Saturday, 24 October 2015

Phonetic Zool Level A {IEW Review}

Earlier this year Nathaniel and I had the privilege of beginning our writing journey with The Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW). I have been a huge fan of theirs for over a decade and was very encouraged to see Nathaniel's progress in the area of composition using their Student Writing Package.

Due to Asperger's Syndrome Nathaniel has been struggling in the area of language arts and spelling is an area we have been working on. I recently discovered that Nathaniel learns best with short lessons, copy work and with clear instructions. I heard about Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A [Starter Set] and I was very keen to try it.

You can watch Andrew Pudewa's introduction to Spelling Zoo on YouTube.

What we received
  • Spelling and the Brain video Seminar
  • 5 audio CD's containing 47 lessons, answer keys and 6 final exams
  • Lesson Cards 
  • Personal Spelling Cards
  • Zoo Cards
  • Phonetic Zoo Teacher Notes (PDF file) 3.93 MB. This manual is 76 pages long and contains: How to notes, an introduction to Phonetic Zoo, short lesson notes for each lesson and Appendices.

How we used it

After downloading the Teachers Manual I printed it off and followed took some time to read through the notes in the beginning. I found these notes particularly helpful as they explain the reasons behind the method.

Spelling Zoo uses a multi-sensory approach to teach spelling and has it's foundations in Mrs. Anna Inghams Blended Sound-Sight Program of Learning. The explanations of basic neurophysiology deepened my understanding of the processes involved in learning to spell and helped reinforce the method.

 I downloaded the audio program into iTunes and gave Nathaniel the first spelling card. 

Nathaniel looked over the spelling rule and column A of the spelling words. I had him read the rule to me and explained what it meant in relation to the words he was learning.  We put aside the card and took out a book with plain lined paper.

The next step was for him to do on his own.  He started listening to the audio. Track one explains to the student how the program works.  Track two was the first lesson.  The spelling rule is recited followed by a spelling practice run.

This involves:
  • Hearing the word to be learned in context of a sentence 
  • Writing the word.  
  • Once all the words are written the student is required to mark their own work. The process involves: hearing the word, hearing the spelling of the word, crossing out the incorrectly spelled word and writing it the correct way.  
This process is repeated until the student obtains 100 % accuracy for the list they are working on for two days in a row.

Front of Personal Spelling Reward Cards
Back of Personal Reward Spelling Cards
 Once they have obtained mastery they earn a zoo card for that level.  Each card contains:
  • On the front:A picture of an animal whose name follows the spelling rule and the title of the spelling rule
  • On the back: The lesson number, rule title and hint poem to help the student remember the rule.

Front: Lesson Card One
 The lesson cards are printed on card stock. Each card has three levels of spelling on them.  Level A, B and C. The front of the card has a drawing of an animal along with their name which conforms to the spelling rule being learned. On the right is a sample of the words being learned that lesson.

Back Lesson Card One
The back of each card contains the lesson summary and rule hint. On the right is three columns.  One for each spelling level. This means that you only need one set of cards to complete all three levels. Once you have worked through level A go back to the beginning and work your way through each successful level. This means I only have to purchase the audio's in order to complete the next two levels.

Cost of Phonetic Zoo Level A*
  • CD with Printed Materials $99.00
  • Download, $79.00
*All prices are quoted in US $ and are current at time of review. Please consult the I.E.W. website for current prices
** I.E.W. is available for purchase internationally.  Find your nearest distributor here.
Recommended Age Range
  • Grades 3 - 5
  • Special Education
  • English Learners
  • Level A (primary)
  • Level B (intermediate)
  • Level C (highest)
Find out more

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I am very impressed with Spelling Zoo.  It has removed the stress of me having to daily repeat the spelling I am teaching to Nathaniel.  Spelling Zoo has been a good fit for Aspergers because each and every day is identical.  The results are measurable each day and he has immediate feedback on his personal progress.  There is no pressure because he is working against himself and his own ability.


Click to read Crew Reviews


  1. I'm suppose to do this program this year, but haven't gotten my hands on it yet. I'm hoping to soon. Thank you for your review and especially the peek with pictures!

  2. I appreciate your review with the close-ups of the cards and detailed explanation of the process. It really helps. I just bought phonetic zoo and I'm looking forward to get my 11 year-old son started with it. Thanks Chareen :)
    P.S. I'm your fellow Crew reviewer

    1. You are very welcome Patricia. :) We love IEW products here.


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