The Phonetic Zoo

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  • Reviewed on Friday, January 1, 2010
  • Grades Used: 6th
  • Dates used: 2009
LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE this. The kids do it on their own, and it's a good, solid spelling program.

Texas Cowgirl

  • Reviewed on Thursday, October 16, 2008
  • Grades Used: all
  • Dates used: 2005-present
My son (who once had CAPD) was doing very poorly in spelling. He was thirteen and could not spell even the most basic of words (such as what & when). I had tried several programs including those geared towards special ed children with absolutely no luck, so I decided to try PZ.
First, let me say, there is absolutely NOTHING easier to use. The child is 100% responsible for the whole lesson (which only takes about ten minutes).
Second, I have never seen greater improvement in a short amount of time. He definitely liked only reporting the number correct and it really boosted his morale.
Third, the spelling transfered over into his daily work.
But, I think the most telling: his sister, Miss Super Speller herself, didn't know how to spell a word so she called out to me for input. Immediately her brother piped up with the correct spelling. He was BEAMING!!!
If you've tried everything and you think spelling is the impossible dream... give this program a chance.


  • Reviewed on Friday, May 30, 2008
  • Grades Used: 15/16 years old
  • Dates used: 2007-2008

If you think this would not work with a boy who is hard-of-hearing, think again. My son is severely hard-of-hearing and was never a natural speller. I believe Mr. Pudewa's theory about how the brain processes written language is correct. The theory is that when we see a written word, the brain sees it as a whole, not in a sequence of individual letters. Hence, when my son tried to learn spelling, he frequently got the correct letters, but in the incorrect sequence. (He also added letters that did not belong.)

With Phonetic Zoo, however, he improved immediately. He may start a new lesson with as many as 5-8 words wrong, but he always gets fewer and fewer wrong every day. It takes between 3 to 5 days for each lesson (47 lessons in all), which I think is very good. It takes him about 15 minutes a day to do a lesson. He does it entirely by himself and gives me the outcome when he's done. Since he is not to look at the written words again, I can then just toss it and he does it again the next day until he gets 100%. Every 5 lessons is a personal spelling list, which is where you can add words that you want your child to learn. I don't do this, but instead use it as a test day. I test him (orally) for each word he learned in the last 5 lessons, hence, he gets practice for old words. He got 97% on his last "test."

More importantly, his spelling is improved in his writing assignments that are not related to the PZ vocabulary! This is the real test of any spelling curriculum.

The most difficult part for him is one you will probably not have to deal with: hearing. He does not use headphones, but places the speaker close to his ear. He replays a word if he has trouble hearing it. Nevertheless, it still only takes him about 15 min to do a lesson.

As for the reviewer who said the words were too hard, it could be that her child was not ready for spelling at all. My son placed in the B group (of A, B, and C). C is high school level, but my son approaches English almost like a foreign language due to his great hearing loss.


  • Reviewed on Monday, May 22, 2006
  • Grades Used: 2nd - 8th
  • Dates used: 2003 - 2006
This program has worked really well for all three of my children. I have one natural born speller (she did not get it from me), one who has a terrible time with spelling, and one who started the program as a second grader and seemed at first too young to handle the words being given (she also is not a natural speller and struggles with it).

The kids have all liked the program from the very beginning even though the first lessons were quite a challenge. In fact, it took my youngest two years to complete the first six lessons - but that was okay - she did not feel like a failure and now she completes a lesson each week. My natural speller will complete some lessons in a day and others challenge her to a week. My son, the very reluctant speller, also took quite a while to complete the first six lessons but has now found "his groove" and completes most lessons in 3 - 4 days.

The program teaches them to think about spelling in a logical manner rather than through rote memorization of seemingly random words. All the words given in each lesson are related in the rules they follow.

One tip: after each lesson days lesson, I have the kids spend just five minutes practicing the words they missed - they do not look at the words again until the next day and usually they will correctly spell those words the next day with just those five minutes of practice.