Jolly Phonics is a year-long synthetic phonics programme for beginning readers. It uses a multi-sensory approach to teach children the key skills which underpin reading and writing. It was initially developed in the 1970s as an alternative to the ‘whole-word’ approach for teaching reading which was then dominant in UK schools, and became a commercial programme in the 1990s.
The programme focuses on five key skills which children should master. Firstly, they learn letter sounds, all of which are taught along with a corresponding action. Secondly, they learn letter formation, drawing the letter shapes first in the air and then with a pencil. Thirdly, they learn how to blend the sounds together to form words. Fourthly, they learn to identify the sounds in words (also known as segmenting) in order to aid spelling. Lastly, they learn ‘tricky words’, which are irregular or non-phonetic words which are memorised by heart. Schools can purchase Jolly Phonics materials at various cost levels, from a handbook costing around £25 to interactive whiteboard software at £315, or classroom kits which range between £180 and £960. Jolly Learning also offer a follow-on writing programme called Jolly Grammar.
Training is delivered by experienced Jolly Phonics teachers, who are accredited by Jolly Learning but work independently. An online training course is also available, a minimum of 20 hours learning.
The Best Evidence Encyclopaedia (2009) judged that there were no studies into the effectiveness of Jolly Phonics which met its criteria for inclusion.