Review: IEW’s Phonetic Zoo Spelling A


Spelling!  I have an love hate relationship with this subject.  I’m not the most spectacular of spellers myself. When I  was in school spelling usually consisted of the tried and true…. write each word five times every day, write a sentence with the word, take a test on Friday.  That worked alright for me except my spelling ability has mostly be limited to the words I learned to spell the words on the tests.  It wasn’t until I became an adult and I started teaching my children to spell that I realized there are actual spelling rules that make spelling the crazy English language easier.  Not perfect of course because there are many exceptions to most rules.

We haven’t done much spelling in my house lately.  I find most programs to be either too easy or too hard and complicated.  I think spelling is an important skill to have.  It will always make a person appear to be smart and well educated.  So when the opportunity to review Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A [Starter Set] from Institute for Excellence in Writing I decided we could give it a try.

Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A_zpsiac4zab5Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A [Starter Set] is intended for grades 3-5 and comes with the following:

  • 5 audio CDs (includes MP3 downloads) or MP3 downloads and no CDs
  • Lesson Cards with all three levels of spelling words and rhymes or poems to help memorize the rules.
  • Personal Spelling Cards which you will use to create personalized lists of spelling words for your child.
  • Zoo Cards which act as a type of reward or visual reference as your child learns the rules
  • Downloadable Phonetic Zoo Teacher’s Notes PDF file (which I personally had printed and bound)
  • Spelling and the Brain video seminar which is a link to a video you can view online

If you visit the IEW website you can find a Spelling Zoo Placement Test.  I love that they offer this opportunity.  It can be very difficult to decide where to start in a new program that you might not be able to see in person and can only purchase online.  It lessened the worry that I might have my children begin at the wrong level and my kids would struggle.

How does it work?

Phonetic Spelling Zoo uses two key components to teach children to spell well.  First, every list of spelling words come with a rule that the children have to memorize.  The rule is written out on a card and in a rhyme or jingle type style. Repeating it a few times a day make these rules easy to remember.  The audio CDs are then used to teach the children the spelling words through auditory sequential practice.

I highly suggestion you take the time to watch Spelling and the Brain.  It is essential if you and your children are going to get the most out of the program. It is just about an hour long and just full of information about how the brain really processes the information needed to learn to spell well.  Andrew Pudewa does a fantastic job of explaining how the brain retains the spelling of words better if they learn the words in auditory sequence instead of a visually remembering what the word looks like.

IEW dedicates an entire webpage FULL of information about how all of this works.  You won’t want to miss reading through it.  It is titled Getting Started with The Phonetic Zoo.

Every day that you and your children will do the following….

  1. Review the rules and rhyme on the flashcards.
  2. Listen to the lesson on the audio CD.  The children use the spelling rhyme to attempt to write the list of spelling words correctly as the audio reads the words for them.
  3. After that the audio correctly spells each of the words and the child corrects his own work as they listen.
  4. After the child is able to get all of the words spelled correctly 2 days in a row they move on to the next lesson.

For this program I purchased each of my boys a simple lined notebook in which to write the spelling words in every day.

Lesson Cards:

The Lesson Cards are large and printed on card stock.  There is a whole punched in the corner so you can add a ring to keep the cards together.  Every card represents 1 spelling rule and includes the three levels.  There is an animal on each card as well as the spelling rule or rhyme.

Teacher Notes:

The teacher notes come in a downloadable pdf.  This book is absolutely filled with information about how to teach spelling.  It is over 70 pages long.  I found myself turning to it so much that I took the file to a print shop and had it printed and bound into a book I keep out on the school table.  There are reference charts, templates, and so much more.  Don’t miss out on the gold mine of this resource.

How we used it:

I am using this program with my two boys ages 8 and 10.  Most of the time they are actually pretty independent with it.  They are moving through it at their individual paces and that is really easy to do.  Each day the boys take out the cards and review the rules.  They quiz each other to see who can remember them.  Then they take turns working on the their own lesson.  One whole lesson just takes maybe 15 minutes to complete.  They enjoy the program and actually look forward to it.  That’s big points in my world!


This is a really nicely done program.  My children are easily and pretty effortlessly learning quite a bit about the rules of spelling, the exceptions to those rules, and how to spell many great words.  Over all I really recommend it and we will continue to use it.

IEW Review

Crew Disclaimer

Review: Essentials: Logic of English Complete Set and Phonics with Phonograms App

Logic of English Review
For the past several weeks my family had the opportunity to review Essentials: Logic of English Complete Set by Logic of English.  The Essentials program from Logic of English is designed to help you teach your children reading, spelling, and writing. The program is designed for children ages 7 through adults.  It was designed with the intent that even struggling students, those with Dyslexia, ESL students or even those who simply struggle with reading and spelling) could excel.   It truly is a systematic phonics program.  To accompany the Essentials program we also received the Phonics with Phonograms App for the iPad or iPhone as well. I’ll discuss the app further on down below.

Logic of English Review

About Essentials: Logic of English

For our review we received the Essentials: Logic of English Complete Set which sells for $243 and comes with:

  • Essentials Teacher’s Manual
  • Essentials Student Workbook(s) in Cursive or Manuscript
  • Spelling Journal
  • Basic Phonogram Flashcards
  • Advanced Phonogram Flash Cards
  • Spelling Rule Flashcards
  • Grammar Rule Flashcards
  • Phonogram & Spelling Rule Quick Reference Chart
  • Phonogram & Spelling Game Book
  • 2 sets of Game Cards


The Essentials Teacher’s Manual ($95) is a sturdy hardcover book that should last you through years of use and several children.  In total you will find 40 scripted, organized and detailed lessons. The lessons contain 3 parts  including learning phonograms, spelling, and grammar.

The Essentials Student Workbook in Cursive or Manuscript($25) is a softback book that contains the consumable workbook type pages that the children use every day.  The ages are perforated for easy removal from the large workbook.  We store them in a separate folder.

The Basic Phonogram Flashcards ($18) are pretty integral to the program.  Remembering the many phonograms makes reading and spelling that much easier.

All of the many flashcards that complete the program come on sturdy shiny cardstock.  They are color coded making them easy to identify quickly.  I chose to keep the cards we were currently using in a coupon file folder and while the cards we haven’t gotten to just yet are rubber banded in a basket near by.

How We Used Essentials: Logic of English

At a first glance the program can look overwhelming.  I carried the teacher’s manual around for a couple of days trying to wrap my brain around everything.  In actuality this was probably not necessary.  Once I decided to just dive into it with my children I realized that it program is really quite simple to follow and very much just open and go.  I was looking at a very fat teacher’s manual and making things much harder than they needed to be.  The teacher’s manual is extensive long before you even begin the lessons.  There is a tremendous amount of information about how to teach the phonograms, phonemic awareness such and games that you can try.

Essentials offers you five different schedules.  These are suggested and by no means required.  You can choose from schedules for:  struggling readers and spellers, struggling spellers, emerging readers and spellers, young emerging readers, and ESL students. I used the program with my two boys who are 8 and 6.  I chose to pay attention to the struggling spellers schedule.  Both of my boys are very advanced readers, spelling however is not their strong place. The teacher’s manual suggests the total time per day for this category is 35-65 minutes.  This schedule says that one full lesson (with all three of its parts) should be completed every one to two days.  This wasn’t our experience at all.  Even the very first lesson which was a breeze for my children took us a good 2 or more hours.  As we progressed in the lessons I found we could complete a lesson a week across 4 days.  In the end I chose to open the book and just do a few activities at a time until my children seemed to be at a good stopping point and ready to move on for the day.

As I described before the lessons are broken up into three parts! The first part is all about learning the phonograms… or all of the sounds letters and letter combinations can make and when they make them.  Part one also covers exploring sounds and learning spelling rules.  In general my boys had a very good concept of all of the basic phonograms (A-Z)  so they were able to breeze through this section of the early lessons. Part Two involved spelling dictation.  This is where the spelling list is found.  I took the words and posted them in our school space and encouraged the children to find ways to use them in other places. Part Three is all about grammar.  We covered prefixes, suffixes, parts of speech and all of that fun stuff.  Every fifth lesson is a review lesson which I found highly valuable.  Spelling rules, grammar, and phonograms we went over a few weeks back came back front and center.  I’m a big believer in repetition.

My boys especially loved the games that came out of the Phonogram and Spelling Game Book.  Anything that makes our learning fun is a real plus.  Sometimes our entire lesson would consist of playing just these games.  There are quite a few optional activities peppered throughout the pages of the teacher’s manual as well.  We mostly chose to skip most of these as the teaching was thorough I didn’t feel we needed the extra practice.  However, as we cruise up in lessons I bet we’ll do more of them.

Overall What Do I Think?

Overall I think this is an excellent program and I intend to keep using it.  I have no doubt that my boys will turn out to be excellent spellers.  Actually, my spelling is going to improve as well.  On top of that, we’ve all learned more about grammar than I ever imagined.  For example, do you know what ar article adjective is?  I do now!  So do my boys.

This program appeals to the different ways in which my boys think.  There are lots of visual, auditory and even kinesthetic activities.  It certainly keeps things fun and engaging.

My biggest criticism of the program is how long you would REALLY have to spend each and every day to complete this program in a typical school year.  There is a tremendous amount to do in each and every lesson and I do believe that as my boys venture further along the lessons will take us even longer.  Even the recommended 35 minutes (minimum) per day can seem like a very long time to an active child. Some of the suggested schedules, such as the struggling readers and spellers schedule suggests students should work on the program for over TWO HOURS  a day!  Chances are if you have a struggling reader and speller they aren’t going have what it takes to dedicate themselves for that length of time.  Personally I have no issues using this over two school years and just moving at our own pace as we see fit.

If you want a really comprehensive reading, spelling, and grammar program for your children.. this is it!  Especially if you don’t mind a longer schedule or feel enough confidence to change the schedule as you see fit for your children.

What About That Phonics with Phonograms App

This app is meant to accompany the Essentials program.  It allows you set up multiple children so that they can practice their phonograms individual and at their own pace.  The phonograms can be reviewed in two different ways. In one situation the child is required to touch each card that appears on the screen and the sounds will be played for the child to hear. The second option is to have all of the sounds spoken as each card is shown.


The child then plays something of a card game.  The phonograms are spoken aloud and they are required to choose the card with the phonogram they just heard.  If they choose the wrong one it is grayed out and they are given another chance to try again.  The app collects information for you as the child moves along so the parent is able to see which phonograms the child answered correctly on the first try and which ones they need more work with.

There are a total of 10 levels covering 74 of the phonograms.  New phonograms are introduced at each level though old ones are reviewed as well. The parent can even setup a customized list of phonograms for the child to work through.  Some of the phonograms include spelling hints and suggestions for when it is appropriate to use them.

Logic of English Review

How We Used This

Each of my boys, ages 6 and 8, used this app several times a week.  I often handed them the iPad when I found we had a bit of a gap in the schedule or while they waited on me to finish up something with one of the other children.  I did not create custom levels for them as I thought a review of all of the phonograms would be most beneficial.  The extra practice on the app really helped reinforce their phonograms which intern helped us speed along in our phonogram lessons during our usual Essentials routine.

My Overall Thoughts!

Over all, I thought this was a fantastic app and I appreciate having it in our educational app lineup.  It compliments what we are doing in the Essentials program perfectly.  A great reinforcer for those important skills that are so essential to reading and spelling.  I love that we can use this with multiple children.  The ability to create custom levels in very handy. Though it truly follows the Essentials curriculum I could certainly see using this as a stand alone program if one was using a different curriculum.

You can purchase it yourself for $2.99! Check out the Logic of English Website for more details.


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