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St.Flannan's National School, Inagh, Ennis, County Clare

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 pupils 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.

Jolly Phonics uses the synthetic phonics method, which means that the letter sounds are taught first, on their own, and children are then taught to blend sounds together to say (synthesise) the word.

The five basic skills for reading and writing are:

  • Learning the letter sounds
  • Learning the letter formation
  • Blending
  • Identifying sounds in words
  • Knowing the tricky words

Learning the letter sounds

In Jolly Phonics the 42 main sounds of English are taught, not just the alphabet. The sounds are in seven groups. Some sounds are written with two letters, such as ee and or. These are called diagraphs. 

Group 1. s, a, t, i, p, n

Group 2. c k, e, h, r, m, d

Group 3. g, o, u, l, f, b

Group 4. ai, j ,oa, ie, ee, or

Group 5. z, w, ng, v, oo, OO

Group 6. y, x, ch, sh, th, th

Group 7. qu, ou, oi, ue, er, ar

Each sound is taught with an action, which helps children remember the letter(s) that represent it. For the sound s for instance, they hear the sound about going for a walk and suddenly seeing a snake. They weave their hands, pretending to be that snake, saying sss.  Children should learn each letter by its sound, not its name. For example, the letter a (as in ant) not ai (as in aim) This will help in blending. The names of each letter will be taught 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.  

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. If a child's hold starts incorrectly, it is very difficult to correct later on.

We use cursive writing in our school where the letter c is the first letter the children writes in Junior Infants. Cursive writing improves the fluency of writing, and also the spelling, as words are remembered more easily when written in one continuous movement.


Blending is the process of saying the individual sounds in a word and then running them together to make the word. For example sounding out s-a-t and making sat. 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 the child can hear it, giving the answer if necessary. The sounds must be said quickly to hear the word. Try little and often. It is easier if the first word is said slightly louder. Remember that some sounds (diagraphs) are represented by two letters, such as sh. With practice they will be able to blend the diagraph as one sound in a word. 

Identifying sounds in words

The easiest way to know how to spell a word is to listen for the sounds in the word. This is also called segmenting and is the reverse of blending. 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 is the hardest to hear. Begin with simple three letter words like sat. 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 diagraphs. The word fish, for example, has four letters but only three sounds, f-i-sh.

Tricky Words

These words cannot be sounded out easily. They are common words that have complex spellings in them. There are different ways to learn the tricky words. 

Look, cover, write and check. 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.

Say it as it sounds. Say the word so each sound is heard. For example, the word was is said as 'wass'

Using cursive writing also improves spelling 



9th Oct 2023
This is a useful website where you will hear all the 42 main sounds of English.