I am not at all surprised at the success of Jolly Phonics in this Australian school.
I first discovered Jolly Phonics when I was perusing a school supplier website. The name caught my eye, and I looked them up - then I ordered a few materials. And wow! This discovery is just SO good that it must be shared with the world.
At first I was skeptical about doing an action for every sound. I was debating whether I should just teach the sounds without the actions. Now I have seen the light. The genius behind doing an action for every sound is that it really helps children to sound out words before they are ready to spell/write.
Using signs for sounds is an incredible pre-reading/pre-writing activity that merges children right into reading/writing. Doing actions for every sound is like learning sign-language. It has given Hannah a new way of sounding out and learning to spell words that she cannot write yet. She is now listening much more attentively to the sounds in words, and is able to "sound them out" with actions that represent different letters or letter combinations, which then leads her to knowing how to write them.
Previously, I tried 100 Lessons with Hannah, and that failed dismally. The bare-bones workbook program was just so, so dry and uninteresting to her. I also tried to implement the Montessori way of teaching reading and writing, but I found that to be far too complex and prep-intensive for me, starting with the collection of zillions of little objects, then the making of various booklets, etc. It probably would have worked with Hannah, but it did not work for me.
There are several really wonderful things about Jolly Phonics:
- It really works! And incredibly fast. At least with our children. Hannah is 4.5 and Jonah is 3.5, and they are both loving it. They are memorizing the sounds and the actions associated with them - and it is not work, it's fun!! They love the characters (Inky the Mouse, Snake, and Bee). They love all the materials that come with Jolly Phonics and they love the songs. They actually want to do this every day. Even Sophia, at 2 years old, is now doing the actions for some of the sounds.
- Jolly Phonics is exactly what a phonics program SHOULD be:
- Focuses on the sounds of the English language, not on the letters. It decodes the sounds and creates a real system that allows children to make sense out of the crazy English language.
- Multi-sensory, including sight, hearing, touch, kinesthetic (they jump around, do actions for every sound) and even the imagination. There is also a DVD that brings it all to life, and even an interactive CD Rom (which we do not have) that can be utilized. This kind of multi-sensory approach is, as I have learned from Montessori, the most effective way of engaging especially young children.
- A real curriculum with a system (objectives, structured approach, doesn't leave things out)
- Provides almost everything the teacher or parent needs for the lesson, including instructions on teaching the lesson/ presenting the materials. Mostly, the teacher will have to do a lot of photocopying from the teacher's manual. Some materials also have to be created by the teacher, but there are not a lot of these and there are instructions on how to do this.
- There is continuity of instruction, so that eventually grammar gets taught as well. Jolly Phonics starts at the Kindergarten level and progresses for 3 more years with additional teacher manuals, student workbooks, etc. for subsequent years.