About Jolly Phonics

Jolly Phonics


What is Jolly Phonics?

Jolly Phonics is a fun and child centred approach to teaching literacy through synthetic phonics. With actions for each of the 42 letter sounds, the multi-sensory method is very motivating for children and teachers, who can see their students achieve. The letter sounds are split into seven groups.

Letter Sound Order

The sounds are taught in a specific order (not alphabetically). This enables children to begin building words as early as possible.

How does Jolly Phonics work?

Using a synthetic phonics approach, Jolly Phonics teaches children the five key skills for reading and writing. Complemented by Jolly Readers and Jolly Grammar, it provides a thorough foundation for teaching literacy over three years in school.


1. Learning the Letter sounds


Jolly Phonics the 42 main sounds of English are taught, not just the alphabet.

The sounds are in seven groups. In synthetic phonics some sounds are written with two letters, such as ee and or. These are called digraphs. Note that oo and th can make two different sounds, as in book and moon, that and three. To distinguish between the two sounds, these digraphs are represented in two forms.

Each sound has an action which helps children remember the letter(s) that represent it. As a child progresses you can point to the letters and see how quickly they can do the action and say the sound. One letter sound can be taught each day. As a child becomes more confident, the actions are no longer necessary.

Children should learn each letter by its sound, not its name. For instance, the letter a should be called a (as in ant) not ai (as in aim). Similarly, the letter n should be nn (as in net), not en. This will help in blending. The names of each letter can follow later.

The letters have not been introduced in alphabetical order. The first group (s,a,t,i,p,n) has been chosen because they make more simple three-letter words than any other six letters. The letters b and d are introduced in different groups to avoid confusion.

Sounds that have more than one way of being written are initially taught in one form only. For example, the sound ai (train) is taught first, and then the alternative ae (gate) and ay (day) follow later.

Pupil Book

2. Learning the Letter formation

It is very important that a child holds their pencil in the correct way.

The pencil should be held in the “tripod” grip between the thumb and the first two fingers. The grip is the same for both left and right-handed children. If a child´s hold starts incorrectly, it is very difficult to correct later on.

A child needs to form each letter the correct way. The letter c is introduced in the early stages as this forms the basic shape of some other letters, such as d. Particular problems to look for are:

the o (the pencil stroke must be anti-clockwise, not clockwise)

d (the pencil starts in the middle, not the top)

m and n (there must be an initial downstroke, or the letter m looks
like the McDonald’s arches)

The Jolly Phonics DVD and Finger Phonics books show the correct formation of each letter. A good guide is to remember that no letters start on the line.

Finger Phonics

3. Blending

Blending is the process of saying the individual sounds in a word then running them together to make the word.

For instance sounding out d-o-g and making dog. It is a technique every child will need to learn, and it improves with practice. To start with you should sound out the word and see if a child can hear it, giving the answer if necessary. Some children take longer than others to hear this. The sounds must be said quickly to hear the word. It is easier if the first sound is said slightly louder. Try little and often with words like b-u-st-o-pc-a-t and h-e-n. There are lists of suitable words in The Phonics Handbook and the Jolly Phonics Word Book.


Remember that some sounds (digraphs) are represented by two letters, such as sh. Children should sound out the digraph (sh), not the individual letters (s-h). With practice they will be able to blend the digraph as one sound in a word. So, a word like rain should be sounded as r-a-i-n, and feet as f-e-e-t. This is difficult to begin with and takes practice. The Jolly Phonics Regular Word Blending Cards can be used in class to improve this skill.

You will find it helpful to be able to distinguish between a blend (such as st) and a digraph (such as sh). In a blend the two sounds, s and t can each be heard. In a digraph this is not so. Compare mishap (where both the s and h are sounded) and midship (which has the quite separate sh sound). When sounding out a blend, encourage children to say the two sounds as one unit, so fl-a-g not f-l-a-g. This will lead to greater fluency when reading.

Some words in English have an irregular spelling and cannot be read by blending, such as said, was and one. Unfortunately, many of these are common words. The irregular parts have to be remembered. These are called the “tricky words”.

4. Identifying Sounds In Words

The easiest way to know how to spell a word is to listen for the sounds in that word.

Even with the tricky words an understanding of letter sounds can help.

Start by having your child listen for the first sound in a word. Games like I-Spy are ideal for this. Next try listening for the end sounds, as the middle sound of the word is the hardest to hear.

Begin with simple three letter words such as cat or hot. A good idea is to say a word and tap out the sounds. Three taps means three sounds. Say each sound as you tap. Take care with digraphs. The word fish, for instance, has four letters but only three sounds, f-i-sh. Rhyming games, poems and the Jolly Jingles also help tune the ears to the sounds in words. Other games to play are:

Add a sound: what do i get if i add to p to the beginning of inkAnswer: pink. Other examples are m-ice, b-us, etc.

Take away a sound: what do I get if i take away p from pinkAnswer: ink Other examples as above, and f-lap, s-lip, c-rib, d-rag, p-ant, m-end, s-top, b-end, s-t-rip, etc.

5. Tricky Words


There are a number of ways to learn
tricky words:

  1. Look, Cover, Write and Check.
  2. Look at the word to see which bit is tricky. Ask the child to try writing the word in the air saying the letters. Cover the word over and see if the child can write it correctly. Check to make sure.
  3. Say it as it sounds. Say the word so each sound is heard. For instance, the word was is said “wass”, to rhyme with mass, the word Monday is said as Mon-day.
  4. Mnemonics. The initial letter of each word in a saying gives the correct spelling of a word. For instance, laugh – Laugh At Ugly Goat´s Hair.