IEW Phonetic Zoo
Since bringing Bookworm home to homeschool two years ago, we’ve struggled to find a good spelling program.  In fact, we’ve been through three different spelling programs, none of which seemed to make a difference.

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I should clarify that Bookworm is a good speller, but there’s always room for improvement, and I didn’t think any of our previous spelling curricula was helping Bookworm become an even better speller until we tried Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level B Starter Set.  This is another product from a company we have grown to love, Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW).

About Phonetic Zoo Spelling

IEW Phonetic Zoo
For this review, we received the complete starter set, which includes:

  • 5 audio CDs (includes MP3 downloads)
    or MP3 downloads and no CDs
  • Lesson Cards with all three levels of 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
  • Downloadable Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes PDF file
  • Spelling and the Brain video seminar (link to streaming video)

The set retails for $99, but your child, if placed in level A or B, will be able to continue to use some of the materials through level C, if you would like.

Phonetic Zoo is designed for children 9 and up.  If your child is younger than that, IEW recommends that you use All about Spelling.

To determine which level your child should start with, IEW has a placement test.  Bookworm is in 6th grade and placed in Level B.

In every lesson, there is a spelling rule, jingle or hint to help.


For instance, in Lesson 8: Two Families, the saying is:

“Many big ights such as bright and light/Most will give great delight, agree?  Fewer/small ites such as quite and spite/They always use the wondrous Magic E.”

IMG_6331In addition, each lesson has a related animal that demonstrates the rule, hence the “Zoo” part of the program’s name.

To use Phonetic Zoo Spelling, students simply use earphones and play the CD for the appropriate lesson.  The word to spell is given and is used in a sentence.  After every few words, the rhyme is repeated to help students memorize this week’s rule.

IMG_6330The student writes the words, and then, when he’s spelled the 15 words for that lesson, he checks them.  (The program has a portion where the words are spelled correctly.  The student should write the word as it’s being spelled next to the column where he originally spelled the word.

To pass on to the next lesson, the student should get 100% twice when spelling the word.

How We Used Phonetic Zoo Spelling

Bookworm used this program about four days a week (sometimes five because he really liked the program).  He simply played the DVD, listened on his earbuds, and wrote the words.

This program is almost completely an independent study.  He needed almost no input from me.  Using this program, spelling typically took him 10 minutes a day.

Over the course of the review period, Bookworm worked up through lesson eight.

What We Liked about Phonetic Zoo Spelling

Bookworm felt that using this spelling program, he learned the words better because he had to show mastery by taking the test and earning at least 100% twice in a row.  He didn’t feel that the program was too challenging or too easy; it was at the perfect level.

Each lesson has 15 words, and Bookworm felt that there were usually three or so words on each lesson that he did not know, such as concerto and pimento.  He enjoyed that some of the words, like “Denverite” were not found on typical spelling lists or programs.

What We Disliked about Phonetic Zoo Spelling

In some lessons, two spelling words are in one sentence.  For instance, in one lesson, the words “tow” and “mow” were being studied.  Bookworm had already spelled “mow.”  Then, for the sentence for the word “tow” he heard, “In exchange for the tow, I had to mow the lawn.”  This type of sentence confused him since he sometimes couldn’t remember which of the words, “tow” or “mow” he was supposed to be spelling.

However, this is a small complaint.  Overall, we both loved the program and plan to continue using it.  When the girls are old enough, I’d like them to start on Level A.

I was one of 100 reviewers to review a variety of products including Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A, B, and C, and a Resource Set including Timeline of Classics, Teaching with Games Set, and A Word Write Now.

To read more reviews, click on the link below:

IEW Review
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