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Sometimes it takes years to figure out how your children learn. But thanks to the newest product review from Institute of Excellence in Writing I believe I have figured out that Ana is an auditory learner. So I was super excited to get a chance to test out my theory with the Phonetic Zoo Spelling level A [starter set].

The Goods

Oh boy this is a wonderful set of goodies! This is what we received from IEW:


5 Audio CDs – This is the meat and potatoes of the course. It has every spelling lesson on the discs. The student listens to the lesson and does their best to spell all of the words given, just by listening. Then the student goes to the correction audio and self corrects all of the words that were spelled incorrectly. This allows the student to go at their own pace, including pausing the CD so that they have more time to process the word and write it down. The CDs also allow for the student to tune their ears to different speaking voices.


Lesson Cards – These lesson cards are about 5.5 x 8.5 sized and are made of card stock. Each lesson card has all three levels of words listed on them along with the jingle that goes with each lesson. These lesson cards are handy for the student to double check their words and to use as they rewrite their word list.

Personal Spelling Cards – These are the same as the lesson cards except that the student uses them to keep track of their commonly misspelled words. These are used every 5 lessons. This way the student can go back and truly finalize the words into their vocabulary. If there are only a few words that your student has missed you can utilize the Personal Spelling lesson Alternatives in the Appendix 4 of the Teacher’s Notes.


Zoo Cards – These are mini cards, roughly 2×3, that hold the jingle that goes along with each lesson. These are a fun treat to use with the student once they have completed their lesson 100% or for use during the lesson to really hammer home the jingle.


Teacher’s Notes – This downloadable PDF is full of helpful hints for teaching your student. There is also numerous appendices in the back that have extras that the teacher can use.

  • Appendix 1 has the Student Spelling Test Sheet
  • Appendix 2 has the Phonetic Zoo Placement Test
  • Appendix 3 has the Six Syllable Types
    • closed
    • open
    • vowel-consonant-e
    • diphthong
    • consonant-le
    • vowel-r
  • Appendix 4 has Personal Spelling Lesson Alternatives
  • Appendix 5 has 240 Commonly Misspelled Words
  • Appendix 6 has A Zoo for the Zoo Cards

Link to MP3 – Spelling and the Brain is an incredibly fun and informative MP3. Andrew Pudewa is an absolute riot as he explains how spelling and the brain truly work. A quote from Andrew for you to enjoy, “Spelling is . . . the correct retrieval of sequentially stored virtually random bits of information.” Which makes perfectly good sense.

How This Product Worked for Us

The object of this program is for the student to complete a lesson at their own pace. Each lesson has a total of 15 words that fall into certain “groups” or “families” – i.e. ought words, i before e except after c, ow words, and so on.

The beauty of this program is there is no set time for the program. Meaning that if it takes my child 3 weeks to complete one lesson, so be it. If it takes my child 3 days to complete on lesson, so be it. Because once they can complete the lesson correctly two days in a  row, that is likely an indication that the words are truly being input into their brain, safely rooted and will be able to be retrieved upon recall. This self paced program is a wonderful way for auditory learners to build their confidence and build their vocabulary.

Without question this is by far one of the best spelling programs that I have ever used for Ana. She absolutely enjoys this program and she has increased her vocabulary quite extensively. She is much more proud of herself than she used to be. That goes along with the fact that I thought she was learning her spelling words using another program, but obviously she was not.

This program is so wonderful! I actually have little to do with Ana using it for school. I printed the PDF and created my binder, put the Spelling Zoo Cards, and the Lesson Cards into plastic storage bags and I was ready to go!

When we first received the product I explained to her how she was to use it. I made extra copies of her test paper from the appendix in the back of the Teacher’s Notes, I told her that she had permission to pause the CD when she was listening, and sent her on her way. This program takes her 10 minutes a day and she usually completes a lesson within a week . . . usually.

The first lesson she blew through and was 15/15 (100%) within 3 days. Lesson two took her a total of 14 tries (well over 2 weeks) to get 15/15. She complained that she was never going to learn these words on lesson two but you would not believe the feeling of accomplishment when she finally completed the lesson with 100% two days in a row! Then lesson three she blew through that one also in a matter of days. But lesson four stumped her for almost two and half weeks. She finally finished lesson four today (yes, on a Saturday, lol) and she is excited to begin lesson five on Monday.

I have repeatedly asked her how she feels about this new spelling program and she replies with comments such as:

“It’s hard but when I finally get the words right, I am excited!”

“I like the fact that I can stop and go when I am ready.” (pausing the CD during the lesson)

“The one man has a lisp and he is hard to understand sometimes but that makes me have to really listen to the words so that I can get them right. And there is a lady that talks really fast, I have to really pay attention when she talks too, otherwise I miss what she is saying.”

Overall we are both pleased with this spelling program and I for one am looking forward to Ana moving onto Level B in this Phonetic Zoo curriculum. No wonder that IEW is so well known in the homeschool circles, they simply make incredible curricula that works.

Visit my fellow Review Crew members to see the products they reviewed from IEW this go round:


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Stop by again soon to see what other goodies we have to share with you.

In His Grace.






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