What is Jolly Phonics

Jolly Phonics is a world-leading English literacy method that teaches children how to read and write using phonics.

Phonics is the teaching of the sounds that letters make, rather than the names of letters that are taught in the alphabet, because it is the sounds that are useful for reading and writing, not the names. These sounds are taught in a systematic way, alongside all of the skills needed for being a fluent reader and writer. Jolly Phonics also teaches all of this in a fun and engaging way, through characters, stories, actions, songs and games!

The 5 Skills Taught Through Jolly Phonics


Children are taught the sounds that the different letters name, and not the names of the letters. In Jolly Phonics, 42 different sounds are taught.


Children are taught how to form (write) letters using a pencil. They are taught the “froggy legs” pencil grip to ensure that they have neat writing.


Children are taught how to blend individual sounds together in order to read full words. For example, “s” + “a” + “t” = sat. Lots of blending practice builds reading fluency.


Children are taught how to hear the individual sounds in full words so that they can break them down to write and spell them correctly. For example, hen = “h” + “e” + “n”

Tricky Words

Some words do not follow the sound rules. Children are taught these words separately, alongside strategies to remember them. For example, “the” and “she”.

The 42 Sounds

In English, even though there are only 26 letters, there are actually 42 different sounds. This is because two or more letters together sometimes make just one sound, for example, “oa” as in goat and “ie” as in pie.

As seen in the picture, Jolly Phonics teaches these 42 sounds in 7 different groups. Group 1 starts with the easiest sounds, and the sounds gradually get harder. Some sounds also have different ways of being written, for example, "ay” as in pay and “ai” as in paid. In Jolly Phonics, we call these “alternative spellings”.

At first, children are taught the most simple or common way of spelling each of the 42 sounds, as seen in the picture. Later, they are introduced to the alternative spellings.

The 8 Steps for Teaching a Letter Sound

If you would like to try teaching new letter sounds to your child, you should complete all of the following steps.

  • Step 1 - Story containing the sound

  • Step 2 - Action

  • Step 3 - Flashcard

  • Step 4 - Letter Formation

  • Step 5 - Blending

  • Step 6 - Sounding

  • Step 7 - Dictation

  • Step 8 - Song

The Jolly Phonics Lessons App is very useful in providing all of the content that you need for teaching the different steps. There are also guidance and activity sheets available to download in the resources section of this website.

Remember, the letter sounds should be taught in the order set out above, so start with Group 1 sounds and move on from there.

Step 1 - Story

Introduce a new sound to your child by telling the Jolly Phonics story containing the sound. For example, for the /s/ sound, there is a story about a snake that goes “ssssss”.

See the resources page for stories that you can download, or find the stories in the Jolly Phonics Lessons App.

Try to be fun and engaging whilst telling the story.

Step 2 - Action

Whilst saying the sound, demonstrate the action for that sound to your child. Ask them to do the action with you. For example, for the /s/ sound, the action is wiggling your arm around like a snake.

Find pictures and descriptions of all the actions on the downloadable actions sheet on the resources page, and also in the Phonics Lessons App.

Step 3 - Flashcard

Show your child the letters that form the sound by holding up a flashcard. Ask your child to say the sound and do the action each time you hold up the flashcard. Revise all of the sounds taught so far by showing the different flashcards one-by-one.

Make your own flashcards like the teacher has in the picture or use the flashcard on the Phonics Lessons App.

Step 4 - Formation

Show your child how to write the letter. Use your fingers as “magic pencils” to form it in the air, on the ground and on each other’s backs. Practice writing the letter with a pencil on paper using the “froggy legs grip”.

Think of other ways to practice forming letters with your child. For guidance on how a letter is formed, look at the formation section on the Phonics Lessons App.

Step 5 - Blending

Show your child some words with the sounds in that they have learnt so far. Say the sounds individually together and then blend them together to read the words.

Remember, do not show words that have sounds in that your child has not learnt yet. Use the word bank in the Phonics Lessons App, or the word booklet in the resources section to find words to use after each sound has been taught. You will also see suitable words on the activity sheets.

Step 6 - Sounding

Show your child pictures of different objects and ask them to name the object. Say the word if your child is unsure. Tell them that one of the words does not have the sound that they are learning today, and can they work out which it is.

Go through each word and ask them if they can hear the sound in that word. If they say yes, ask if it is in the beginning, the middle, or the end.

For more practice, say other words and ask them if they can hear the sound. Use the activity sheets or the Phonics Lessons App for this step.

Step 7 - Dictation

Read out sounds and words and get your child to listen and write them down. Do not show the words to your child, as this step is for them to practice hearing the sounds in words.

Remember, only read words with sounds in them that your child has learnt. Refer to the “Writing” section of the Phonics Lessons App to find sounds and words to read out or use the word booklet found in the resources section to find suitable words after each sound has been taught.

Step 8 - Song

Finish with a bit of fun! Play the Jolly Song from the Lessons App for that sound and sing along with it. Do the action for that sound during the song.

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