Top Tips | Jolly Phonics

Several of our blog posts mention Jolly Phonics as an aid to learning letters, sounds, and the basis of reading. If Jolly Phonics is a new concept to you or you’re not quite sure how it links to our posts then read on to find out some more information on this topic followed by all the relevant links you’ll need to learn more.

Your first thought – what is Jolly Phonics?

Jolly phonics is a fun way of learning letters and sounds through synthetic phonics. There are 42 letters and sounds to learn that all come with their own action and these are split into 7 specific groups (shown below). These groups are not alphabetical but in a way that’s easiest to blend together to aid early reading.

The process of learning the letters and sounds and putting them together are taught in the following five sections that together, offer a multi sensory approach to learning.

Learning the letter sounds

This is the first step in Jolly Phonics, learning all sounds. A child can learn one a day with the appropriate action and once they become confident the action will be dropped. It is important in this stage that you say the sound of the letter not the name so to help with blending later. An example of this is the letter ‘n’ should sound how you begin to say ‘net’ rather than calling it ‘en’. You can click on the phonic groups above to hear the correct sounds. There are 42 sounds because some combined letter sounds (diagraphs) have two ways of saying them, for example, ‘oo’ can be said one way in ‘moon’ and another in ‘book’, therefore this diagraph is taught twice.

Learning the letter formation

  • At this stage children learn how to write the letters in the correct way. When practising at home it is vital you get your child to hold their pencil in the tripod grip in order to form the letters easily. Also try and learn the letters a, d, h, k, m, n , o, u, v, w with their tails on so that in time this helps with learning joined up writing as well as making sure letters are always started in the correct place. In the early stages our Sensory letter cards in our Letters and numbers post, are a good way of learning formation by tracing your finger over them. Stick a small sticker next to where the letter should be started. You can also make letter formations in sand, shaving gel and on the Hip Hop Hen app.


This is the stage that sounds are blended together to make simple words and therefore the start of reading. To begin with you can get your child to sound out the letters and ask them to say what word they hear. Repeat it yourself and tell them if this helps in the first instances. It helps if the sounds are said fairly quickly which pretty much gives you the word automatically for example ‘d-o-g’ instantly gives you the whole word. Diagraphs should be blended into the word as if it was one letter. So the word ‘ship’ should be sounded out in this way ‘sh-i-p’ not ‘s-h-i-p’.

Some words can not be sounded out in this way, but unfortunately they are common words such as, was, said and one. These are known as tricky words.

Identifying the sounds in words

This skill provides the basics of spelling. By listening to the sounds in a word children will be able to put them together to spell. This can heppen in two stages. In the first instance playing games such as I Spy can help children identify the first letters of words and really makes them think about what they are looking for. Secondly, with simple three letter words clap out the sounds so that children know when attempting to spell them out how many letters they need. Be careful when you get to words that contain diagraphs. The word ‘this’ and ‘fish’ has four letters but three sounds so needs three claps.

You can also play a game where you add or take away a sound from a word to make another. Examples of these are adding ‘p’ onto ‘ink’, adding ‘s’ onto ‘end’. Take ‘f’ away from ‘f-lap’, what do you get?, take ‘s’ away from ‘s-top’, what do you get?

Rhymes and poems are also a great source to use with children learning to spell to spot spelling patterns.

Tricky words

Tricky words just need practice! They can’t be sounded out like previous examples and just need to be repeated. Jolly Phonics reccommends these methods to help.

Look Cover Write Check: look at the word and ask the child to spell it ouloud whilst looking at it. Cover the word up and ask the child to try and write it down and then check their spelling.

Say it as it sounds: the word ‘Monday’ can be broken up into two parts ‘Mon-day’ which can be sounded out properly to help a child spell it.

Joined up writing: when a child gets to this stage, joined up writing really helps spelling as it provides fluidity to a child’s writing.

I found printing out the tricky words twice onto different coloured paper and cutting them out to make small cards each with a different tricky word on helped my charge learn hers. We worked with ten tricky words at a time. We then played snap with the cards. One of us would have the yellow cards and the other would have the blue cards. We also played match with them, where we laid them out on the floor word side down and turned two over at a time and we would keep the pairs we found. Every time we either “snapped” or matched two cards i asked my charge to read the word. The repetition in these games really seemed to help.

This is just a basic guide to Jolly Phonics. Full information as well as this information given can be found on the Jolly Phonics website.

© pocketnannies 2016


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