Does Jolly Phonics Help Pronounce Words English Language Essay

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This research project set out to answer the research question "Does the implementation/use of the Jolly Phonics method in the classroom facilitate the development of the ability to pronounce sounds and recognise any word that contains them, particular sounds they have seen in the sessions?"

The project tries to investigate the impact of pupils' progress in reading and spelling using the Jolly Phonics methodology.

The purpose of this research is to know if the use of this new technique achieves the student's development of the ability to pronounce any word that contains the sound they have seen even although it is in a new word they have nor learnt or read previously in the classroom.

The importance of this research lays on the need of demonstrate that to read English well and have strong communication skills, students must learn properly the sounds of English letters and understand how they work together.

The idea of doing this research came when I knew about the Jolly Phonics methodology for the first time. It was during the Practicum period. The English teacher had introduced this method in the school I attended a year ago.

I decided to investigate if this method would be effective or not because I consider it is important to find ways to improve the methodologies and to find new techniques to introduce in class to make our children progress. This new method is a way to introduce a phonics-based instruction as a part of the curriculum and it is very important to know if it is effective for the pupils.

If the research states that Jolly Phonics is a thorough method for reading and writing because it teaches the letter sounds in an enjoyable, multi sensory way, and enables children to use them to read and write words and improve pronunciation, I will definitively use it in my classroom when I start working as an English teacher in the future.

At the end of the research period, if children in the JP group are found to have better skills in phonemic knowledge and perform better on writing sounds to dictation, it would demonstrate that Jolly phonics is a method that also confirms the effectiveness of using a synthetic program to teach reading and writing skills to children learning English as a second language.


The purpose of this literature review [1] is to identify some teaching methods to teach phonetics, learning theories and learning styles.

The traditional educational practices and methods were didactic: the teacher talked and the learner listened. Teachers were teaching regardless of individual learning styles. More recent educational methods try to accommodate the different learning styles and needs: visual, auditory, physical, as it has been demonstrated by studies conducted by Dunn and Dunn (1979) that have reported on perceptual learning styles, a term that describes the variations among learners in using one or more senses to understand, organize, and retain experience. In brief, a visual learner learn by watching a problem to solve, an auditory learner learns basically by listening and a physical or kinaesthetic learner will learn by using and manipulating object and through the action.

Generally speaking, the results of several studies as the one carried out by Bandler and Grinder demonstrated that students strongly preferred kinaesthetic and tactile learning styles. They also pointed out that the kinaesthetic learner is the one that has more problems in schools and it is probably due to the fact that this learning style is the less practised in schools.

The learning style that is of interest of this project is the kinaesthetic learner, that is to say, the experiential learning and the total physical involvement with a learning situation.

The research findings of Price, Dunn, and Sanders (1980) established that "very young children are the most tactile/kinaesthetic learners". [2] 

Based on this approach, Sue Lloyds, the creator of Jolly Phonics states that "Jolly Phonics is a systematic, sequential, phonics program designed to teach children to read. It emphasizes both the teaching of letter-sounds in isolation (not in whole words) and then it goes to blend letter-sounds together to read a word". [3] 

Regarding the methodology to teach phonetics, in general, there are two main approaches to teaching phonics: analytic and synthetic.

In analytic phonics, children are taught whole words and later analyse their constituent parts, such as c-at or str-eet. In synthetic phonics, the key is to teach them sounds of letters and letter combinations first, then to combine those to form words: c-a-t or s-t-r-ee-t.

Jolly Phonics is a method that uses the Synthetic phonics. This methodology is been implemented in the school I am actually doing the "Practicum II" as a visitor teacher. As an example of how the teacher works, I would say that if you teach the N, the action for N is to put out your arms to be a "noisy aeroplane" that flies saying 'Nnnnnnnnnn". This helps the children to remember which sound is associated with which letter, and it also makes it quite fun to use. In appendix 1 and appendix 2, you can consult a guide the teacher normally uses to teach ESL using the Jolly Phonics method. It contains the order in which we should teach the sounds and the actions to perform related to them.


Nuestra Señora de los Dolores School, also known as "Paulas", is located in Villena, a town in the province of Alicante. It is a private publicly founded day school offering an educational experience to boys and girls from 3 to 16 years. The school was founded in 1950 as a charity school for the purpose of maintaining poor children in the city of Villena, and now occupies a site in the centre of the town and is one of the most popular schools in the town.

The school has 315 pupils distributed in Pre-primary (first floor), Primary (second and third floor) and Secondary Education (fourth floor).

The aim Nuestra Señora de los Dolores School is to provide an excellent education for every child, develop confidence, ability and skills within a Christian environment.

The main purposes of the school board and staff are to understand the child's perspective and respond to individual needs and provide care, understanding and support on an individual basis.

Also, students are guided to explore and understand faith in God and develop awareness of the needs of the world to help others.

Every class has an average of 24 children and the classrooms are well equipped, colourful and well organised to make children feel comfortable.

The group of learners I worked with for the research are in the class of Pre-Primary Year 3. In this class there are 24 children (5 years old) but for the English sessions the Department of Languages considered there were too many students in the classroom, so the group is divided into two halves. So the research was carried out with group A formed by 13 pupils.

This year the work becomes more challenging for these pupils as they are prepared for the transfer to Primary Education. The pupils in this class are encouraged to become more independent and they learn to organise themselves and their belongings. The behaviour of pupils is correct and there are no pupils who present learning disabilities or special difficulties. The students have established positive relations with each other and the relationship between teacher and students make the classroom a good environment to learn.

They are taught by their course tutor most of the subjects but they also have lessons with some other teachers (Gym, Music, English).

Pupils have a weekly English lesson (50 minutes). The children follow the Jolly Phonics programme combined with other activities. Each week they have an English session during which they learn new letter sounds, the songs, the actions and how to write the letters for those sounds and some words that contains these sounds.


In order to obtain valuable data for this research, I have used several methods. I decided not to use a survey in a form of a questionnaire due to the young age of the students (5 years) and the lack of comprehension skills to carry out this kind of method. Considering this, the type of data collected is qualitative (observation) and quantitative (pre and post tests). I collected the data from a pre-test before starting the research project and I collected more data from a post test after the sessions. The test consisted of 10 spelling words. The pupils received a score of 0 or 1 point per word. 0 for incorrect, 1 point for correct. This data is very important because we are testing the student's previous knowledge with a pre test and then, we used a post spelling test to compare the findings.

As I previously mentioned, there are 13 boys and girls in the last year of Pre-Primary class. All of them have received the same input for spelling and reading using the Jolly Phonics method. Children were unaware of they were participating in a research. The materials used for the sessions were the same the teacher normally uses, that is Jolly Phonics materials published by Jolly Learning Ltd. (See appendix 3).

To carry out the pre and post test, the students were requested to take it as an activity they would do normally in class. As with any other activity, the students were asked if they understood or whether they have any question before starting the activity. The participants followed the instruction given by the teacher. They completed a similar warm up activity and then, they completed the required activity. The activity consisted in writing with the correct spelling ten words their teacher dictated. (See appendix 4)

The words were not chosen at random. The students have seen and worked with five of the words previously in class. These words were in the Jolly Phonics Book and they did some activities with them. The students did not know the other five words, but the words contained sounds they have previously seen during the English sessions.

To complement the quantitative data and to add more valuable information, I included the qualitative data which consisted in taking observational notes for later analysis. When interpreting the data collected from an observational study, it is necessary to reduce the possibility to be bias. For that reason, the teacher offered to collaborate and it was decided to use also some observational notes of the teacher herself. The observation was carried out during the pupils' normal English sessions to support the validity of the research.

To observe this type of data I used a diary to write down the notes during the five sessions I observed the pupils. It was intended to use also a video camera to record some parts of the sessions, but I did not obtain the permission of the head teacher to do it.

The observers noted the students' comments, interactions and general behaviour in the classroom when using the Jolly Phonics methodology to learn the sounds. The qualitative data from the two observers consisted in notes for later study.

The observers used a guide to interpret the observations in order to follow the same criteria and then, the observers discussed their own findings to add more data to the research.

The table below shows the common criteria the researcher and the teacher agreed to observe and noted the observations in a scale from 1 to 5.


OBSERVER 1 (Researcher)

OBSERVER 2 (English Teacher)




Children remain focused, interested



Children able to follow the session



Participation and work




As it was mentioned in the previous section, data was collected by both quantitative (pre/post test scores) and qualitative (observation) to do the analysis.

Quantitative data - Pre and post test

To test the students, I used a point score system. The students could receive a score of 0 for incorrect spelling and 1 point for correct spelling. The pre and post test scores were analysed using a graph and a table to compare them.

The graph below shows the scores for the pre and post test. This appears to suggest that the participant had made a good improvement within the period in between.

Analysis of the graph shows the results of the pre and post test scores for the class. The purple bar indicates the total number of correct words the pupils wrote in the first test and the blue bar indicates the total number of correct words pupils wrote in the second test. This graph appears to suggest that there was an increase of learning in the post test taken a few sessions after. However this result is too small for any real conclusion.

As you can compare in the table that is included in appendix 5, the first test proved that the pupils made more mistakes in the words and all of them wrote incorrectly words like "fun" and "bus".

Regarding the second test, the most significant findings were that many of the words students made mistakes in the pre test were written correctly in the second test due to the fact that the teacher taught the a /a:/, t /t/ sounds or the initial s /s/ in the sessions that took place after the first test.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remark, as think it could be an important finding, that 95 per cent of the students wrote incorrectly the words "fun" and "bus". These words contain the sound /ʌ/ that the teacher had also seen in class but maybe it is necessary to remark it more or in different ways.

If we look at the individual scores for both tests, very interesting points were noticed when comparing the lowest and highest scores and when looking at which students improved most:

Most children improved significantly the words that contain sounds they have learnt in class in the following sessions after having done the pre test. Almost all students wrote correctly the words the teacher included in the classroom activities.

The scores of the female students were higher that the scores of the male students and this finding may agree with the studies that points out girls have better skills for arts than boys.

Most students (99 %) failed to write the words that contain the sound /ʌ/ and spelling "u", although the sound was explained in class and they made a match activity to distinguish it.

In the second test, most students wrote correctly the words beginning with s (step, snake) although it is a difficult sound for Spanish learners. They did not write the e before the s, which it is a real improvement for their pronunciation. These words were written incorrectly by 50 per cent of the pupils in the pre test and 90 per cent of the pupils wrote them correctly in the second test.

Finally, we have to point out that there was also an increase in the words they did not know previously but contained the sound they have learnt in the session.

Qualitative data- Observation

The observations were carried our at Nuestra Señora de los Dolores School during the months of November-December, 2010 and during six sessions of 50 minutes each.

During these sessions, the teacher taught the 3 first groups of sound (see appendix 1) and also the songs and actions related to them (see appendix 2). There is also a worksheet to accompany this learning in which students can trace the letter or letter combination that goes with the sound, and colour a picture of the word that is associated with the sound. The students also played games to review the sounds and its spelling and use some flashcards to learn to discriminate sounds.

In session number 4, the teacher included in a box all the words they have learnt to review and she also included games in which the pupils have to match the sounds with the spelling and a picture (appendix 3).

Following the implementation of all these activities in the classroom, it was observed high levels of enjoyment, motivation and enthusiasm among the students. The researcher and the teacher both noted that participation was also very high. The two observers totally agreed that the children remained focused and were able to work following the pace the teacher required. The children enjoyed learning with this method and keep quite focused and most of them followed the teacher instructions without special difficulties. They were especially motivated when singing the song corresponding to the sound they were learning. Also the level of motivation increased when they have to perform the action related to the sound.

The frequent use of the Jolly Phonics characters: Snake, Inky and Bee made children learn in a fun and active way using them and they love to see and learn with these characters.

Most of the children appeared to be totally focused on the activity and showed signs of enjoyment such as laughing and expressing interest to learn another letter.

To sum up, the data did not offer a final result an it is not possible to conclude or provide a definitive answer to the research question Does the implementation/use of the Jolly Phonics method in the classroom facilitate the development of the ability to pronounce any word that contains the sounds, particular sounds they have seen in the sessions?.

Nevertheless, it seems that the teaching method is very motivating and that Jolly Phonics can inspire a child's love of learning through fun and interaction, and that it is a method to get children start to love English as we stated in the observational notes.

Secondly, the research found that the method improved slightly the listening skills and the pupils had reinforced the English phonemes through comparing and blending. Also the statistical and observational data presented could show the students improved their skills to link sounds with spellings after comparing the fist and second test.

However, due to the general mistakes the students made in sounds like /ʌ/ corresponding to the "u" spelling, it would be necessary to focus more in some particular sounds depending on the native language of students.

Finally, the observations could pointed out that by implementing a synthetic phonics programme, children can be taught to read at the phoneme level. But we have to take into account that this does not mean merely teaching them letter sound correspondences but also children have to be shown that the sequence of the phonemes in the spoken word match with the sequence of letters in the printed word.

Related to this, we can conclude, that for Spanish children, this method may works well if it is teaching with the correct pace and this is achieve not only through the attention paid to the sounds themselves, but also because of the work on identifying sounds in words and on similar sounding words. To achieve that, it is necessary students learn properly the sounds of English letters and understand how they work together.


To carry out this research, it could have been made some improvements as to have available a longer time between the pre and post test in order to get most accurate conclusions. Also, after considering the differences in the student's abilities and the learning styles of each student, we can say that it would be better if the students learn just one sound per session to reinforce the corresponding sound and be able to match it correctly with their spelling.

As we did not have the time, students learnt a few sounds per session and some of the most difficult sounds were not reinforced properly.

As the students have just one session of 50 minutes each every week, all of the letter sounds were taught very rapidly and the emphasis on how words are built up was poor. I could observe that the lack of time affected the results of the second test, especially when writing the words that contained the /ʌ/ sound because the students were not able to match the sound with the spelling "u".

Another of the aspects that could have been improved in the research is the lack of magnetic letters to practise picking out the appropriate letters for a spoken word, pushing the letters together and sounding and blending the letters to form the word. I think it would be a great help for the pupils to use them to improve their skills due to their age and learning skills.

The data collection methods used for this research project were appropriate but I would have preferred to record some of the sessions. Also I could have been done a control test at the middle of the research period to monitor the progress of the students work.

Regarding the suggestions for future work, I consider that one way to improve the findings of the research is to obtain quantitative data using two different groups. One of the groups could use the Jolly Phonics method and the other group could use a different approach like analytic phonics. This comparative method could be of great help to compare the effects of teaching synthetic phonics and analytic phonics.

I will conclude saying that the purpose in carrying out this study was to discover if teaching Jolly Phonics are effective to ensure that as many children as possible become competent readers of ESL, but I recognise that this is only one aspect of effective teaching of ESL.

Also I would like to remark that the focus on pronunciation of this method could be of great help for children to become competent readers of English which is one of the weakest areas of Spanish pupils seeing the progress students made in the post test.


Sue Lloyds, (2005) The Phonics Handbook: A Handbook for Teaching Reading, Writing and Spelling (Jolly Phonics S). Jolly Learning Ltd. U.K.

Dunn, R. S. & Dunn, K.J.(1978). Learning styles/teaching styles: Should they . . . can they . . . be matched? Educational Leadership, pp. 238-244. London. Visited at on October 26th, 2010.

Bandler, Richard (2000). De sapos a principes. Cuatro Vientos. Santiago de Chile. Visited at

Joy M. Reid. The Learning Style Preferences of ESL Students. TESOL QUARTERLY, Vol. 21, No. 1, March 1987.

Nunan, D. (1992) Research Methods in Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rhona Johnston and Joyce Watson. ( 2005) The effects of synthetic phonics teaching on reading and spelling attainment. Published at

Web pages



Appendix 1

Guide the teacher normally uses to teach ESL using the Jolly Phonics method. It contains the order in which we should teach the sounds and the actions to perform related to them

Learning the letter sounds

In Jolly Phonics the 42 main sounds of English are

taught, not just the alphabet. The sounds are in seven

groups. Some sounds are written with two letters,

such as ee and or. These are called digraphs. oo and

th can each make two different sounds, as in book and

moon, that and three. To distinguish between these

two sounds, the digraph is represented in two forms.

This is shown below.

1. s a t i p n

2. c k e h r m d

3. g o u l f b

4. ai j oa ie ee or

5. z w ng v oo oo

6. y x ch sh th th

7. qu ou oi ue er ar

Each sound has an action which helps children

remember the letter(s) that represent it. As a child

progresses you can point to the letters and see how

quickly they can do the action and say the sound. One

letter sound can be taught each day. As a child

becomes more confident, the actions are no longer

necessary. There is a list of all of the letter sounds

and their corresponding actions on page 8 of this


Children should learn each letter by its sound, not its

name. For example, the letter a should be called a (as

in ant) not ai (as in aim). Similarly, the letter n

should be nn (as in net), not en. This will help in

blending. The names of each letter can follow later.

The letters have not been introduced in alphabetical

order. The first group (s, a, t, i, p, n) has been chosen

because they make more simple three-letter words

than any other six letters. The letters b and d are

introduced in different groups to avoid confusion.

Sounds that have more than one way of being written are

initially taught in one form only. For example, the sound

ai (rain) is taught first, and then alternatives a-e (gate)

and ay (day) follow later.

(Sue Lloyd, 2001)

Appendix 2

The Actions

s Weave hand in an s shape, like a snake, and say ssssss.

a Wiggle fingers above elbow as if ants crawling on you and say

a, a, a.

t Turn head from side to side as if watching tennis and say t, t, t.

i Pretend to be a mouse by wriggling fingers at end of nose and

squeak i, i, i.

p Pretend to puff out candles and say p, p, p.

n Make a noise, as if you are a plane - hold arms out and say


c k Raise hands and snap fingers as if playing castanets and say

ck, ck, ck.

e Pretend to tap an egg on the side of a pan and crack it into the

pan, saying eh, eh, eh.

h Hold hand in front of mouth panting as if you are out of breath

and say h, h, h.

r Pretend to be a puppy holding a piece of rag, shaking head from

side to side, and say rrrrrr.

m Rub tummy as if seeing tasty food and say mmmmmm.

d Beat hands up and down as if playing a drum and say d, d, d.

g Spiral hand down, as if water going down the drain, and say g, g, g.

o Pretend to turn light switch on and off and say o, o; o, o.

u Pretend to be putting up an umbrella and say u, u, u.

l Pretend to lick a lollipop and say ll llll.

f Let hands gently come together as if toy fish deflating, and

say ff f f f f.

b Pretend to hit a ball with a bat and say b, b, b.

ai Cup hand over ear and say ai, ai, ai.

j Pretend to wobble on a plate and say j, j, j.

oa Bring hand over mouth as if you have done something wrong

and say oh!

ie Stand to attention and salute, saying ie ie.

ee or Put hands on head as if ears on a donkey and say eeyore, eeyore.

z Put arms out at sides and pretend to be a bee, saying zzzzzz.

w Blow on to open hand, as if you are the wind, and say wh, wh, wh.

ng Imagine you are a weightlifter, and pretend to lift a heavy

weight above your head, saying ng…

v Pretend to be holding the steering wheel of a van and say vvvvvv.

oo ooMove head back and forth as if it is the cuckoo in a cuckoo clock,

saying u, oo; u, oo. (Little and long oo.)

y Pretend to be eating a yoghurt and say y, y, y.

x Pretend to take an x-ray of someone with a camera and say

ks, ks, ks.

ch Move arms at sides as if you are a train and say ch, ch, ch.

sh Place index finger over lips and say shshsh.

th th Pretend to be naughty clowns and stick out tongue a little for

the th, and further for the th sound (this and thumb).

qu Make a duck's beak with your hands and say qu, qu, qu.

ou Pretend your finger is a needle and prick thumb saying ou, ou, ou.

oi Cup hands around mouth and shout to another boat saying oi!

ship ahoy!

ue Point to people around you and say you, you, you.

er Roll hands over each other like a mixer and say ererer.

ar Open mouth wide and say ah. (British English)

Flap hands as if a seal and say ar, ar, ar. (Nth Am English)

(Sue Lloyd, 2001)

Appendix 3

Some of the materials used in the sessions

Appendix 4

Words the teacher dictated to do the pre and post test.

sit hand

ten fun

cat red

bus step

spot frog