Wednesday, December 29, 2010

IEW – Phonetic Zoo Review – TOS


The Institute for Excellence in Writing is a great resource if you need help teaching your students writing.  Institute for Excellence in Writing also has other items for homeschoolers.  I received Phonetic Zoo Level A to try with my struggling spellers.

Let me start at the beginning.  We have tried several spelling programs.  Although they all seem to work while we are doing them, after we are finished with a lesson, it is like my son forgets everything we learned 20 minutes later.  Spelling is just not a strong area for him.  He comes by it honestly.  My husband is an atrocious speller.  

For Christmas, my son really wanted the DS game, Super Scribblenauts.  It is a game that involves spelling.  Whatever you “write” in the space, becomes part of the game.  It is actually pretty cool.  So, he has been really interested in improving his spelling because he wants to put things other than houses, cars and bikes in the game. 


We received Level A which includes Teacher’s Notes e-book (on DVD), Spelling and the Brain DVD, Set of large flashcards, set of small “zoo” flash cards and level a Audio CD’s.    All we needed to use the program was a CD player and headphones.  They highly recommend using headphones as a way to bring the sound closer to the ear and to the brain.  This allows for no distractions or auditory interferences.   Oh yeah, we needed paper and pencil too. 

Each week there is a spelling rule or hint in the form of a jingle.  Although this idea seems great, we found them hard to remember.  The first one is for ai and ay. 

When a-i says a

as in claim and chain.

It comes in the middle

as in train and pain.

But when a-y says a

as in jay and portray

It comes at the end

See decay and delay.

Don’t let suffixes betray you

as in deayed.

The root never changes

See Playful and Played.

Although this makes sense to me because I know how to spell all of these words; it seems to frustrate my son because he didn’t. 

This isn’t a beginning phonics program.  It is recommended for ages 9 and up so I know the student should have basic spelling down at this point.  Our problem is that we don’t.    Although this hasn’t really worked for us (yet, I’m not giving up), I feel like this is a good way to learn better spelling and to get the rules down.

Where does the zoo come in you say?  Each lesson has pictures of zoo animals to reinforce the rule.  For ai and ay, the animals are caiman and manta ray.   Griffin did like looking at all of the animals, he just couldn’t spell them.   It also is called that because the creators correctly say that the English spelling rules are about as crazy as any language on earth and when trying to master them, one might feel they are like wild animals.  Each lesson has 15 words which seems attainable.   Every fifth lesson is a personal spelling lesson where the student practices words they have missed.  There are a total of 47 lessons and the student does each lesson until 100% mastery is attained.

Each level is $99 and can be purchased at IEW’s website.  

You can see what the other crew members have to say about this and other levels of The Phonetic Zoo and also a book called Teaching Boys and other Children who would rather be making forts all day by visiting the Homeschool Crew blog.

Our family gives The Phonetic Zoo

image   imageimage 

(That’s 2 and 1/2)

Smiley guide:


1 Smiley -  Product not really for our family.  Probably wouldn’t buy.  This really should probably be a frown face but we hate to be negative.

image image

2 Smileys - Would maybe buy this product if on sale.   Not a great fit for our family.

image image image

3 Smileys -  We really liked this product and would  probably recommend this to friends and fellow homeschoolers.

image image image image

4 – Smileys – Definitely would buy this if the budget would allow.  We suggest you check this out to see if it is a fit for your family.

image image image image image

5 Smileys – Would sell the family pets to get this one (just kidding).  A must have for our family and we think you should get it too.


Please note that I received IEW, Phonetic Zoo as part of the TOS crew in exchange for my honest opinion in this review.  No other compensation was provided and I did not promise a favorable review.  Thank you to TOS and IEW for this opportunity.


Twisted Cinderella said...

Happy New Years! Here’s to a fabulous new year!

TerriG said...

Your Scribblenaughts part had me laughing. My poor speller had a limited vocab for this game too.


I would like to let you know that this blog contains reviews done by me in exchange for products from certain companies. I have not received any other compensation for the honest reviews that I post. I will never promise a favorable review. If I don't like the product, I will honestly tell you why.

I would like to disclose the following existing relationships with affiliates: CurrClick, AdSense. I am an affiliate with the aforementioned companies and may receive compensation if a reader clicks through a link on my blog and makes a purchase.

If you have any questions about this, please e-mail me at,\