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Q: Why do you say that we have to wait three weeks before teaching the letter names?

A:  So that we don’t confuse children; the sounds the letters make are most important.  After the first three sets of sounds have been introduced you can begin to introduce letter names.

Q:  How do you teach the capitals and letter names?

A:  Children need to know both letter sounds and their names. The way I introduce letter names is by putting up an alphabet frieze that shows both upper and lower case letters. We sing the alphabet song using the letter names and again, using the letter sounds. I also use upper and lower case flash cards and teach them that although each letter is shown as a capital. it still makes the same sound as the lower case letter. Continue teaching a new sound every day and as you teach a new alphabet letter, teach the name by pointing it out on the alphabet frieze.

Q:  When are children given reading books?

A:  During the first weeks we are focused on teaching children to break the “code” associated with reading (boys love it when you talk about “code breaking”). In the first eight to ten weeks we teach letter sounds, blending technique and the segmentation of words. We also teach irregular words that we refer to as “tricky”.
Some teachers and parents find it hard not to give out reading books because this is a normal expectation in our culture. Unfortunately this does little for the child if they are unable to “break the code” of reading. By delaying this process and concentrating on letter sounds, blending and segmenting techniques, we actually produce higher reading abilities in a shorter time frame.
      Once children understand how the code works, they gain in confidence and enjoy reading as an activity so much more.

Q: Do I have to wait until my child has mastered the first six sounds before moving on to the next set of sounds?

A:  No. Jolly Phonics is a fast paced program where a new sound is  introduced each day along with repetition, repetition, repetition of identified sounds until  they are recognized automatically. I use flash cards extensively in this process. On the third day of the program, we use the first three sounds (s, a, t,), to form two and three letter words by “blending” them. As a new sound is introduced each day, the list of words we can make grows exponentially. By the time you have taught the first three sets of sounds, it is possible to make over seven hundred words from them!
      At school each child has a “sound book”, that the teacher or classroom helper reviews with them each day. Each evening, the sound book is sent home for the child and parent to review. These reviews never take up more than a few minutes.

Q:  My child is two and a half years old. Is it too soon to start teaching him to read and write?

A:  The timing and pace associated with children learning new skills is a very individualistic thing. I have had children as young as yours show a readiness for reading; they have liked to sit with me and explore what’s on the page of a book. In this setting, I start by pointing to a letter and emphasizing the sound it makes as we read (the Jolly Phonics letter groupings are my guide in this process; starting with s, a, t, etc). Most two-and-a-half year olds are more interested in picture books so it’s important to read lots of these books and then to ask questions like, “Where is the dog?” or, “show me the house”. As you read, put your finger underneath each word and move left to right across the page. The “I Spy” game is also helpful here. Say things like, “I spy a cat”, and the child finds the cat and so on.  

As you progress, you can increase your child’s listening skills by sounding out little words, for example, “Where is the m-a-n?” or, “Find the d-o-g”. Young children need lots of activities to “tune-in”, their ears so they learn to differentiate different sounds. Preschool and day-care teachers use finger rhymes, songs, and musical instruments to help children listen. You can also do these activities at home.

Q: When do you introduce the `tricky words’?

A: Tricky words should be introduced after the fourth set of sounds. It is recommended that you teach two tricky words each week from that point. Don’t rely on `look-and-say’, ask children, “What is tricky about this word?” Their response will often surprise you.

Q: How many sounds do you teach each week?

A: You should be teaching a new sound each day. Every day you must repeat the sounds until the children know them to automocity.

Q: I only see my kindergarten students for two full days each week so, maybe I should only teach two sounds per week?

A: You should teach two sounds per day. Ask parents to go over the sounds that you have taught on the days that they are not at school. I find parents are often willing to help in this regard.

Q: When do I start teaching the blending of sounds?

A: After the first three sounds have been taught. After learning `s’, `a’ and `t’, students can now make the words `at’ and `sat’. As new sounds are taught you can build up the number of words to blend.

Q: Is the program expensive?

A: No. All you really need is the `Phonics Handbook’, we can supply you with this resource. It contains everything you need to get you started including work sheets, flash cards and word boxes. Jolly Phonics has a really nice range of resources; visit our products page (, for details.

Q: What comes after Jolly Phonics?

A: Jolly Phonics provides a three-year program. After working through the Phonics Handbook, you follow-up with Jolly Grammar 1 which is often used in Grade 1. Jolly Grammar 2 follows for Grade 2 students. The Grammar Handbooks cover all of the basic grammar skills including parts of speech, spelling, punctuation, compound words, regular/irregular past tense and prefixes and suffixes. Jolly Learning will launch Grammar 3 in the fall of 2012 and a Grammar 4 and 5 curriculum are also planned.

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