Selena Woodward
Chief learner, Uni lecturer, Co-founder and mum. Passionate about empowering my students, myself and my colleagues so that we can be the best we can be.

Engaging Now! 7.4

Jolly Phonics

March 23, 2016 | Focus Areas: | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | 0 COMMENTS

What’s the fuss about Phonics?

Phonics isn’t new it was taught for a long time  The connection between reading and writing thought to be separate skills.  There have been several different theories over the years about how best to learn to read / write.  One is synthetic phonics, like Jolly Phonics, The other is the whole language approach. In this method students are expected to memorise the whole word, remember what it looks like and read it. Perhaps they are given 10 words a week to memorise?  This is probably how most people of our generation were taught to read and write.  After reports such as the Rose report, schools have moved back to synthetic phonics.  However we need to keep in mind that many parents will not have been taught with this method. We may have to guide them to assist us and to aid their child in  learning

Jolly Phonics was created by Chris Jolly and Sue Lloyd; classroom teachers from the U.K. who wanted to design a program to engage students in learning to read and writing. It is multi sensory synthetic phonics. Hoping to teach students life long skills to help them with de-coding the words they will need for reading and writing success.  The premise of this style of learning phonics is to build an understanding about language.  To show them a code and not give them rules (which are often broken)

We start by teaching them the sounds and the way we use the letters to represent the sounds rather than ‘rules’ that may have been established in the 1600s standard english revolution. For example, there are 14 ways to say ‘sh’. the long vowel sounds can be said in 12 different way and the sound ‘air’ can be created in 32 different letter configurations.  The first step is to help them to hear the sounds.  Once they have those they can start to move toward phonological awareness and blending.

We need to move through the following stages:

  1. Letter sounds / letter formation
  2. Segmenting
  3. Blending


History of language and sounds.

  1. There are 26 letters in the alphabet.   Did you realise that they came from from pictographs?  This can be an interesting ‘hook’ for students.
  2. However, we have 44 sounds in the English language. This is a far larger number than in  than most other countries.
    1. In the first step of Jolly Phonics (JP) the first 42 sounds are taught explicitly.  The remaining two are taught in step 2 and three
  3. What is the difference between a vowel and an consonant?
    1. To make the sound of a consonants you have to partially restrict your breath.  So you might use your tongue or your teeth to create the sound.  T, for example, is created by the use of the teeth and the tongue.   Vowels, on the other hand do not require any restriction of breath. They often involve and open mouth.
    2. There are more vowel sounds than there are vowels.  5 written ones but 20 spoken ones.  This means that you often need more than one letter to make a ‘vowel sound’
    3. It’s worth noting that there is a vowel sound in every syllable.  You can help children to feel the syllables in a word by placing their hand underneath their chin when they speak.  Each syllable will produce a movement in the chin.
    4. Every ‘real’ word in the English language must have a vowel.
    5. Be aware of the vowel sounds,  probably wont’ be one of the 5.
      1. t/ar/t arrr not a m/oi/s/tth/r/ough – silent letters are part of the vowel sound. NOT SILENT> part of vowe
      2. m/igh/t/
    6. Schwa sounds are Squashed, grunting sounds..  The most used vowel in the English language is er –> m/ur/d/er 

Phonological Awareness – Strategies

  • We need to assess and find out about their phonological awareness skills so that we might build upon them.  So, instead of asking students to get their hats on we can spell out the phonetic sounds and ask them to get their  “h” “a” “t” .  If they go and grab their hat then you know that they understand.
  • Play games around listening for the sounds.  Sit when you hear ‘s’ etc  Hear not see the sounds
  • Phonological awareness games on ipad – Jolly Phonics app  Change them up so they don’t start to remember the game rather than learning the sounds
  • Make sure that you use the correct terms (Diagraph etc) with them so that they learn the lexis of phonics too.
  • Teach one sound a day – There are many youtube videos for each sound and a whole software platform which contains all of the stories and books that come with the Jolly Phonics program of study.
  • Segment using the body S / head oy / waist etc.  That way they make a physical connection to the sound and are able to feel where the sounds break up.
  • Use an IWB to create Drag and drop sounds activities, to look for patterns. For example, words like … loyal – another vowel sound after oi/oy sound = y same with ay/ai
  • Use magic ink to help them create nonsense words
  • Use the digital dice on the IWB to create words from strange blended Diagraphs.
  • Take down your alphabet posters and put up your Diagraph  ones
  • Look at the Speld website – They have phonics books with each week 5 letter sounds ready to go.
  • Phonics Word Book – Has lists of words int he order in JP.
  • Use bottle tops with sounds on to make words. Stick the diagraphs onto to the top of the bottle tops and then they can make words with them. Lots of practice Use lots of objects and pictures first
  • Blending – Do it first without seeing any letters then add the letter ins.  Use fingers to count the sound (phonemes)
  • When talking, stress the first sound otherwise they might only hang onto the last thing they hear
  • If they’re struggling then go bigger Cow-boy etc. go from compound to syllables to ssounds
  • more advanced – show them alternative ways of making the sound How many different ways can they do it? (simple to complex alphabet)
  • Fitzroy readers follow the Jolly Phonics but it doesn’t really matter

Starting Writing

Segmenting the sounds is the basis of writing.  I’ve found that it is also important that they know the alphabet letter names too.  People will often say those letter names and not the phonics when responding to a question about how to spell something.

  • It is important to look at their pen hold.  The smaller the pencil the better. You can’t write for long if you don’t hold you pen the right way.
    • One way to help them with this is to as the to write on the wall/iwb , or even under the table pointing up then they can’t hold the pen dodgily.  This is especially important when considering the NAPLAN Exams where they need to write for long periods.
  • Get them to practice forming their letters  in the air,  Elephant arms.  Two arms locked together. practice on the person’s back in front of you. Chalk outside big style!
  • Start with smaller words 2/3 sound words


Step 2 – Getting more advanced

Now we start to deepen understanding of the sounds and moving them from short to long term memory. Instead of a daily focus on sounds we move to a weekly one.  We work on practicing, revising, letter formation, tricky words and making sentences


You can play with the order of the alphabet. Start the ABC at different points and sing from there.  Helps them to learn what’s next to each letter

Resources to check out



Certificate – Jolly Phonics 2015





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