Excellence in Spelling: Phonetic Zoo
A unique spelling program based on Anna Ingham's Blended Sound-Sight Program of Learning. According to this approach, "children learn best when what they see is reinforced by hearing, and when what they hear is reinforced by being seen." The visual components of the Phonetic Zoo consist of 47 Lesson Cards and a corresponding set of smaller Zoo Cards. The auditory component consists of five audio CDs (six in Level C) or corresponding MP3 files (access provided with purchase of CDs).
Each lesson begins with a new Lesson Card and Zoo Card. On the front side of each card are pictures of animals whose names illustrate the spelling rule being taught. For example, Lesson 2 covers the "ie" rule and is illustrated with a cockatiel. The corresponding Zoo Card is labeled "The 'ie' Rule" and has a cockatiel printed on it. By the end of the program, the student will earn an entire zoo of animals. The spelling rule, or some jingle or hint to remind us of the rule, is printed on the back of the Lesson Card and should be memorized. This card also lists fifteen spelling words for each level that conform to or are exceptions to the rule. These words can be studied before moving to the audio part of the lesson.
Using headphones, the student takes and corrects a practice test dictated from either the CDs or MP3 files. Because the student studies, self-tests, and corrects his or her own work, the Phonetic Zoo is considered a "self-teaching spelling program." Practice test and test corrections for each lesson are recorded on separate tracks so the student can easily find each one. It may take a while for the student to adjust to the speed of the dictation, but this is typical. The pause button can always be used for short breaks or to catch up to the speaker. Two distinct voices are used on the audio component. Both speakers clearly enunciate, but to my ear, one speaker's voice was much easier to understand. Daily tests and corrections take approximately ten minutes to complete. Achieving two consecutive perfect test scores is recommended before moving on to the next lesson.
Every fifth lesson in this program is called a "personal" lesson. The words for this lesson are collected by the student as he progresses through the other lessons and should be written on the blank spaces provided on the Personal Spelling Card. Possible personal spelling words can be commonly misspelled words or interesting words that the student has come across in other subjects. Personal lessons help tailor this spelling program to the student.
The Phonetic Zoo has three difficulty levels: A-primary, B-intermediate, and C-highest. Each level has its own unique audio file but identical Lesson Cards. These cards actually have three complete spelling lists printed on the back. Correct level placement can be determined by taking the placement test available online at http://www.writing-edu.com/spelling/placement_test.php. A comprehensive final exam marks the completion of the level and progression to the next level. Since the goal of this program is mastery, the time required to complete a level will depend on the individual student.
This program was designed for children ages nine and above. Younger children may have difficulty memorizing some of the longer rules and writing quickly enough to keep up with practice test dictations. Focus is placed on the number of correctly spelled words rather than the number of words missed; the creators of this program are confident that lesson repetition will take care of the latter. As explained in the Teacher's Notes, it may take time for students to adjust to this type of program.
Program components are available in several different sets. Starter Sets for each level contain Lesson CDs, access to MP3 files for those lessons, Lesson Cards, Zoo Cards, Personal Spelling (PS) Cards, a small printed Teacher's Book and access to the seminar "Spelling and the Brain" via video streaming. Please note that the cards are applicable to all levels so if you already have a Starter Set, and want to purchase a different level, you'll need to purchase the CDs Only for that level which do not include any cards but do include access to the MP3 files. Additional Zoo Cards are available separately. ~ Anh