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Thorpe Lea Primary School

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Phonics at Thorpe Lea Primary School

Spelling at Thorpe Lea Primary School

Phonic Teaching at Thorpe Lea Primary School


At Thorpe- Lea Primary we follow Letters and Sounds and we also use the Jolly Phonics scheme to support our learning.

Jolly Phonics teaches children the 5 basic skills they need to master in order to become proficient readers and writers. Children following the Jolly Phonics scheme can expect to be, on average, up to a year ahead with reading and a little further with spelling by the end of their first year.


Jolly Learning has produced three years of literacy teaching materials, bringing both elements of language and literature together. After Jolly Phonics in the reception year, Jolly Grammar provides comprehensive reading and writing teaching in Years 1 and 2.


The 5 basic skills covered in Jolly Phonics are:

1.  Learning the Letter Sounds

2.  Learning Letter Formation

3.  Blending

4.  Identifying Sounds in Words

5.  Tricky Words


The first skill is learning the letter sounds. The main aim for the children is to fluently say the sounds the letters make. The order in which the letters sounds are taught has been grouped from the simplest to the more complex sounds and letters. The first group of letters were chosen because you can make more simple, three-letter words than with any other combination of 6 letters.  This enables the children to start blending and reading words right from the start. This is hugely motivating for the children.


Sound Order

The letter sounds are taught first and the letter names are taught later.

The letter ‘c’ is introduced early on.  The formation of this letter comes before the letters ‘d’, ‘o’, ‘g’ and ‘q’, which helps the children to form them correctly. The letters ‘b’ and ‘d’ are introduced in different groups to avoid confusion. The digraphs (where two letters make one sound) are introduced in the fourth group of letter sounds. 


Each letter sound is introduced with a story. In the story the children hear the sound and see the action.


The action helps the children to remember the letter sound. The ‘s’ page illustration in Finger Phonics Big Book 1 and the ‘s’ picture on the Jolly Phonics Wall Frieze remind the children of the letter sound.

Story, action and then letter formation is the best way of introducing each letter sound to the children.



Digraphs are an important part of the teaching in Phonics. The English language consists of 44 sounds* but there are only 26 letters to represent them.  Therefore, some sounds are written with more than one letter, e.g., ‘sh’, ‘ch’, ‘th’, ‘ai’, ‘er’, ‘or’, ‘oi’, ‘ou’, ‘igh’, ‘ng’, etc.

*  There are 44 letter sounds in English.  Jolly Phonics covers 42 of them.  The other two are:

–  the sound made by the letters ‘si’ in word ‘television’ (not many of them)

–  the schwa (swallowed sound) in ‘the’, ‘lemon’, ‘around’, etc.


In Jolly Phonics the digraphs ‘th’ and ‘oo’ are initially written in two sizes because they each have two sounds:

–  voiced /th/ sound as in ‘this’, ‘that’, ‘there’, ‘with’, etc. (the children like to feel their throat vibrating when they say this sound).

–  unvoiced /th/ sound as in ‘thin’, ‘thick’, ‘thistle’, ‘three’, etc. (no vibrating with this sound).

–  short /oo/ sound as in ‘cook’, ‘book’, ‘foot’, ‘look’, etc.

–  long /oo/ sound as in ‘moon’, ‘shoot’, ‘balloon’, ‘choose’, etc.


These differences are important in speaking, even though the letters are the same in writing.


Initially, one way of reading all the letter sounds is taught. For example ‘ai’ in ‘rain’. Once the children are used to blending words with these digraph, they are taught that there are alternative ways of spelling some sounds. For example, the alternatives for ‘ai’ are ‘ay’ (play) and ‘a-e’ (flame). It is important for the children to have practice reading regular words with all of these sounds in them.


The next skill is letter formation. The main aim is for the children to form the letters correctly and develop neat handwriting. To begin to understand how letters are formed, the children can take it in turns to feel the formation of the letters in the Finger Phonics books, by following the arrows in the grooved letters with their finger.

Feeling the formation of the letter in the air prepares the children for forming it correctly when they write it with a pencil.  They watch the teacher forming the letter in the air and follow their example with their finger or hand (teachers have to be careful to form the letter in mirror image if facing the children).


The children need to know the handwriting rules:

– no letters start on the line

– most letters start with the down stroke first

– ‘a’, ‘d’, ‘o’, ‘g’ and ‘q’ all start with a ‘caterpillar c’

– ‘e’ and ‘z’ start by going towards the end of the line

– ‘b’, ‘d’, ‘f’, ‘h’, ‘k’, ‘l’ and ‘t’ are tall letters, the hand/pencil goes higher when forming them

– ‘g’, ‘j’, ‘p’, ‘q’, ‘y’ and ‘f’ are letters with ‘tails’, the hand/pencil goes lower when forming them

– all letters should be close together without bumping, and spaces should be left between words


When learning to hold a pencil, the children should use the tripod grip. The movement of the pencil comes from the thumb and first finger. Ensure that the knuckles can go out so that they look like ‘froggy legs’. The position is the same for left-handed children.


The next skill is blending. The main aim is for the children to blend letter sounds fluently to work out unknown words. The faster children are at blending, the easier it is for them to read.  It enables them to work out the vast majority of unknown words. The first stage in learning to blend is for the children to be able to hear the word after the teacher has said the sounds in it. A teacher may say for example,  “Can you see the s-u-n?” or “Where is the b-oy?”.  Parents can also do this with their child at home.


The children who can immediately hear the words ‘sun’ and ‘boy’, and point to them in the picture, have a good ear for sounds and will have no problems with learning to blend sounds by themselves. With practice all children become successful. However, it does take longer for some, and these children find learning to read more difficult. In the beginning a little practice is needed most days.


Write the letters of a word randomly on the board.  The teacher points to the letters that make a word.  The children have to try and put the sounds together in their head and say the word. This can be done as a group or individually, and it can also be practised at home.


Once the actions for the first 3 groups of letter sounds have been introduced, the action for each sound in a word like ‘t-i-n’ can be mimed by the teacher.  The children have to watch the actions and say the word. Once a child knows the letter sounds and can read simple, regular words by blending the sounds then they are ready to go through the Word Boxes 1–18 in The Phonics Handbook. The Word Boxes start with simple words made from the first group of letter sounds and finish with more complicated words made from the last group of letter sounds.


Each box of words can be mounted on card and/or laminated, cut up and sent home for extra practice. Once the child can blend all the words in a box, they are given the next one.  The majority receive a new box each week. The Word Boxes provide a stepping stone between learning the individual letter sounds and reading storybooks. The Jolly Phonics Read and See books are also ideal. They contain pages with a simple, regular word on one side and hiding under a flap on the other side is a picture of that word.


With Jolly Phonics the children are not expected to read storybooks themselves until they have been given the main blending skills, and have learned some irregular common keywords (tricky words). Tricky Words are generally irregular keywords that do not give the correct pronunciation when blended.  The children have to learn these by heart.


The children should learn to read the tricky words before learning how to spell them. Some children will blend the sounds and say the word incorrectly.  This seems to jog their memory and they then say the word correctly.  Eventually, they learn to recognize the word immediately.

Look, Cover, Write and Check This technique is used mainly for spelling irregular tricky words. As with reading, it is important that the children look at the tricky word and work out which part of it is irregular.  For example, in the word ‘you’ it is only the ‘ou’ that is irregular.  The spelling of a word becomes familiar when the way it is written is studied.


Instead of always identifying the sounds in tricky words, the children could recite the names of the letters several times.  They can also form each letter in the air as they say its name. The children copy the tricky word, cover it up, write it on their own and then check to see if they have spelled it correctly.  It is good to encourage the children to say the letter names as they write the letters. The children must learn never simply to copy words as this is a very ineffective way of learning to spell.


Say It As It Sounds Most children find it difficult to remember irregular spellings.  20% of children find it extremely hard as they have a poor memory.  These children benefit particularly from these different techniques. ‘Say It As It Sounds’ means pronouncing each word in a way that will remind the child of its irregular part, eg. Monday.

Mnemonics are a fun way to remind children of the spelling of words that they find particularly difficult to remember.  Some examples: 1.  ‘laugh’……… ‘laugh at ugly goat’s hair’ 2.  ‘people’……… ‘people eat omelettes people like eggs’


Jolly Grammar is the next stage for Year 1 and Year 2 following Jolly Phonics. This programme is designed to teach the key rules of grammar, spelling and punctuation. It helps children express themselves better, bring variety to their writing and improve their spelling in a structured way.