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Phonetic Zoo is produced by Institute of Writing. They take writing and skills that develop writing very seriously. There is very helpful information on the site that can help you decide if this curriculum is right for you. Following is some information they offer on the Phonetic Zoo Spelling program.


Spelling is Sequential

When we look at a word, we see it as a whole, so the correct sequence can be missed. This is why most workbook spelling programs don’t work. Auditory input and then spelling the word out loud, letter by letter, ensures accurate storage of the correct sequence in the brain, which allows for correct retrieval and accurate spelling.
The Phonetic Zoo is a teacher-guided phonetically-based audio spelling program.

After a short introductory lesson, students independently take spelling tests until mastery of the list is achieved. Students learn spelling rules incrementally, which will help with future spelling, and personal spelling lists ensure that all a student’s spelling needs are addressed.
The spelling program is for students in third grade on up and consists of three levels (A, B, and C). If you are not sure what level to start with, take the Spelling Placement Test. Once you know what level, simply purchase the Starter Set for that level. It has everything you need to begin. When you are ready for another level, all you need to purchase are the Audio CDs Only.

How to Use

How does the Phonetic Zoo Teach Spelling?

A Multi-Sensory Approach
A Brief Review of Basic Neurophysiology
Spelling is Sequential
Maximizing Frequency
How long will it take to complete all 47 lessons?

Each level of The Phonetic Zoo spelling program includes:

Teacher’s Notes e-book (found on the DVD)
Spelling and the Brain DVD/DVD-ROM
Set of large flashcards
Set of small “Zoo” cards
One set of Audio CDs (Levels A, B or C)

How to Use

You will find that all your materials, along with your own personal CD player and headphones, will fit
conveniently in a shoebox. Putting the large flashcards on a ring and keeping the Zoo cards together in a
rubber-band or small plastic bag will keep them from becoming misplaced.

1. Watch the Spelling and the Brain DVD.

This will reinforce the foundational concepts mentioned above and familiarize you with the “how to” of the
program described below. Although there is no reason to prevent your students from watching the DVD with
you, there is also no particular reason why they should. The DVD is for the parent or teacher.

2. Present the rule of Lesson One to your student(s),
using the large flash card.

The flash cards can be used for two primary purposes: 1) For you to use as you preview and review the lessons
with your student; and 2) for your student to use to study independently if he wishes. All the words for all three
levels of The Phonetic Zoo are contained on the flash cards, so they are useful for working with students of
mixed ages and abilities.

Read the rule out loud (from the back of the card), and have your student read and spell out loud the three words
on the front of the card which correspond to the chosen level. Briefly discuss how the animal name shown on
the front meets the rule of the lesson. The teacher’s notes include a deeper explanation of the spelling rules,
some history behind the rule, and additional commentary to add to your understanding of spelling.

3. Give the student the corresponding small Zoo card.

The front of the Zoo card includes the lesson title and animals whose names illustrate the spelling rule.
On the back of the card is the rule or jingle that accompanies each lesson. The Zoo cards will serve not only as a
reminder of the rule and animals which correspond with it, but also as a motivational tool because as your
students progress through the lessons, they will see their animal collection grow.
Students may wish to display their Zoo cards on their bedroom or classroom wall, or they may wish to use the
cards as zoo cage doors. Complete instructions and zoo cage templates are included in Appendix 5.

4. Set up the child with headphones, paper and pen.

Why headphones? Students who use this program with headphones
will reap the greatest benefits. With headphones, the sound and the
experience it provides are close to the ear and to the brain. There are no
distractions or auditory interferences. It is a personal and intimate
activity, and greatly assists in making the goal of mastering a spelling
lesson even more of an individual challenge. They will develop a strong
sense of “ownership” of the program, and enjoy the change in routine it
provides. Use headphones!

Paper. Students should prepare their paper by numbering 1-15 on the
left side, double-spaced (leaving a blank space between lines). Since
College Ruled notebook paper usually contains 32 lines, students should
be able to fit all 15 words on one side of the paper. It is helpful for the
child to write the lesson number and the “time” that it has been done
(i.e. Lesson 3, 4th time).

Pen, not pencil. For a detailed explanation on the benefits of pen over pencil, see the article "Convert to Pens"

5. The student listens to the introduction on Disc One, Track One.

The student will need to listen to the introduction just once. Once the introduction is complete, be sure that he
knows how to use the CD player to skip to the track he needs for that lesson. Corrections for each lesson are on
a separate track. The student can look on the back of the Phonetic Zoo CD case to see which disc and track
number correspond to each lesson.

6. The student takes the test.

At first, the lesson may proceed too rapidly and the student might be frustrated
by not being able to keep up. Explain that this is normal and encourage him to
pause the CD at any time. Each lesson is less than 10 minutes long.
Even if he misspells many words the first time through, don’t worry. Tell him
to relax. Speed and accuracy will improve with repetition. Place the emphasis
on how many are “right,” not on how many are “wrong.” Be enthusiastic
about his progress.

7. The student makes corrections on the test using the next track of the CD.

After the student has tried to write all fifteen words, he should attempt to
correct those words himself. He should re-write the correct word next to his
attempt at the word. Thus, his spelling test will have each word written twice.

Determine a method to mark which words were spelled incorrectly—perhaps a single strike-through or an X
adjacent to each incorrect word. You may find that your student might not always catch all his errors. That is
OK. After he has finished with his corrections, you may like to check as well, and silently write in the correct
spelling next to his attempt. Smile a lot, and don’t feel you have to continuously point out his errors. Frequency
will do its job. Gradually his speed and ability to write the words and letters he hears will improve.

Strong visual learners may be happier to correct their lessons by using the list on the back of the card
along with the recorded corrections on CD.

8. The student takes the test every day until he achieves 100% twice in a row.

Our goal is excellence in spelling. 100% twice in a row ensures mastery of each list. Interestingly, this goal is
not usually discouraging to students. Instead, it becomes a challenge to pursue.

9. Personal Spelling (Lessons 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 & 47)

This is a vitally important part of the Excellence in Spelling program. Every fifth lesson is a Personal Spelling
lesson. The flash cards for these lessons have blank spaces, and the verbal instructions on the CD direct the
student to collect words during Lessons 1-4 for use with Lesson 5, Personal Spelling. These words are to be
gathered from errors in written compositions as well as vocabulary from other language arts curriculua. For
your convenience, Appendix 3 contains extra word lists based on additional spelling rules, and Appendix 4 lists
240 frequently misspelled words. These are also excellent choices for Personal Spelling lessons.

10. The Final Exam

There is a Final Exam at the end of each level. Each is quite long, using words from each rule. The scoring
guide indicates whether the student has accomplished the goals of the program and is ready to progress to the
next level, or should repeat this same level again. In preparation for the final exam, you may want to “spot
check” the student with words from different lessons, using the flash cards to help. The instructions for taking
and evaluating the final exam are included in the teacher’s notes.

Back to top

How does the Phonetic Zoo Teach Spelling?

Unpredictable people, you might say, “It’s a zoo in there!” Our English spelling rules are about as crazy and
unpredictable as any language on earth, and in trying to master them, one might feel that they are like wild
animals—crazy, illogical and challenging. Since children love animals, the stranger the better, we managed to find
for each lesson a few animals whose names match the spelling rule, jingle or hint. Thus, The Phonetic Zoo.

Good spelling demonstrates literacy, education and intelligence. It is important. These days, spell checkers on our
computers can save many an embarrassment, but a computer is not always available, nor is it a replacement for full
comprehension. Consequently, spelling remains an important skill, and the Phonetic Zoo can help your students to
achieve Excellence in Spelling.

To teach The Phonetic Zoo you will need:

• Spelling and the Brain DVD
• These Teacher’s Notes
• 5 Audio CDs, labeled Disc One through Disc Five (Level C has six CDs)
• Set of large flashcards
• Set of small Zoo cards

Although you can begin immediately by reading the How to Use this Program section, be sure to plan a time to
watch the Spelling and the Brain DVD to familiarize yourself with this method of spelling instruction.

A Multi-Sensory Approach

The Phonetic Zoo is based on Mrs. Anna Ingham’s effective “Blended Sound-Sight Program of Learning.” Mrs.
Ingham discovered fifty years ago, long before psychologists and educators began to talk of “auditory learners” vs.
“visual learners,” that all students learn best when what they see is reinforced by hearing, and when what they hear
is reinforced by being seen. Thus the “blending of sound and sight” is the most effective educational approach to
language arts study.

With determination and persistence, Mrs. Ingham has fought the great battle against whole language extremists in
Canada, almost single-handedly, and schools that have used her program consistently have virtually eliminated
reading problems. We have attempted to develop a spelling program which effectively recreates Mrs. Ingham’s
Sound City spelling rules using the theme of animals and a zoo.

Although not all of the possible spelling rules are presented in The Phonetic Zoo, enough of them are provided in a
fun way that students will learn to look for patterns and discover other rules as they explore spelling. This program
provides your student with enough rules to be successful, but not too many to be discouraged.

A Brief Review of Basic Neurophysiology:

Spelling is the correct retrieval of sequentially stored, virtually random bits of information. Therefore, there are two
activities involved in spelling: correctly storing information in the brain, and correctly retrieving that information.
Those who teach spelling should not only understand how the brain works, but must also use that understanding to
create an optimal learning approach for children who may have very different learning styles.

The brain acquires information through the sensory pathways: sight, hearing, touching, tasting and smelling. Once
information gets to the brain, it is stored when brain cells (neurons) send electrochemical impulses to other brain
cells. Connections are made and “circuits” then reinforced by three variables: frequency, intensity and duration. In
simpler terms, humans learn best by seeing, hearing or feeling things that are either very frequent, very intense or
very long-lasting. There is no other way.
A student who is strong visually will be more able to learn spelling from textbooks and worksheets, since his visual
pathway may be the most reliable and visual input will be the most accurate for him.
A student who is strong
auditorily will be more able to learn spelling from hearing the rules and words, something that a textbook is unable
to facilitate. A child who is strong kinesthetically wants to feel and move, anchoring information to the brain
through the body.

Most toddlers are primarily kinesthetic, secondarily auditory and lastly visual in learning style. Most older people
are exactly the opposite. For young students just learning to read, write, spell and do arithmetic, auditory input is
still extremely important, and must not be neglected by the teacher. Unfortunately, textbooks and worksheets are
exclusively visual, and often do not provide the most efficient method of study.

Spelling is Sequential

Words consist of letters, but if you do not have your letters in the correct order, your spelling is incorrect. Virtually
every teacher or parent has seen children who will write a word like: “waer” or “gril” or “turtel,” in which they did
get all the letters, but because the order was wrong, the word is hard to decipher. Spelling is sequential because the
order of letters (not just getting the right ones) determines the word. How can sequence be taught most effectively?

When you see a word, “special” for example, you are forced by nature to see it all at once. Since the letters go into
your brain simultaneously, there is no sequential storage of the information. Vision is a global sense. There is a
spatial storage, but not a sequential one. Consequently, if a student has even a mild dyslexia or difficulty in
processing abstract visual information, we cannot be assured that the information is being stored properly (i.e.
correct sequence) in the brain. All the letters are seen at the same moment.

However, when a word is spelled out loud, s - p - e - c - i - a - l, the letters go into the brain one at a time, in a
precise sequence. In fact, it can only be received in sequence. Therefore, since spelling is sequential in nature,
auditory input is the best possible way to accurately store spelling information in the brain. Words correctly stored
will more likely be correctly retrieved.

Coupling the auditory, letter-by-letter sequencing with the presentation of letter groups and the unique sounds they
make, The Phonetic Zoo effectively helps students learn to spell.

Maximizing Frequency

Information is stored in the brain through sensory stimulation, given with frequency, intensity, and duration. As the
same type of stimulation is given again and again, the neural connections which store that information are
strengthened and, with enough frequency, the connections become permanent and learning is complete. In teaching
spelling, the real trick involves the accurate transmission (and reception) of the information with enough frequency
to make the knowledge permanent and second nature. However, consistency is difficult to attain.

Thus, the use of audio recordings, combined with flashcards and dramatic images, provides for a consistent and
organized presentation of information, in a format that allows individual study and an individualized rate of progress
through the materials. Students can listen repeatedly, hear the same thing consistently, do the same test each day
and continue until a perfect score has been achieved. For the best possible effect, require that the score of 100% be
achieved twice. This will ensure that each student, through maximized frequency, learns the lessons thoroughly.

How long will it take to complete all 47 lessons?

This will vary greatly from student to student. We do not suggest any specific time line for completion, but we do
insist on a goal of complete mastery. Therefore, the student should continue to repeat the same lesson everyday
until a score of 100% is achieved twice in a row. Some lessons are harder than others. While one student may
achieve the 100% score twice in three or four days, others may take five, seven, even ten or more days. This is not a
problem. Simply do a lesson every day and you will see progress. With one lesson every week, the program lasts
an entire year. For slower students, it may last even longer.

Using the Zoo cards to review past spelling rules as they apply to new words will help students retain the spelling
information stored in their brains. A template to create a phonetic zoo, which uses the small Zoo cards as cage doors,
is located in the Appendix. By displaying the zoo in a classroom, teachers will have a ready-made review center
easily accessible to students looking for spelling reminders.

For more information about Phonetic Zoo , visit Institute of Writing. If you are interested in new Phonetic Zoo curriculum, you can purchase at their site.

For more spelling ideas for homeschool, visit our Homeschool Language Arts page.