Wednesday, December 29, 2010

IEW Phonetic Zoo – Crew Review


We recently received a wonderful spelling program from IEW to try out in our home called the Phonetic Zoo. Now what is really interesting about this program is that it is not your standard grade-level spelling workbook approach. This program is designed for students in 3rd grade and up and consists of three levels. Each level has 47 lessons that are taught by blending sound and sight methods in a way that is fun and easy for your child to remember.

Phonetic Zoo uses the average child’s love of the animal kingdom to make lessons fun and also uses animals as “learning pegs” upon which they can mentally “hang” each new spelling rule they encounter. A complete level set contains:

  • 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)

With each new lesson taught, you introduce the new rule to your child using the teaching notes and the large flashcard that corresponds to that lesson. You then give your student the corresponding small zoo card to help them remember the rule of the lesson and it also has written on it a jingle or rhyme about the rule. IEW recommends that to use the program to the best of it’s potential, you have your student go through the lessons on cd using a pair of headphones, paper and pen (not pencil). The student then listens to the first track for the lesson they are studying and takes a test to see what words they can spell. They then listen to the second track for that lesson to make corrections and to reinforce the correct spellings of the words. The student repeats the same lesson everyday until they have gotten every word correct for 2 consecutive days. This ensures mastery and long-term retention of the material. The program also has periodic “personal spelling lessons” and each level has a final exam.

What I like about this program is that it is very teacher friendly and requires very little preparation ahead of time. The student moves through the bulk of the lessons independently. I also like that the student must really grasp that material before moving on to the next lesson.

I used this program with my son, Drew, who is 10, for a month and I actually saw quite a bit of improvement beyond what I have seen thus far using our current spelling program (or any of the others we have used in the past). However, after the initial newness of the program wore off, Drew became very sullen and begged to not have to continue doing the lessons. I think his unhappiness with the lessons came from his complete hate-hate relationship with anything that requires him to write things out repeatedly. The program requires that each word is written out twice daily during the testing and correction times. He thought it was very unfair of me to ask him to rewrite a word if he had already spelled it correctly in the first place!

I would highly recommend this program for an older child that struggles with retaining spelling rules. I loved the program and wish my son had liked it more, we probably would have continued using it!

Each level of the Phonetic Zoo can be purchased directly from IEW for $99 each and contains everything you need to use this program with several children. The fact that everything is reusable makes the program a great value! If you desired for each of your students to be able to keep their zoo cards, then you could easily purchase an additional set for a 2nd child for only $7.


DISCLAIMER: This item was provided free for review purposes through the TOS Homeschool Crew.  I received no other compensation, and this review is our honest opinion.  Click the TOS Homeschool Crew banner above to read more reviews on this and other products by other Crew members.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Master Ruler (Crew Review)


We recently had to opportunity to review a few products from Master Innovations, thanks to the TOS Homeschool crew. Master Innovations is a company that specializes in making unique and easy-to-use tools to help children learn how to measure the world around them and understand tricky math concepts like time, fractions, mixed numbers, and much more.

We received two Master Rulers (one standard and one metric) and a workbook to try out. When I first learned about the review my first thought was, “Oh Goody, a ruler.” But after I visited the website and watched this video I was intrigued and couldn’t wait to get our products in the mail:

As you can see, the Master Ruler does more than just measure length. With the Master Ruler your students have a visual, tactile tool to use to help learn about fractions and their relationships. I tried out the products with two of my children. For my 8th grader, we used the ruler with the portions of the workbook covering fractions. With my 5th grader, we used the measuring portions of the workbook.

My 8th grader has long struggled with fractions and she found after getting the hang of HOW to use the ruler to help her, understanding fractions was much easier. All she had to do was use the ruler to find the mark that coincided with each fraction she was given and compare them. We both found this to be much easier even than using fraction “pie manipulatives” because it was quicker and there were no little pieces to keep track of.

For my 5th grader, this was his first time measuring anything more detailed than 1/4 inches. The different layers of the rulers for each unit of measurement made it easy to figure out how to measure things to even 1/16 of an inch! I am looking forward to using these rulers in the future with my 2nd grader also.

Along with the Master Ruler, Master Innovations has several other products available including the Master Clock, Master Fractions, and Master Angles. I have yet to try any of these other resources, but after reading the reviews of my fellow Crew members, I have added them to my homeschool “wish list”.

The Master Ruler (U.S.  or Metric) can be purchased for $9.95 each directly from Master Innovations. I think this is a very reasonable price, considering how many uses it has and how sturdy it is. The Student Workbook  is available for $15.95 also, or you can purchase The Master Ruler Starter Set which includes metric, U.S. and a teachers ruler plus the workbook  for $41.25. Make sure to check out the other products that are available, too!



DISCLAIMER: This item was provided free for review purposes through the TOS Homeschool Crew.  I received no other compensation, and this review is our honest opinion.  Click the TOS Homeschool Crew banner above to read more reviews on this and other products by other Crew members.

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