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Masterclass:move up a level with Jolly Phonics!

The Masterclass is an opportunity to ‘tap-into’ nearly twenty years of synthetic phonics knowledge, mainly using the Jolly Phonics method. During these years, Jolly Phonics has been used as a ‘stand-alone’ resource, an addition to the class English and pupils book, part of CLIL and many other literacy programs. Also, it has been embraced by language academies and become a platform for the young learners English exams. Sadly, most schools do not continue to use Jolly Phonics after Infants and a wealth of knowledge is lost which could then be extended with the Jolly Grammar books. As a teacher or a department, if you have been using Jolly Phonics, there may be areas unique to your practice or planning that need ‘refreshing’ with a new approach or solution.



The Masterclass looks at ongoing formative assessment when delivering the program, practice, applying skills and learning outcomes. Also, how the typical teaching sequences of the synthetic phonics program can be expanded to develop literacy and language. Typically, a teacher already using the Jolly Phonics program would benefit from this Masterclass.

The story behind the Masterclass.

I remember my first few years of synthetic phonics. It was around 1998 when additional literacy programs were part of the school curriculum and systems like THRASS and Letterland were in place to support SEN and literacy support. The first few resources from Jolly Phonics appeared in our SEN and literacy department. At this time, there was a lot of focus about using synthetic phonics or continuing with the same method as before. It was very newsworthy and reports, government interventions and training started to take off.


Around 2000, my son started Reception class and I recall how he came home with his little book of Jolly Phonics letters, with tracing paper to trace the letter sounds he was learning and repeating the actions at home. His teacher, a young, enthusiastic and proactive lady had asked the school to try Jolly Phonics out in her classes, mapping out the successes she was achieving. Although my son was young, his teacher flagged up that he was having issues with his phonological awareness and they would keep an eye on his literacy development. Several years later, he was diagnosed as dyslexic. The early intervention using Jolly Phonics highlighted his phonological awareness issues and he was then provided with literacy support, in infants and primary.


These early years of using Jolly Phonics allowed for errors, learning how to use the resources with other materials and as an ESL resource in a British school. It became part of the OFSTED remit to gauge how well children where achieving the literacy goals and reading standards generally went up. Teachers built up their knowledge of implementing synthetic phonics during this time and we could see how the process worked, an overarching view that develops after several years of use.


Pace was a key word, making sure children were ‘ready’ for the activities that were considered age appropriate. Pace was different with each class and planning or acquisition of letter sounds could accelerate or slow down. A key problem at the beginning was the revision of sounds, as we progressed with the letter groups. The abundance of tactile, multi-sensory literacy support resources and activities was still in its infancy, as was the explosion on social media!


Jolly Phonics became a steady part of the curriculum and literacy support programs. The government considered producing its own synthetic phonics method that mirrored many of the Jolly Phonics elements and teaching method.


In 2004, I moved to Spain and within a few years several schools were using Jolly Phonics. Children were making marked progress and these were being recognised as they were learning English letter sounds faster than Spanish letter sounds and starting to read and write.


During these first few years working with MEC, BEDA, Macmillan Iberia, Junta de Andalucía etc, a whole new dimension to using Jolly Phonics opened. Firstly, trying to use the method in state schools with very limited English teaching hours, plus an English class book and secondly, in international or private schools with more English hours, but CLIL, PBL or other concepts had been introduced to the curriculum.


Often the focus was on ‘how quickly can we get through the sounds’, with high emphasis on the first few letter sound groups and ‘pace’ not used for the remaining, slightly more complicated groups. In the very limited teaching time teachers had, segmenting and decoding skills where difficult to administer and a ‘whole group’ approach was needed, rather individual child assessments. It was not easy for the teacher, who was often presented with a Jolly Phonics Handbook and expected to know what to do.


Thankfully, we have moved on and with great trainers out there, YouTube and social media there is always information. As more and more countries are using synthetic phonics as part of their curriculum, mainly Jolly Phonics, it is evident that training must be included as part of teacher training in universities. Many teachers recognise the benefit of understanding how to implement the method and are keen to explore the wider possibilities or English language and literacy progression.


The Masterclass is an opportunity to ‘tap-into’ nearly twenty years of synthetic phonics knowledge, mainly using the Jolly Phonics method. During these years, Jolly Phonics has been used as a ‘stand-alone’ resource, an addition to the class English and pupils book, part of CLIL and many other literacy programs. Also, it has been embraced by language academies and become a platform for the 'Young Learners' English exams. Sadly, most schools do not continue to use Jolly Phonics after Infants and a wealth of knowledge is lost which could then be extended with the Jolly Grammar books. As a teacher or a department, if you have been using Jolly Phonics, there may be areas unique to your practice or planning that need ‘refreshing’ with a new approach or solution.


The Masterclass looks at ongoing formative assessment when delivering the program, practice, applying skills and learning outcomes. Also, how the typical teaching sequences of the synthetic phonics program can be expanded to develop literacy and language. Typically, a teacher already using the Jolly Phonics program would benefit from this Masterclass.


The story behind the Masterclass.

I remember my first few years of synthetic phonics. It was around 1998 when additional literacy programs were part of the school curriculum and systems like THRASS and Letterland were in place to support SEN and literacy support. The first few resources from Jolly Phonics appeared in our SEN and literacy department. At this time, there was a lot of focus about using synthetic phonics or continuing with the same method as before. It was very newsworthy and reports, government interventions and training started to take off.


Around 2000, my son started Reception class and I recall how he came home with his little book of Jolly Phonics letters, with tracing paper to trace the letter sounds he was learning and repeating the actions at home. His teacher, a young, enthusiastic and proactive lady had asked the school to try Jolly Phonics out in her classes, mapping out the successes she was achieving. Although my son was young, his teacher flagged up that he was having issues with his phonological awareness and they would keep an eye on his literacy development. Several years later, he was diagnosed as dyslexic. The early intervention using Jolly Phonics highlighted his phonological awareness issues and he was then provided with literacy support, in infants and primary.


These early years of using Jolly Phonics allowed for errors, learning how to use the resources with other materials and as an ESL resource in a British school. It became part of the OFSTED remit to gauge how well children where achieving the literacy goals and reading standards generally went up. Teachers built up their knowledge of implementing synthetic phonics during this time and we could see how the process worked, an overarching view that develops after several years of use.


Pace was a key word, making sure children were ‘ready’ for the activities that were considered age appropriate. Pace was different with each class and planning or acquisition of letter sounds could accelerate or slow down. A key problem at the beginning was the revision of sounds, as we progressed with the letter groups. The abundance of tactile, multi-sensory literacy support resources and activities was still in its infancy, as was the explosion on social media!


Jolly Phonics became a steady part of the curriculum and literacy support programs. The government considered producing its own synthetic phonics method that mirrored many of the Jolly Phonics elements and teaching method.


In 2004, I moved to Spain and within a few years several schools were using Jolly Phonics. Children were making marked progress and these were being recognised as they were learning English letter sounds faster than Spanish letter sounds and starting to read and write.


During these first few years working with MEC, BEDA, Macmillan Iberia, Junta de Andalucía etc, a whole new dimension to using Jolly Phonics opened. Firstly, trying to use the method in state schools with very limited English teaching hours, plus an English class book and secondly, in international or private schools with more English hours, but CLIL, PBL or other concepts had been introduced to the curriculum.


Often the focus was on ‘how quickly can we get through the sounds’, with high emphasis on the first few letter sound groups and ‘pace’ not used for the remaining, slightly more complicated groups. In the very limited teaching time teachers had, segmenting and decoding skills where difficult to administer and a ‘whole group’ approach was needed, rather individual child assessments. It was not easy for the teacher, who was often presented with a Jolly Phonics Handbook and expected to know what to do.


Thankfully, we have moved on and with great trainers out there, YouTube and social media there is always information. As more and more countries are using synthetic phonics as part of their curriculum, mainly Jolly Phonics, it is evident that training must be included as part of teacher training in universities. Many teachers recognise the benefit of understanding how to implement the method and are keen to explore the wider possibilities of using Jolly Phonics to help with English language and literacy progression.

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