The Phonetic Zoo

A Self-Teaching Spelling Program (Advanced level)
Book cover: 'The Phonetic Zoo: A Self-Teaching Spelling Program (Advanced level)'
James Webster
Andrew Pudewa
Institute for Excellence in Writing
Grade / Age level: 
Resource Type: 

The Phonetic Zoo is an auditory (CD) based spelling program that includes at each level 5 Audio CD's (540 rule-based spelling words), 47 5 ½"x 8 ½" flashcards teaching the most important spelling rules and similar set of 2 �" x 3 5/8" (illustrated) zoo cards, an introductory DVD, and a pamphlet that explains the basics of the program.

Each lesson begins with the speaker reading the rule followed by a 15 word list that includes the speaker repeating the rule every three words. After each word is presented, the student is given enough time to write down the word without feeling rushed. The word list is repeated along with the correct spelling. The student writes the correct spelling next to his word as an accuracy check, noting which words he misspelled. He then studies those words and listens to the same list (CD track) on subsequent days until he correctly spells all list words two times.

Upon first listening to the CDs I thought the program moved too slowly and that my children would find it boring. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I was wrong. In retrospect realize that I found it slow and boring because I already knew the words, but for a student just learning the rules and word spelling it moved at just the right pace.

Phonetic Zoo provides different rules from Spelling Power that were quickly learned by our oldest child (who is not naturally a good speller.) At the beginning of eighth grade (after completing Level H in Spelling Power) he worked through the entire Phonetic Zoo high school level in 3 months and was able to apply the spelling rules in his essays. We did a follow up test to the effectiveness of Phonetic Zoo by using the final Spelling Power lists. He missed less then 5% of all words on the last two levels of Spelling Power, and the words missed were rated as being college level. For our family Phonetic Zoo is an ideal program for older students who are yearning for independence and are anxious to "be done" with spelling lessons. This review is of the "Advanced" level of Phonetic Zoo. The IEW website contains an auditory placement test that is accurate in determining which level to purchase.

Review Date: 
Reviewed by: