Hartford-Sumner Elementary School Implements Jolly Phonics Program

Submitted by Ryan Wilkins, Principal of Hartford-Sumner Elementary School in RSU 10.

Jolly Phonics is a phonics program that teaches children the alphabetic code of English. It is a full year program for those in Kindergarten, and is being implemented at Hartford-Sumner Elementary School. In the first nine weeks or so of school, the students are taught the forty-two letter sounds and motions and how to blend the sounds in order to read words. Students also learn the forty-two Jolly Jingles songs and learn about Tricky Words. Then the students are taught the letter names. Lastly, the students are taught how to read books by themselves. Jolly Phonics is mainly for 3-8 year olds, but may be used to effectively teach reading to any age person.

There are five main skills taught in Jolly Phonics. They are:

  1. Learning the Letter Sounds
  2. Learning Letter Formation
  3. Blending and Segmenting
  4. Identifying Sounds in Words
  5. Tricky Words

The main forty-two sounds of English are taught in an unusual pace and order. One sound is taught each day, with a short story, a song, and a hand motion. Letter names are not emphasized, but rather the sound the letter makes becomes the focus.

As the sounds are introduced, the children are shown exactly how to form each letter correctly. By practicing in the air, tracing and feeling the letters in the Finger Phonics Board Books and by writing it, most children begin forming their letters correctly after the first twelve weeks or so. The correct tripod pencil grip is also taught, and practice is given tracing over dotted letters.

Blending is seeing a word and simply putting the sounds together, one by one, in order to read a word as you would do for c-a-t. Segmenting is hearing a word and learning how to remember how to spell each sound so you can write the word, sound by sound.

It is essential that children can hear the individual sounds in words, especially for writing. Initially, the children are asked to listen carefully and say if they can hear a given sound in words. Then they are trained to hear if the sound comes in the beginning, middle or end of the word. As soon as the children can hear the sounds in three letter words, they can start their dictation work found in The Phonics Handbook.

After their first month at school, when the majority of the children know about eighteen letter sounds and have been blending and segmenting regular words as a group activity, they can begin to learn the Tricky Words. Tricky Words are words that cannot always be worked out by blending – sight words they have to memorize, such as: said, who, was, my.

By the end of the kindergarten year in the Jolly Phonics program, each child should be able to read and write the 42 letter sounds, form the letters correctly holding their pencil in the tripod grip, blend decodable words fluently, like “flag” or “mushroom”, segment and write regular words like “bed” or “campground”, and read and write independently and with confidence.