Jolly Phonics

Jolly Phonics and other phonics programmes are a method used to teach children how to connect sounds to letters. Learning sounds and then connecting them to the letters is an important step in children learning to read.

What is phonological awareness and why is it so important?

A well balanced literacy instruction program in any quality early childhood programme contains a sound balance of reading immersion (being surrounded by books, being read to, reading individually and reading to an audience), visual literacy and the development of a bank of sight words (words that can be recalled instantly by sight) and phonological awareness.

But what is phonics?

In a word, phonics means ‘sounds’. A great reader must be able to distinguish aurally (hear) sounds accurately, identify these sounds and then play around with options to visually represent these sounds using letters.

Schools use a wide variety of quality phonics programmes to assist children to develop their awareness of and ability to use sounds. Jolly Phonics, THRASS and Sound Waves are some of the more common programmes you may have come across.

phonics chart

Let’s look at Jolly Phonics

The Jolly Phonics programme was written and released in the UK. It relies on familiar characters and songs to assist children to move through the stages of language development in a structured, yet developmental fashion.

Initially, children learn the 42 letter sounds in English, using actions to help easily recall each one.  Sounds are grouped into 7 areas as follows, and are introduced in order:

  1. s, a, t, i, p, n
  2. c k, e, h, r, m, d
  3. g, o, u, l, f, b
  4. ai, j, oa, ie, ee, or
  5. z, w, ng, v, oo, oo
  6. y, x, ch, sh, th, th
  7. qu, ou, oi, ue, er, ar

Learning Letter Formation

Children are exposed to a variety of methods of letter formation, eg tracing in the air, using playdough, writing in sand etc before moving on to representing letters on paper with a pencil.

This initial exposure is followed by blending (combining separate sounds to create simple words), identifying sounds in words and incorporating the recognition of ‘tricky’ words that have irregular sound patterns.

Once children have a satisfactory grasp of these stages, they then move on to attempting to use the sounds they know in their own writing. At this point, it is more important that the children are playing and experimenting with sounds, rather than focusing on the correct spelling of words. As they progress, children will look at lots of options to represent the same sound when writing (or reading) and be able to choose the one that ‘looks’ correct.

Spelling is a developmental skill, and comes as the children develop fluency and are exposed to more frequent reading and writing practise. There are specific spelling programmes and methods, such as ‘Words Their Way’ that teachers use to complement phonics learning.

For further information on Jolly Phonics, and to help you support your child at home, check out the following links:

Jolly Phonics songs and actions

Phonics resources for parents, including Jolly Phonics

Free downloads for parents from Jolly Learning

Author: Angela Hudson is a teacher in Mackay, Qld. She has been teaching in classrooms around Aus since 1997. IShealso have a personal blog and Facebook page called ‘Lovely Little Coconuts’. She am passionate about education, literacy, authenticity and JERF (Just Eat Real Food) and inspiring a love of healthy eating and great food into our kids’ ‘hungry little brains’ 🙂 





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