Working alongside different families daily, it is clear to see that a parent’s purpose is to provide their child with the support to become the very best versions of themselves. Part of this is by providing opportunities to lay those important foundations in key areas such as literacy.
A proven method to aid literacy, and the one that we use at Little Trotters, is the Jolly Phonics programme. This is a multi-sensory, fun, exciting way of introducing children to the English alphabet in a simple yet structured way.
What is Jolly Phonics
When we think of literacy, we may automatically go straight to ABC’s but what if we took it back a little further, allowing those little minds to explore and grow, and introduce them to the sounds that the letters make?
Jolly Phonics is a world-leading English literacy method that teaches children how to read and write using phonics. The programme teaches children the sounds that letters make, rather than the names of letters in the alphabet. Having letter-to-sound knowledge will help develop the child’s ability to begin reading words and sentences.
Rather than memorising thousands of words, children are instead taught a phonics ‘code’. This code helps children work out how to read 95% of the English language.
There are five basic skills for reading and writing within the Jolly Phonics Method. At Little Trotters, we teach the first two phases, depending on the individual ability of the children, and hope to instil a love of learning in them. The children go on to the next stages once they are in primary school.
- Learning the Letter Sounds
- Letter Formation (Writing)
- Oral Blending
- Tricky Words
How Jolly Phonics is Taught
1. Learning the Letter Sounds
There are 26 letters in our alphabet and each has its own ‘sound' but the sounds are very different to how a letter is ‘said' in the alphabet. For example, ‘a’ in ‘arrow’ and ‘b’ in ‘bat’. However, there are more than 26 sounds in the English language, in fact there are 42 in total, which is where the Jolly Phonics method stems from:
- There are a mix of single sounds such as ’a’ and ‘b’.
- There are some sounds made up of two letters, known as diagraphs, meaning that two letters come together to form one sound such as ‘ee’ and ‘or’.
- There are also three letter sounds are called trigraphs such as ‘t-r-ee’.
With my trusty sidekick Inky the mouse, a Jolly Phonics puppet who comes along to see how well the children are doing, the literacy lessons are a highlight of everyone’s day.
Once your child can understand, identify, speak and action the basic phonetical letters/sounds, they will be able to progress to the next stage of Jolly Phonics.
2. Letter Formation (Writing)
It is so 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.
At Little Trotters, I use multi-sensory methods to teach children to form and write letters. For example, colouring exercises to familiarise them with the letter shapes, special craft activities and teaching rhymes to help the children remember letter formation.
3. Oral Blending
This is the process of saying the individual sounds in a word then running them together to make the word. Children can start to practise this skill as soon as they have learnt the first three letter sounds for example s-a-t = sat and c-a-t = cat.
4. Segmenting: Identifying sounds in words
The easiest way to know how to spell a word is to listen for the sounds in that word. Children start by listening for the first sound in a word. For example, the ‘e’ sound in egg or elephant. Games like I-Spy are ideal for this. Next, they then move on to listening for the end sounds, before finally the middle sound of the word as these are the hardest to hear.
5. Tricky Words
There are 72 words in the English language that are not decodable, so these words must be learnt by memory. Examples include the, was, all, my, do, she. We split the 72 words into five different groups, each level building on the words learned in the previous level. Schools use mnemonics and other fun techniques to help children learn these words.
Fun Ways to Support Your Child’s Learning at Home
I recommend trying to capitalise on opportunities by adapting learning to focus on your child’s interests. When children are intrigued, they will learn more. If you would like to support your child’s learning at home then here are some ideas:
- Introduce a single letter sound, for example the sound ‘sss’. Find objects – sticker, strawberry, stone – and listen for the sound as you say the word together.
- Learn the Jolly Phonics letter song (these are readily available on YouTube or through the Jolly Phonics App) ‘The Snake is in the Grass, The Snake is in the Grass, ssss, ssss, The Snake is in the Grass’
- Make up a letter story, for example - Sam and Sally sang sweet songs. Get creative and see if you can come up with longer or sillier stories each time.
- Learn the action – each letter in Jolly Phonics has a corresponding action that serves as a useful prompt. Again, these are available on YouTube and the Jolly Phonics App.
Language Activities In and Around Your Home
- Rhyme or slime (if it doesn’t rhyme, add it to the slime!).
- Letter sound hunt (hide objects with the same beginning sound – dog, digger, dinosaur).
- Beat out the syllables in your name – count the beats you hear.
- Listen for sounds in rhyming books.
- YouTube music videos (Jack Hartmann and Alphablocks are firm favourites).
Fine Motor Activities in and Around Your Home To Help With Pencil Grip and Pencil Control
- Crocodile fingers colouring – sliding the pencil into the snappy crocodiles’ mouth – this is the tripod pencil grip.
- Spray bottle alphabet game – chalk a letter and spray it away.
- Threading beads, making necklaces, bracelets.
- Cutting outlines on paper (spirals, straight lines, circles, zig zags).
- Dot to Dot your name – Q-Tip painting over the top.
Listening Activities In and Around Your Home
- Musical instruments – close your eyes and guess the instrument.
- Bean dance – follow dance instructions i.e. jellybean, jumping bean, runner bean.
- Story sharing – parents allowing the child to add in what they think happens next to draw out a story.
- Noisy or quiet – gather a basket of objects, place one object in a small metal tin and shake it- which object makes the loudest noise?
- "What can you hear in the garden?" Close your eyes and listen to sounds all around.
More About Miss Amy
My name is Amy Miller, originally from a small town in the UK, I moved to Grand Cayman around six years ago. I knew from a young age that my passion was children and that has not changed. I have travelled to different countries, gaining knowledge and skills by working with children before landing on this beautiful island. I was given the opportunity nearly four years ago to join the Little Trotters team as the Jolly Phonics teacher and I jumped in head first! I honestly believe that the Jolly Phonics programme and method of learning can be taught effectively by teachers and parents alike. I hope to have inspired you with ideas to help you, and your family, help your children learn their letters. Wishing you all the fun on your Jolly Phonics Journey!