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My Jolly Phonics Kit (Preschool) Review by April Elstrom

Sarah Wernham and Sue Lloyd
Jolly Literacy
Deb Bible
5735 S Bradley Ct
Hanover Park, IL 60133
(630) 270-5042

My Jolly Phonics was developed in England by Sarah Wernham and Sue Lloyd. Sue Lloyd has been using this method to teach phonics since the 1970s. The Jolly Phonics approach teaches all aspects of reading at the same time: learning the letter sounds, letter formation, blending, identifying the sound in words, and tricky words. Most phonics programs focus on the letter sounds before blending into words, and most of them teach simple vowel and consonant combinations before tackling compound vowels and consonant formations. It also uses a multi-sensory approach with seeing the letter, hearing it, using actions with the letter sounds, writing the letters, and learning through music and games.

When our My Jolly Phonics Preschool Kit arrived, my five year-old daughter was attracted to its yellow, cloth carrying case with the red plush snake on it. She was thrilled that this little suitcase was all for her. First, she began exploring the case and found the triangle grip pencils in the side pocket. Then, she pulled out the poster and wanted it hung in our school room. We played the CD of alphabet sound songs and watched the DVD. She was delighted by all of it and eager to begin.

The My Jolly Phonics Preschool kit includes the following items:

  • colorful cloth zippered carrying case
  • Jolly Stories hardcover book
  • Jolly Songs songbook and CD
  • Jolly Phonics Games on a CD-Rom
  • seven consumable Jolly Phonics Activity books
  • Wall poster of letter sounds in the order introduced
  • 4 triangular colored pencils
  • 1 triangular graphite pencil
  • bee eraser
  • pencil sharpener

When I first viewed the My Jolly Phonics kit, I was confused. I saw a lot of excellent supplemental materials, but I didn't see a step-by-step approach to actually teaching my child to read. Previous phonics curricula that we have used included daily lessons and a script to follow with my child as I taught them incremental steps to blending phonics sounds together. That seemed to be lacking from the Jolly Phonics kit. Each piece of the kit had helpful suggestions and instructions, but none of them seemed to have the key I was looking for.

After reading through all the different parent guides (in each product) and viewing the “About Jolly Phonics” portion of the DVD, I realized that the key to making Jolly Phonics work is the parent. The parent needs to review the letter sounds with the child via books, songs, the poster, and flash cards. Then the parent models sounding out words and writing them. These steps are demonstrated on the DVD, but not all the products used by the teachers came in this kit. I found myself wishing I had the finger books, prepared flash cards, and magnetic letters that Jolly Literacy sells. Instead, I made my own letter sounds flash cards from 3x5 cards, used the included activity books, and used letter tiles from a word game.

A parent product guide inside the case explained the contents of the case, as well as where to start in using them. There is not a definitive course of action laid out for the parent, but I can tell you what worked in our house.

  1. Begin reading the Jolly Stories to your child daily, introducing one letter at a time, with the actions.
  2. Hang the Jolly Phonics poster in a prominent place to use in teaching, and to allow your child to review on their own. I recommend laminating it first.
  3. Watch the Jolly Phonics DVD cartoons with your child.
  4. Listen to the Jolly Songs to reinforce the letter sounds.
  5. Begin using flash cards to review letter sounds.
  6. Introduce some of the Jolly Phonics games to allow letter sound review and exploration.
  7. Start using the Activity Books to practice letter formation and review letter sounds.
  8. Use the list of words at the end of each activity book as a guide for helping your child start sounding out words.

Primarily, the My Jolly Phonics preschool kit is full of resources you can use to teach your child to read. However, the one fault I found with it was the lack of a clear step-by-step guide. Each component had some suggestions, but I had to piece together my own plan from the scattered bits of information included in the kit.

  • The parent product guide in the carrying case suggested I start with the Jolly Stories and Jolly Songs.
  • The DVD case had a printed parent guide inside which explained the multi-sensory approach of Jolly Phonics. It included a few suggestions for games and activities you could use to help children recognize the first letter in a word and to decode the letter sounds in a 3 letter word.
  • The training session for the parents on the DVD was most helpful in helping me see how to use the program with my daughter. It also showed me that I would need flash cards and letter tiles.
  • The activity books include lists of words to practice blending together at the back of each book, with some brief instructions to the parents at the front of the book. The lists aren't very long, though, and will need to be expanded.

Overall, I found the My Jolly Phonics Preschool Kit to be an excellent set of resources to aid in teaching phonics at home. However, without the daily lesson plan, parents may struggle to implement the program themselves. Even if you choose to use a structured phonics program, the Jolly Phonics kit is a helpful set of tools to aid in the learning process. The Jolly Songs CD, Jolly Phonics DVD and Jolly Phonics Games CD-Rom were our favorite resources. Since we have limited internet that doesn't allow us to use the many reading websites available online, I was delighted to be able to use the computer games with my daughter.

My daughter is making progress in reading using Jolly Phonics, but fluent reading will take time and practice. It has helped to set aside half an hour each day to use different components of the program to practice the letter sounds, blending of sounds, and letter formation. Daily practice in a fun, multi-sensory approach to phonics. That's Jolly Phonics!

-Product review by April Elstrom, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April, 2016