, and he would have to score a 100% via the disk before moving on. With that said, this was no a quick moving program due to the way I chose to use it. But again, with autism/ADHD, concessions must be made at times. I would much rather move slowly and ensure mastery rather than move quickly and ensure mediocrity.


Overall, this is a very effective program. Mr. B has done very well with it, and it's the first spelling program that we have done where it's not been a battle to get him to do the work. Students are able to spell "big" words from the first lesson. I would have never thought my child would be able to spell words such as "Complainant" with ease just after one lesson, but he is! It is repetitive since they must score 100% before moving on, so some children may dislike that, but Mr. B felt a comfort from knowing what was going to happen, and it made him want to try harder to get that 100%. The mp3 files are great to play on the iPhone or iPad. He can listen to the lesson in the car or anywhere, so it's a mobile program in the sense. The conversational style audio disk is good for autism in that the student will need to pay attention and really focus on the verbal communication of the disk. If receptive communication is a problem for your student with autism, then you may need to sample this for yourself and determine whether or not it will work for you. It may also be a great therapy like program for situations such as that. 

Does Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A Pass My 4 Ingredient Test?

1.) Customization: Is it easily adaptable? Can we customize it to fit “us?” Can we modify or set our own schedule? Can we take breaks, jump ahead, or flat out skip?

As you can see from my adaptations, it is easily adaptable. It's not an online based, or timed program, so you can easily move at your own pace. I would not jump ahead and skip anything since spelling is one of those subjects that builds on itself. It has taken us a while to get to the 3rd set where we are now, due to the way I've shaped it to fit our needs, but I still would not skip anything to move faster. That would defeat the purpose I think.

2.) Value: Is it long lasting? Will it cover multiple grade ranges? Are you locked in to one specific grade level? Are there hidden fees?

There are NO hidden fees. You get your package, and it contains everything you need except paper and pen. Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A is intended for grades 3-5, though older students who need spelling help could also use it. It is not "baby'ish" in anyway. You are locked into the level you choose because of the nature of the product. It is long lasting, and will accomplish a full year's worth of spelling.

3.) Attention span: Is it boring? Is it engaging? Is it varied enough for ADHD? Does it last too long?

This is the tricky question. It's going to depend on your child. Mr. B has autism and ADHD, and usually too much repetition bores him and causes learning/progressing issues. This did not. He thoroughly enjoyed repeating the lessons until he scored 100%. Each daily lesson is pretty short lived. I think the most we spent on any day was 20 minutes. The variety of words, and the complexity of the words, in my opinion are a good ADHD challenge that will keep interest and attention. The audio CD's warrant the need to pay attention, close attention, in order to get all of the words. That will challenge ADHD students to focus, as well as students with autism to really focus on the spoken communication and make sense of what is being said.

4.) Does it tie into other things we already have.

This is just spelling, so there's no additional subjects covered really. It's not like the writing program that utilizes passages on other topics to teach the writing. 
If you would like to read more reviews on Phonetic Zoo Level A,or any of the other products that were up for review this time (such as Level B and a resource set) then please click the banner below to be taken to the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog where you can read more reviews!
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