Jolly Phonics

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  • Reviewed on Wednesday, September 28, 2016
  • Grades Used: KG levels
  • Dates used: 28-09-2016
The Dangers Behind Fascinating Jolly Phonics
Warning to Parents and Teachers –“Beware of Jolly Phonics"
If the school of your kid follows Jolly Phonics system, it means that you are crucifying your child on the cross of phonics with no hopes of resurrection.

The UK, the USA and Australia are following synthetic phonetic system which is the method of Jolly Phonics. First Understand the system so that you can understand the dangers that it has inbuilt.
Cambridge dictionary defines the term “phonics" as “a method of teaching people to read based on the sounds that letters represent". It also defines the word “phonetics” : “study of sounds produced by human voice in speech.” When you read a word or sentence, you are producing sounds. When you speak the same word or sentence, again you are producing same sounds. Anyway sounds are the same. Are there any two categories as “letter sounds" and “speech sounds” (phonemes)? In a standard, British English, there are 44 speech sounds. They are written as symbols in between slanting lines. All the major dictionaries in English use the phonemic alphabet consisting of these 44 sounds to read any word in English. We refer to them and come to know the right pronunciation of a new or unknown word by this method. Jolly Phonics says, it teaches 42 letter sounds that the students can use to read and write many words in English as quickly as possible.

Kids are introduced into 42 letter sounds in a fun way by dividing the letter sounds into seven groups in a specific order as given below:

Seven groups:
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

The Dangers Lurking Behind Jolly Phonics:

1. Alphabets are not introduced up to the first three steps in jolly phonics teaching but only the above sounds and the words which consist of these sounds are introduced. Lkg students whose age is between 3 1/2 and 4 1/2 have to recognize these 42 sounds distinctly and they should also write 26 letters and diagraphs. The problem starts when the teacher teaches how to write the 26 letters. The letter “i” is sounded into “e” sound in the word ink and the kid writes the letter “i". Such a child always tends to read “e" whenever and wherever it sees the letter “i". The parents who are not introduced to jolly phonics are shocked why the reading goes wrong. The child is also confused when his friend in the neighbourhood studying in a different school reads the alphabet differently. The question is - how will the child write the spelling of the following words which consist of the same “e" sound?:
myth, orange, chocolate, bargain, pretty, mileage, breeches, counterfeit, medicine, carriage, sieve, shiitake, women, busy, minute, build

The child will definitely write wrongly as : mith, oringe, chocolite, bargin, pritty, milige, carrige, sive, shitake, wimin. bisi, minit, bild.

The same danger occurs when the children are asked to write the letter “e" when the sound /e/ in egg is produced.
How will they write if the following words are read out?:

many, aesthetic, said,deaf, heifer, jeopardy, friend, lieutenant, guess

The children are likely to write wrongly as: meni, esthetic, sed, def, refer, jepordi, frend, leftinent, gess.

2. Jolly Phonics does not know the basic truth that English language has no one to one connection between letter and sound. By blending sounds you cannot write more than 50 percent of the words in English which have zero connection between the spellings and the sounds they make. For a single sound, it has multiple spellings and a single letter stands for multiple sounds. How will you blend the sounds to write all words in English using jolly phonics method?

3. Jolly Phonics argue that these words can be learnt at a later stage through “tricky words". How many words are there in English that you would include in the list of tricky words? Then 50% of English words will have to be loaded in your list, not just the 40 words you have in your beginner’s level. Jolly Phonics defines "tricky words" as "words that we can't sound out". What do you mean by sounding out? Is it different from pronunciation of the word? Is there any word in English that cannot be pronounced? The list of tricky words says that the, we, I, he, she, be, me, to, do, was, of, snake, are, all, your, you, come, here, some, they, said and there are tricky words. They are not difficult words at all. They are tricky words because they cannot be blended in jolly phonics method and cannot be written. The phrase "tricky words" itself is a trick used by these people to hide the foolishness and ugliness of their approach. Their tricks may be successful in making monosyllabic small words but what about thousands of poly syllabic long words? Who is going to say the sound individually - the teacher, or parent or the child itself to blend the sounds and write the words? There are ten sounds in the common word "intelligence". Are you going to say each sound one by one to write the word by the child? Or can it be done by educated parents?

The method adopted by them to teach tricky words is still more funny. One of the methods is called "look, cover, write, check". Students should look at the word. Teacher will cover the word with a cloth. Now the student should write the word in the air. Then the teacher will show the word to check whether the written word is correct. Another method is, to learn a tricky word, introduce a relevant saying. In the long run, is the learner of English is going to learn all the tricky words (more than 50 percent) in the language using this method?

4. All the standard dictionaries of the World such as Oxford and Cambridge dictionaries are giving phonetic transcription (combination of speech sounds) for each word. They don’t give your 42 letter sounds. They never have the list called “tricky words". Do you mean How to read a word is not known to them? How will jolly phonics children refer to such dictionaries to know the pronunciation of new words that they are going to learn throughout their life? Now tell me whether there are two sounds called letter sounds and speech sounds (phonemes) to know how to read? In standard British English, the letter “r" is not at all pronounced almost in all English words if it occurs at the end as well as preceded by a vowel. But jolly phonics says that “er“ “or" and “ar" are letter sounds. The child is likely to pronounce words with these letters wrongly.

5. Step 5 in “jolly phonics teaching” is going to be the toughest one for your child because it introduces letter names, capital letters forms and their sounds, one to ten tricky words and dictation of tricky words – here the crucifixion of the child on the cross of phonics starts. The child thinks, the teacher says, the name of the letter is different from its sound, the letter also has capital forms, some words that cannot be sounded out are tricky words…. Why should a child studying LKG know all these technical explanations about phonetics meant for researchers or English teachers, and get confused more and more? Just to hide the one truth that English has no connections between their sounds and their spellings, how many lies are going to be told in the name of tricky words?

6. Step 6 in jolly phonics introduces red level readers, a collection of “small books", 18 in number. The instruction says that (LKG)students (in Tamilnadu) should read these readers independently and they should be given other decodeable books available. They mean that the book must have only the regular words that have their 42 letter sounds and 10 selected tricky words. What kind of text it is!? I was really shocked. Let us just take one book and analyse it. The book entitled “The Pond" is a general fiction – they categorize so. There are ten ducks in a pond into which a frog jumps. The ducks flip off and the frog owns the whole pond to himself. What is the message in this story? You can drive away innocent or weak people from their place with your power. Then you can enjoy the place alone for yourself. Are they teaching imperialism to the child just as how British people dominated over Indians and occupied India? Is it all that we want to reach the young tender hearts? Are we reading for meaning or for life or for just learning selective sounds alone? If we are just reading for understanding sounds, it is just “barking a print". In another story called “monster”, Monsters stamp, bash and crash, flap and clap, wail and shout, bang and clang, sleep. Nothing more happens. What is the purpose of this so called story with unreal and unwanted characters? What are the young kids going to learn in connection with real life by sounding them out? Do you want to make your kids into monsters in the hands of these phonic monsters? All the red level readers are , as the red colour stands for, very dangerous to young minds.

7. Step 7 in jolly phonics asks the teacher to introduce yellow level readers, again same number of books, same stupid, unrealistic, disgusting, silly, immoral, unsuitable texts for “victim kids". The book “monsters party" is sheer nonsense and has nothing to do with the needs of kids in real life. The book “Hetty” teaches an immoral story to learn how to be lustful (hen), cunning (rats) and lazy, sleepy, irresponsible (dogs) and foolish (cats). “The Rain Forests", “moths and butterflies” and “Oil" are not at all suitable for UKG kids who are too young to be introduced to them. Any reader in the World reads only for meaning, not for sound. In fact, when we read a text, we don’t worry about the letters and sounds, we recognise only the first and last letter of a word. Here, I would like to quote from a research paper that was presented at a conference of Auckland principals in Auckland, New Zealand in April 2008: “ Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is that the frist and lsat ltteers are in the rghit pclae: the rset can be a toatl mses but you can still raed it wouthit a porbelm. This is bcuseae we don’t raed ervey lteter but the word as a wlohe. So, hey, waht does this say abuot the improtnace of phnoics in raeidng? Prorbalby that phonics ins’t very imoptrnat at all. How apcoltapyic is that, in the cuerrnt licetary wars!
As if that weren’t proof enough that phonics is useful but not essential, here’s more: how can it be possible that the billions of people in China and Japan, Korea and Taiwan learn to read when there is no phonics possible in their written language, which is displayed, instead, in pictographs? Children in China have to be told what a word is and then learn to recognise it and memorise it. Amazing what they achieve, isn’t it? All those billions of people, deprived as they are, poor things, from the apparently essential benefits of phonics, becoming competent in literacy.”

8. You learn how to read a word in a sentence only in the context. Read the following three sentences: 1. The bandage was wound around the wound. 2. He could not read what was read out to him. 3. Within a minute, I captured the minute detail about it.
How will you read the words – wound, read, minute? In the same way? In the absence of context and meaning, how can you read many words in English? How will you know the sound of a word when you just read with a list of carefully selected words, as jolly phonics says?

9. In a language like English, silent letters pose a great problem. 60 percent of English words almost invariably in more than 15 letters out of 26letters: the letter b is silent in dumb, c is silent in scissors, d is silent in handsome, e in hope, drive, gave, g in sign, gh in light, fight, daughter, h in hour, when, why, where, k in knife, know, knock, l in calm, talk, n in Autumn, column, p in psychology, s in island, t in listen, often, tsunami, u in guess, guest and w in wrong , write… The list goes endless. The word queue has four silent letters at the extreme. How will you blend the sounds to write or read a word?

10. Homophones in English pose great dangers to the attempt of blends sounds and writing the words. Homophones are words that have same sound but differ in spelling and meaning. When the teacher blend the sound of one word, the child will write the another word. For example, when you dictate or blend the sounds of be, bare and sea, the child will write bee, bear and see or differently wrongly. How will you blend the sounds to make a word in English that has plenty of homophones?

11. A strong building cannot rely on a weak foundation. Children who learn by jolly phonics are likely to misunderstand the entire nature and structure of English language. In the long run, they will know that the tricky words are not just 40 but uncountable.

12. By blending method, they are going to write even ordinary day to words with spelling mistakes if the teacher hasn’t taught them earlier as tricky words. The first standard girl nearby my house writes the word friend as “frend”and ball as “boll” after blending the sounds. It is the problem with the system of Jolly Phonics, not with the child.

13. We are reading for information or pleasure but Jolly Phonics students are reading for reading only. Great writers are going to be killed alive in their reading. The teacher cannot always sit near and assist the entire reading throughout the life a man. They say that students should be encouraged into independent reading. How can they? Any independent reading of independent ordinary children’s story books has numerous irregular words, “tricky words" in your language. Secondly they focus only on sounds, not on meaning or message or morals as you have trained them with red and yellow level readers.

14. Language has four skills – listening, speaking, reading and writing. Jolly Phonics focuses only on reading and writing and never talks about the other two. They is no practice to improve their speaking and listening skills, since the kids are exposed only to carefully selected text.

15. Parents cannot help the students unless they understand the teaching methods of Jolly Phonics. When a child learns a new word, parents are capable of spelling the word and assisting them. In a country like India where only a few parents can blend the sounds and teach the word as per jolly phonics. In the school when my son is studying, everything is hidden, kept secret to the parents who cannot understand all that is happening in the school inside his class. Whatever the parents teach that will misguide the kids, the teacher argues. Right. So you mean that the kids should not ask any doubts to the parents for two years. Even jolly phonics warns that parents should be made aware of the synthetic phonetic system so that they will not misguide the kids. But the schools are experimenting this system secretly with the child. Parents who know only 26 letters are in utter chaos comparing their children with others.

16. Students of Jolly Phonics cannot enjoy the rhymes that other school children do. They have to sacrifice even sports hour to practice this jolly phonics seriously.

17. If a student is absent for one week, he is lost for ever, cannot be on the track of the teacher. If his father gets transfer, if he goes to another school free from jolly phonics, many unexpected shocks are awaiting him, when the teacher spells the unknown words or teachers teach with different pronunciations.

18. One-text-fits-all method, which is dropped out by many education systems, is followed by jolly phonics. It will not be suitable even for all learners of the same age who vary by country, native or non native speakers of English, culture, visual or auditory interest, etc. All students in the class do not, of course, cannot score the same mark. Why? Simply because everyone's capabilities and interests vary. All teachers cannot teach the same subject in the same way throughout the world because they vary in thousand and one things. How can you implement “one-text-fits-all"? Truely speaking, the teacher follows because the school follows this system. The schools follow because the UK government follows. One country follows because the other countries follow. But who follows truth is the question.

19. It discourages reading any book for the simple fear that the book may have irregular words (tricky words) that would confuse them. Students are not encouraged to speak or narrate of their own simply since speaking skill is completely neglected.

20. Those children who are not able to follow the system and write the dictated words are going to be labelled as poor learners. Strangely every child is to become one of them sooner or later, whether it succeeds or fails in following this system.

21. The pronunciation varies from country to country, even in the same country from one place to another, even in the same place from parent to teacher, from one one person to another person. Native speakers of language speak with certain pronunciation and accent that non-native speakers of English do not follow. In a country like India where almost 90 percent of the English speakers speak with wrong pronunciation and zero stress pattern. Which sound is going to be blended for the child to make a word?

22. There are 2000 languages spoken in Africa and around 80% of them have no written form (and so, no chance for reading). For example, even in India, the language sowrashtra has no written form and therefore there is no question of reading. Still these people effectively communicate with each other. A language can exist without writing and reading but cannot live without speaking and listening. How are you still going to support jolly phonics which concentrates only on reading and writing.

23. If the child gets confused in English subject, it is going to get confused with all subjects (except Tamil ) which are taught in English. Again other subjects are not taught by English teachers but by science, maths, history and computer teachers who teach in English but with less or zero knowledge about jolly phonics. Many degree holders with less knowledge about phonetics complete two days certificate course in jolly phonics. The course fees is around Rs..8000/- in Tamilnadu and other states of India. They immediately become KG teachers or start their own KG schools. What about the fate of the child who joins there? The child is going to be lost for ever. Parents, beware of them!

24. Finally a thing remains. A child needs to be taught thousand and one things which are essential and useful – how to introduce itself, its family members, vegetables and fruits it eats, the names of things in his house, about its own body parts, study place, places in society, persons and things there, etc. What is the meaning of knowing monsters and imaginary stories of Inky mouse, Bee and Snake? May God save these children from crucifixion on the cross of Jolly Phonics!

S. Mani, M.A., M.Phil(English)
Lecturer in English
Government Polytechnic College for Women, Coimbatore-44.
Tamilnadu, India.


  • Reviewed on Monday, February 13, 2006
  • Grades Used: pre-K
  • Dates used: Aug 1, 2005 - current
This program is the best program when it comes to multisensory learning. I bought this program from Rainbow resources when my daughter turned 2 years old, and she learned 90 percent of the sounds in a month and a half. She loves the books, she enjoys the workbooks, and loves to watch the DVD. I also bought the song CD with the program and everytime I put it on my daughter just gets her books and sings along as she flippes through the pages. Even my 1 year old loves to trace the sounds in the books.
The books are very illustrative, teach you not only the sounds but let your child touch and feel the sound, hear it, see it, and say it. At 2 1/2 now, my daughter is reading little, simple books. If you start early, this is the right program to teach your child to read.

marquitta winfree

  • Reviewed on Monday, August 8, 2005
  • Grades Used: pre-k - k
  • Dates used: July - Aug 05
Just a little "Beware" for the future Jolly Phonics users. I don't think that it is an awful program. I can't critique the whole thing b/c I bought only the videos after reading reviews here and the advertisements. My dds love the videos. They are entertaining and they do teach phonetic concepts. However, they are somewhat annoying. The animals are puppets on sticks - which the dds think is kind of strange but OK. The political views of the authors are somewhat obvious by the comments the animals make during their examples (we are retired Air Force so I may be a little sensitive here.) The mouse complains all the time and the bee whines in a rather high pitch constantly that she can't do it. (Not exactly the positive impact into which I want children to be immersed.) My biggest complaint is that the actual pronunciation of the letters is WRONG! Even to the point that both dds (3yrs and 5yrs) immediately came to me (yes, I was a bad mom and let them watch it by themselves fi rst) and told me that the animals were saying the sounds improperly. They say, "su" for "ss," "tu" for "t," "duu" for "d" etc. A teacher I worked with in Pre-K last year reviewed the tapes: she picked out the same things we did and said she would not use the tapes in our classroom because of that. (We did use the Leap Frog tapes which aren't nearly as obviously incorrect in this area) The concepts Jolly Phonics teaches are a mix between traditional phonics and Reading Reflex (which in my opinion is a superior program albeit in black and white, but my dds don't have a problem with that). BUT, if you want your children to learn how to properly pronounce the phonemes, Beware of Jolly Phonics. Maybe just get the system withOUT the tapes.


  • Reviewed on Monday, April 4, 2005
  • Grades Used: Pre-K to Grade 1
  • Dates used: Currently using
This is an effective, multi-sensory approach to phonics that utilizes all types of learning styles(visual, auditory and tactile)into a creative and fun program.The basis of the program( which is similar in concept to Montessori methods) is teaching the letter sound first, ie, CAT is sounded out with the child sounding out C-A-T and can put up a finger for each letter sound. The sounds are learned by motions as well, S is sounded out with the arm movement like a snake. 42 sounds are acted out with movement which helps for memory and the tactile learner. Then the actual letter is then learned. Videos help reinforce this, along with colorful board books which introduce letters and the writing part of the letter. The version I have has the Sassoon type interface which teaches letters with tails. Some like the ball and stick method which is sold as well(Rainbow Resourse carries that, as most of the Jolly Phonics line). The board books are in the color, additional books are in black and white(which my dd's colored as I made copies of the pages). My dd was almost 5 when we started this after and after a month and 1/2 she is reading proficiently early readers like Dr. Seuss and the Bob Books line.The best part is that she really loves doing this program with it's many features and that has progressed in her early love of reading. And that makes this program worth its weight in gold.

Places to buy this program as it is British in origin: Rainbow Resource, Amazon and has listed an American distributor in Vermont).