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Curriculum Details for
Zoo-phonics Language Arts Program

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Program
Description
Practitioner Expert
Review
Content Expert
Review
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Practitioner Expert Background

Two practitioners were interviewed about Zoo-phonics.  The first is a kindergarten classroom teacher in a Title 1 school, who started teaching in 1988.  She has taught in her current school for eight years, using Zoo-phonics for four years.  She has also been a Zoo-phonics teacher trainer for two years.  She uses the program successfully every day in the classroom, with a racially and economically diverse group of students of different learning abilities.

The second practitioner has been teaching for 15 years. She currently is a pre-kindergarten classroom teacher and also serves as an early childhood education consultant to other schools.  She started using Zoo-phonics four years ago, and has found it to be incredibly successful with her students, most of whom are from underprivileged backgrounds.  She also has a master’s degree in Administration, Supervision, and Leadership and is working toward her doctorate.

Logistics

Training
  • Training consisted of a one-day, all-day workshop
  • Both have been satisfied with the company’s customer service.  
Set-up/preparation
  • Most materials are included with the curriculum
  • Initial preparation of materials (laminating cards, etc.) takes an initial investment of time.
  • Preparation before each lesson usually involves deciding what game or activity to play.

Student Engagement

  • Students are enthusiastic about Zoo-phonics, frequently asking: “When are we going to do our animals?”
  • Students seem to be focused and paying attention.
  • Students’ favorite aspects include moving around, singing songs, putting together words. Students often feel successful and motivated to continue.
  • Students love the animals. They spark students’ interest and curiosity not only in the Zoo-phonics curriculum but in learning about the animals themselves.
  • Teaches about the rules of the alphabet by through teaching the relationships between the letters of the alphabet.  This is more appealing to students than talking directly about rules.

Content

Adaptability to instructor needs
  • Can be used with almost any group size – has taught groups of 30 students and 16 students.
  • The order that the signals are taught in is fairly structured, as all students need to be on the same page.  How they are taught is up to the teacher. For example, it can be used as a stand-alone curriculum or as a supplement to other programs.
  • Adaptable. For example, the curriculum can be used differently for each student. Once students learn sounds and letters, they can become independent learners who can take the program in their own direction. 
  • Can be adapted for students of different learning levels
  • Pick and choose activities to use that meet students’ needs.
  • Use to teach cross-curricular material, such as science, music, social studies, etc.
General skills taught
  • Students appear to become more confident in their ability to sound out words and read.
  • Zoo-phonics encourages development of the writing process, by teaching students how to sound out words and write out the letters.
  • Develops team work skills.
  • Develops friendship and relationship skills.
  • Builds self-confidence.
Addressing diverse student needs
  • Teaches to every child, without having to pull in other materials.
  • Content is age-appropriate, playful and enjoyable for students.  They seem to have fun while they are learning.
  • Students of all backgrounds enjoy the curriculum.
  • Effective with different types of learners, especially active students.
  • Has seen it be successful with students who have developmental, speech and hearing disabilities. 
  • Effective with English language learners as well – helps with reading, speech, and language.

Strengths and Challenges

Strengths
  • Parents love the curriculum, often times they ask to learn the signals, etc. themselves.
  • Assessments are user-friendly and not threatening to children.
  • Teaches sounds and lower case letters first, which seems to be effective.
  • Use of pictures and animals with letters is effective, as students related to this better.  Students learn quickly, and retain what they learned.
  • Incredibly engaging for students, kid-friendly.
  • Meets the needs of diverse learners.
  • Curriculum seems to be well-organized.
Challenges
  • Familiarity with basic phonics rules may be helpful for the instructor.


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