8th Grade English

AJ will be starting 8th grade very soon, but it seems like she was just learning to read a few years ago. Reading and writing are the subjects that she struggles with the most. She has never been officially diagnosed with a learning problem, but I think she has a mild form of dysgraphia. She can make up stories and explain almost anything, but when she is asked to put it in writing, she struggles. AJ has improved quite a bit over the past few years.  This year we are taking a lighter approach with science, history, and Spanish. We are going to really dive into English and Math. Here are our curriculum choices for 8th Grade English.

Our 8th Grade English Plan


AJ doesn’t enjoy reading short stories, so we stick to novels. This year she will read a variety of books. Most of the books that I picked out are books that we already had. I have study guides for some of them and for others she will be working on literary elements using season 1 of Beyond the Book Report. We were blessed to review it last year, and it was a hit. The lessons are short but they force her to really think about the book. As of right now we won’t be studying poetry this year, but things could change.


Writing is a subject that I need to be involved in, so it often gets pushed to the side. This year we are making writing a priority! If you have a struggling writer, I highly recommend IEW. AJ likes to watch the lessons. I never thought that she would like a writing program, but I am thrilled that she is enjoying it. When Mr. Pudewa explains something she really seems to understand writing. AJ likes having a checklist to make sure her writing is the best that it can be. I have noticed that the more we use the program the more confidence she has in writing.


We have tried a few different approaches to spelling the last few years. Spelling You See was a nice change of pace and Phonetic Zoo was a product that I thought AJ would love. This year I was trying to decide what to use for spelling. AJ ended up asking if we could go back to spelling lists and I thought it would be a great idea. I ended up finding a free 8th grade spelling book online. I had it printed and bound at Staples and it is ready to go for the new year.


Most of the novel study guides have daily or weekly vocabulary work, but I don’t think it is enough for AJ. She needs a lot of practice so we are going to use a few different products for vocabulary. I found a vocabulary workbook at the same time as the spelling workbook. I decided to have it printed and bound at Staples as well.

Wordbuild Online is great but I wanted an option for those times when the computer doesn’t want to cooperate. We were blessed to review Once Upon a Time in Latin, so we will use it through the year.  I think that between all of those resources AJ will be able to vastly improve her vocabulary.


We started Analytical Grammar last year. It is designed to be completed over three years. This year we will finish up the last few units from the first section and complete the second session. AJ doesn’t enjoy grammar, but she is learning. I have learned quite a bit as well. It is a very solid program.

I will be very hands on for AJ’s 8th grade English course this year. Most of the days have her working for an hour and a half to two hours, but I think that the skills she will gain this year will really help to prepare her for high school.


Phonetic Zoo ~ Review

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you probably know that AJ and language arts just do not get along. Writing, spelling, reading – she dislikes them all. Amazingly, the Institute for Excellence in Writing was a hit with her for writing. After years of struggling, their program really helped her. So when I was given the chance to review their spelling program Phonetic Zoo Spelling Level A [Starter Set] I jumped at the chance. I actually begged for this product! We received a set of 5 CDs, lesson cards, personal spelling cards, teacher notes, zoo cards, and online access to a seminar called Spelling and the Brain.

Phonetic Zoo is a different approach to spelling, it uses audio to help your child learn.

What is Phonetic Zoo?

Phonetic Zoo is a different approach to spelling. The normal spelling curriculum has your student work with a word list for a week, then they test on the words on Friday. The student may memorize the words for the test, but the skill doesn’t always translate over to their writing.

Phonetic Zoo gives your kids a spelling rule, or a group of words that are somehow related. Your student goes over the rule and learns a little saying to help them remember how to spell those words.

Phonetic Zoo is a different approach to spelling, it uses audio to help your child learn.

Each day your child goes over the spelling rules and then takes a test. They listen to the words on a CD and simply write down the words. There are 15 words in each lesson. After the test they go to the next track on the CD and write the correct spellings of the words. They hear the word and how it is spelled, so the person would say, “either e-i-t-h-e-r either.”

Then they count how many words they spelled correctly, and spelling is over for the day. It takes about 15 minutes total each day, and should be able to done independently once the new rule is introduced.

Once the student gets all of the words correct twice in a row they move on to the next lesson.

It is incorporating aspects for audio, visual, and kinetic learners.

How we used Phonetic Zoo

While the program didn’t work out as intended, I still think it is a great program. The issues we had with the product were due to cheating, a lack of effort, and a poor attitude, not the program its’ self. Now that the review is over, we will be making slight changes that I think will make a big difference.

We did a simple placement test to see what level AJ should start with. Age wise she should be on level B, but according to the test she should start with level A, the first level. I assumed that AJ would breeze through the first few lessons since the words didn’t look too difficult.

The first day she sat down and we went over the spelling rule. Then she numbered her paper 1 to 15 and we listened to the introduction together. She had a big issue when the speaker on the CD announced that this was the first and lowest level.  I think she felt bad that she was in 7th grade and in the lowest level, but we went on. She listened to the words and corrected them. She was excited that she didn’t have any other work to do.

Phonetic Zoo is a different approach to spelling, it uses audio to help your child learn.

The first lesson took a few days for her to get the words correct twice in a row, but she seemed to enjoy it. Each day we went over the rule and then she would do her spelling at the computer with her headphones.

Then we went on to the second lesson, and frustration hit. The second lesson is on “i before e”, and it includes words that follow the word and those that don’t. The first lesson she only had 6 words right. The next day she had 13 words right, I was impressed. But the following day she only had 6 words right again, and I couldn’t figure out why. It turns out she was cheating! She was just waiting to write the words down until she heard the answers.

spelling zoo 4

At that point I made her write in two different colored pens, one for the first try and one for the corrections and I had the pen she wasn’t using. She still was cheating and changing words so that she had a higher number correct. Obviously this is an issue we have to address, and there is nothing wrong with the curriculum, but if you have a sneaky kid, you might have to keep an eye on them.

After all of the cheating I decided that I would have to be in the room with her when she did the spelling, that made a program that should be independent, more work for me.

After doing lesson 2 for 17 times, and that is not a type-o, she still was getting words wrong. It was crazy, one day she would spell a word right, and the next day she didn’t come close. We worked on the words even more, but it didn’t seem to help.

I tried giving her the words, instead of having her listen to them on the computer, again there has been no change. She has been on lesson 2 for 24 lessons now, and I am convinced that it is an effort and attitude issue. This hasn’t been the only subject where she has not made expected progress in the last few weeks.

What We Thought of Phonetic Zoo

I think this is a solid program that will help struggling spellers. I think it is perfect for students who learn best with audio. It should be fairly independent and a simple part of your day. Yes we are sticking with it even if she is on lesson 2 for 100 days. I think that it could be the program she needs, but for whatever reason she doesn’t want to put in any effort.

These are the changes we will be making. Each day after she takes the test she will be required to do normal spelling activities with all of the words she gets wrong. Things like writing them 10 times each, using them in a sentence, abc order, and pyramid writing. I think that will give her the motivation to get the words right. Also, she will be doing the test and turning it in, and writing the correct spelling of the words on a separate paper.  We  are going to continue with this, and I will have an update with our thoughts on the program after the few changes.

IEW Review


Free Spelling Practice Pages

Today I am sharing 8 different spelling practice sheets. There are three different themed sets making the download over 25 pages long. Have fun practicing spelling words with activities that include:

  • ABC Order
  • Synonyms and Antonyms
  • Part of Speech
  • Pyramid Writing
  • Spelling Math
  • Word Search templates
  • Drawing Spelling Words and
  • Constantans and Vowels

Download your Spelling Set today and come back tomorrow for another FREE Printable!

Spelling You See – Review

I am a bad speller. There is no easy way to explain how spelling and the millions of rules frustrate me. I could pass most spelling tests with out a problem, but a week later I wouldn’t be able to spell any of the words. I still struggle horribly as an adult. Unfortunately, AJ is just as bad of a speller as I am. We have tried quite a few different ways of working on spelling. We tried memorizing lists, playing games, and copy work. Each thing helped a little bit, but she needed more.

Spelling You See - A program my child enjoys and is learning from!

Thankfully we were given the chance to review a new product from Spelling You See, Spelling You See: Ancient Achievements Level F. We received the Student Workbook Part 1, Student Workbook Part 2, the Instructor’s Handbook, and a package of erasable colored pencils. We were excited to get started.

What is Spelling You See: Ancient Achievements?

Ancient Achievements is level F in the series and is the last book for kids who are in the “skill development stage” of spelling. Spelling You See takes a completely different approach than most spelling programs. There are no lists of words to memorize, and there are no tests. Spelling You See isn’t based on grade or age level, it is based on spelling ability. I highly recommend reading all about Spelling You See’s Spelling Philosophy. I found it very eye opening and thought that it explained exactly why both AJ and I have such difficulty with spelling.

If there are no spelling lists, how does it work?

On the first day of the week your student reads a passage. Ancient Achievements has selections about all kinds of different things from Ancient History. Some of the passages AJ has worked on include; cave paintings, cuneiform, and mummies.

After reading the passage the student goes through and chunks parts of the words by boxing them in with an assigned color. AJ used the colored pencils that came with the program, but you could also use highlighters.  On each page the types of chunks they need to look for are listed. In the beginning of the book it starts with just vowel chunks, then it goes onto consonant chunks. Further into the book they are introduced to bossy r chunks, ending chunks, silent letters, and the tricky Y guy.

By chunking the words, kids can see how they are spelled. Spelling You See.

This is one of the pages where she was working on vowel and constant chunks.

After reading and chunking the passage your student then copies a portion of the passage and chunks it. The copying portion is limited to 10 minutes.

They continue with the same routine on the same passage for the first three days of the week. Day three has an additional feature called Spotlight. In this section a little bit more about words is explained. In the teacher’s guide there are optional activities to practice the topic that the Spotlight is focusing on. Some of the topics we have come across so far are; rhyming words, root words, and different Latin root meanings.

On day 4 they read and chunk the passage, but instead of copying it, they write it from dictation. On day four you are able to help them if needed. After 10 minutes the dictation is stopped and they count how many words they got right.

Spelling You See - The perfect program for my struggling speller!

Dictation from Spelling You See

Day 5 is similar to day 4 except this time you don’t help at all with the dictation. The next week they move onto a different passage and the process begins again.

The teacher’s guide is necessary for the program. It has the passages for dictation, the correct chunking patterns, and ideas for the Spotlight section.

How did we use it?

We do school four days a week, so I was a little bit unsure of how to work the program. We decided to start in the middle of the week and just did the next day’s work each day. It worked out really well.

On the first day I read the passage to AJ and then she read it to me. We took it line by line and she chunked the passage as we went. I had the teacher’s guide open so that I could make sure she found all of the words that needed to be chunked. Then I set the timer and had her copy the passage. I was expecting a fight since she hates to write, but it went very well. Our biggest issue was that after the 10 minutes was up, she wasn’t finished writing. She didn’t like leaving the page partway unfinished so she finished it anyways.

Chunking with Spelling You See - Helpful for the visual learner!

After the first week we decided to get rid of the timer and just let her work until she was finished. Most days it took her about fifteen minutes to finish copying everything.

The second and third day she did mainly on her own other than reading the passage to me. The first day of dictation was the most difficult for AJ, because of one rule, no erasing. The student isn’t aloud to erase during the dictation, instead they are to cross off the word that is spelled wrong. It took a little bit to get use to, but now she knows she can’t erase. On the 5th day I would dictate the passage to her again and she would see if she could get more words correct on the second dictation.

What do we think?

When the books came in the mail I was sure that I would love the program. I wasn’t expecting AJ to love it too! She completes the spelling each day without an issue, but the best part is that I am seeing the skills transfer over to her other writing. When she is writing a word and needs me to spell it she often asks if it has any chunks in it. I have also noticed that she is remembering the words she is working on each week . The other day she was working on history and remembered how to spell archeologist, and that was a word she wrote a few weeks ago!

The only thing we didn’t like was the amount of room given to copy the passage. AJ has large handwriting and found it difficult to fit all of the words on the line. Surprisingly, after the first week, she started writing smaller and was able to fit everything in.

Overall she enjoys it, she is learning from it, and it is helping her to become more confidant. She enjoys the passages, and most of all enjoys the chunking. To her trying to find all of the chunks was like a puzzle. This is a program that I plan to stick with. I would recommend Spelling You See to anyone who has a child who is struggling with spelling, for us it is the perfect fit!

Spelling You See Review