Spelling in High School? Yes! An IEW Spelling Zoo Review

IEW Phonetic Zoo    IEW Phonetic Zoo

We have become a family of Institute for Excellence in Writing, IEW, product users. Today I’d like to chat about our experiences with Spelling – in particular their product

Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level C [Starter Set].

If you’ve been around the Petra School /Pebblekeeper blog for a while, you’ll know that I promote Phonics. I like the Spaulding method of teaching the 72 chunks of phonograms. That is how we started out, and I think it gave us a firm foundation. What didn’t pan out – is correct usage of spelling and vocabulary while they were writing. Spelling test? Yes. Writing? No.

Phonetic Zoo stays with my love of Phonograms – you may watch Mr. Pudewa’s intruduction to Exellence in Spelling Here – Excellence in Spelling. You may also be interested in reading about their Multi-Sensory Approach, or fun words like Basic Neurophysiology (Why Nate and Jon learn spelling differently) and all of the other finer details of how the program works with this link to the Getting Started / Phonetic Zoo. This review will be more of a why we needed it, how we used it, what it has done for us, in my own words. The website has detailed information on exactly how and why it was created.

A couple of years ago we were introduced to Spelling Zoo Level B. Nathan liked it, we enjoyed it, but it has sat on the shelf. This summer when I was praying about how to match resources to some of our 9th grade learning goals, I kept looking at Spelling Zoo. I desired Level C instead of B. I wasn’t sure what to do, and each time I looked at the shelf, it felt like an answer, but I wasn’t sure.  Hello – Schoolhouse Review Crew! They offered Level C, the Starter Set for Phonetic Zoo Spelling – and I was excited. Even if I didn’t get the review – it completely felt like a confirmation. As you might have guessed, we made the cut for the review.

We received the Level C Starter Set which includes:

  • 6 audio CDs
  • Lesson Cards
  • Personal Spelling Cards (Every five lessons to practice)
  • Downloadable Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes PDF file
  • Spelling and the Brain video Seminar (A link this time instead of the CD)


Even though we had done this a couple of years ago, I listened to all of the available MP3’s, watched Spelling and the Brain and read the Teacher’s Notes. The teacher’s notes have quite a few print outs to help. I chose the graphic below to help Jon remember what to do for each lesson.


Each morning he reviews the words on his Zoo Card. We learned after the first couple of lessons that this was critical. He was getting words incorrect because he didn’t quite understand what the person was saying with pronunciation. He remembered the visual of the word on the card. My older son remembered how he heard the speaker pronounce the word. Different learning styles. Depending on what was going on in the room, he would use the headphones, or the speakers. He did better with the speakers, my older son did better with the recommendation of using the headphones.


You listen to the words read, listening to a jingle of the spelling rule every 4-5 words, and write it out. Then you listen to the next track that has the words spelled out. The student corrects their own work, writing down the correct spelling.  This week, on lesson 8, he was pretty familiar with the words and with the rule. While taking photos for the review, I see that he did not re-write the words with the second track. Then, I remembered, this week he asked me to read the words to him.


The CD’s are what drew me to this program in the beginning. We did well with our other word list based spelling programs . . . . when I did them. It took both of us, at the same time, in a space uninterrupted, to say the spelling words. I might be in the mood to do it, and he might have been in a huge fort building recess break and didn’t want to come in just because I had a slice of time. That applied to both boys. Now, they listen to two tracks. It is quick, simple, and yet challenging.

So what was the need? Are you wondering? I knew we had spelling issues. My son sees the word and reads well, but he doesn’t pay attention to the insides. inshedes. inhchindes. It could have anything inside of the word, and he’ll read it correctly. Or, he’ll read the first and last letters and come up with a different word. I wanted him to stop, and focus, and see the importance of spelling. We test in Oregon for spelling, and his missing this section really brought down his overall percentage.

Vocabulary. These words are fantastic. What didn’t work last week with me reading the words, is that I, myself, did not know the meanings to 3-4 of the words. The speaker says the word, then gives a sentence that provides the definition. Try doing that . . . to words that you are only familiar with in context. There are 47? lessons of 15 words. How much would one expect his vocabulary alone to increase? My bet is that it will be a win.

Consistency. I wanted to focus on Spelling and make it a priority, but I knew both of us has horrible discipline to every day speak and write word lists. This is fast. The jingles are short. He learns through poems more than spelling rules. Wait – the poems are the spelling rules. This is a program that we can use every day, dedicating a very tiny slice of our time.

Student led. This is the first year that I have Jon, a 9th grader, alone. Up until this point, the effort has mostly been on the older students and his has been sort of a wash of unschooling, project led, bit o’ math, bit o’ reading, and surfing. I want him to feel enabled  – able – successful, of taking charge of his education. Reading his instructions. Correcting his mistakes. Celebrating his achievements. You can do that with this program.

I like that IEW knows that there are several levels of kids in most homes, or that one child walks through the different levels.  The Starter Set (CD’s and Cards) is what you would want for your first use. If you need a different level after that, you may purchase the CD’s separately. All three levels of words are on the cards. 

The Budget Package would be if you don’t want to have their audio CDs and instead plan to record your own audio.  That saves a lot of money, but goodness, not something I want to spend time doing.

We are going to continue using this for the year. Jon’s been doing about one lesson per week. He seems to think that if he gets 100% twice, he’s done for the week, and I agree. Some folks move on to the next lesson on the next day. It could take 2 weeks to get a lesson 100% twice. It isn’t a race.

We have switched our learning around a little. Instead of – a little lower, make it successful, a job well done, joy in learning – it is now Push a bit higher, reach a bit farther lift a bit more heavy – You can Do It – and feel the academic surge of a job well done. So ready for High School! That said – Level C has been the right choice. The other joy of Level C – is that the other two levels are on the card. You could switch it up and have them look through all 45 words on the card, or read them and challenge them to the vocabulary.

I am thankful, once again, for the Schoolhouse Review Crew, and for the Institute for Excellence in Writing, for providing us the right resource for the right learning goals, at just the right time. Or should I say Write? Smile 

Find out more about their Primary Arts, Language, Reading, Writing and Literature Programs – as well as their High School Level English –

Click on the link below to see how the Schoolhouse Review Crew used their products, we had several to choose from.

IEW Review     Crew Disclaimer

About +Angie Wright

The Transparent Thoughts of an Unschooling Family of Boys - Answering the question - What DO you DO all day?
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1 Response to Spelling in High School? Yes! An IEW Spelling Zoo Review

  1. Pingback: Pebblekeeper’s Look at the Blue Ribbon Awards | Pebblekeeper

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