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Curriculum Details for
Zoo-phonics Language Arts Program

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Zoo-phonics Language Arts Program
Publication Date: 1984
Grade Level: PreK – 1; Special Education (all ages); ESL (PreK – 3rd grade)
Content Focus: Literacy/Language Arts
Costs: $275.95 for the basic kit, $279 for optional training
The costs shown were accurate at the time of the review. Please check the publisher's web site for current prices.
Developer Contact Information
20950 Ferretti Road
Groveland, CA, 95321
800-622-8104 or 209-962-5030

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Design Summary

This school-based curriculum has been adapted for afterschool settings. Zoo-phonics takes a multi-modal approach (using eyes, ears, mouth and body) to teach children how to read, write and spell. The curriculum is targeted toward toddlers through the first grade but can be used as a remedial methodology for upper grades as well. Using animals drawn in the shape of the lowercase letters, Zoo-phonics turns a very abstract, symbolic process into a playful, concrete and memorable process. The curriculum uses the animals as a springboard to reach many other disciplines, including math, art, music, cooking, science, drama, sensory-motor, physical education, and social studies.

Instead of letter names, Zoo-phonics begins with sounds and lowercase letters, which contrasts with most reading programs. Children learn through experiential methods, such as manipulating letters, playing with puppets, and getting out of their seats.  For example, when learning sentence structure, students physically step out the components of a sentence learning capitalization and punctuation at the same time. Children can learn the sounds and shapes of the entire alphabet in days. This curriculum empowers students to be come early readers, spellers and writers through fun activities. Curriculum materials include an easy-to-use CD-ROM, various games, mini books and readers, music, stories, art support (how to draw animals), vowel plush puppets, flash cars, and a video with body movements.

Costs and Staff Training

The basic kit costs $275.95 for each level. The “Zoo-per Kit,” which is the basic kit plus many extras, is $499.95. There are supplemental products that can be purchased that cost between $8.95 and $59.95.  Discounts are available for purchases that include training and more than five basic kits. The developers support schools in obtaining funding.

Training is available but not required and costs $279. The 2-day training sessions, which can qualify for college credit, are hands-on and help instructors become more comfortable with delivering the curriculum.  A toll-free support number is also offered as a resource.

Staff Qualifications

Zoo-phonics can be delivered by anyone: For example, in an afterschool setting, Zoo-phonics has been implemented by teacher’s aides.  Once they become familiar with the material, older students can even teach younger students some of the basic skills. The expert review suggests that instructors who have a solid training and a good grounding in theories and methods of early childhood education would find it easier to teach the curriculum. Practitioner reviews both suggest that instructors should have a basic knowledge of phonics rules.

Standards Alignment

  • National: Zoo-phonics is aligned with Head Start Outcomes Framework and Pre-kindergarten Guidelines. The corresponding standards are listed by each activity. Zoo-phonics supports both ELA and ELD standards.
  • State: Zoo-phonics encourages teachers to map the scope and sequence on to local/state standards to see how Zoo-phonics exceeds those standards.

Research Base

The developers are devoted to keeping up to date with the current research and trends. They base most of their development on research that confirms the effectiveness of pictorial mnemonics and the impact of physical movement and music on memory.

Evaluation Details

Action Research Projects have been completed by those who use Zoo-phonics. The developers hope that a formal evaluation on the effectiveness in comparison with other programs will be completed in the near future.

Overall Strengths/Overall Challenges

  • Pedagogy is reflective of a strong understanding of child language development.
  • The program is multi-sensory, engaging for students, and kid-friendly.
  • Meets the needs of diverse learners.
  • Zoo-phonics both teaches to the whole child and informs the “whole teacher.”
  • Encourages young children to stand up and move around
  • Having students sound out even irregular words can help boost their reading confidence.
  • Parents love it and often want to learn how to use it at home. 
  • Assessments are easy to use and not threatening to children.
  • User-friendly, organized. Not necessary to purchase additional materials to make Zoo-phonics work for your classroom.
  • May be helpful if those who implement the program are organized. 
  • Familiarity with basic phonics rules may also be helpful for the instructor.

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