Jolly Phonics- Learning to Blend



I wrote about learning Jolly Phonics with R at age 15 months. And how we were stuck for a really long time at the pre-blending stage. It frustrated me a bit because when I used to work as a literacy instructor, the children (admittedly they were already 5) got from letter sounds to blending really quickly. I had to give myself a quick reality check with regards to R’s cognitive-development appropriate to her age.

R is now 2 years 4 months (27 months) and I noticed that she has only begun to pick up on blending. I think we have at least another 3 more months or longer before it will make sense to her.

I had bought these Jolly Phonics Picture Flashcards some months back in the hope of teaching her blending. But she was rather unresponsive so I left them alone for a while. Tonight, I took them out and just played around with showing her bits of each flashcard at a time, and trying to excite her into guessing what it was. I had learnt this technique of never just plainly introducing flashcards to younger children but rather cover and reveal it a bit at a time, building suspense and trying to engage them into looking.

As her vocabulary had built up over the past few months, she was able to say what each one was. Sometimes I would give her a hint by sounding out the word for her like r-i-ng and making sure that I would drag out the sound rrrriiiiiiinng instead of leaving a pause between each letter sound (“r” pause “i” pause “ng”). I noticed that she would get some words right and was able to repeat simple CVC words. So here we have at 27 months I think she is just beginning to understanding exaggerated blending.


Jolly Phonics and Early Literacy (Part 1)


R’s Early Literacy Development

R has been showing an interest in books lately and I can begin to see her put her finger under each word, mimicking reading (I call it “play read”). I think it is a wonderful time to explore how I can develop this further and also hopefully connect with others who have similar experiences. Basically, we started out looking through Jolly Phonics at 15 months. We picked up the pace of doing it everyday at around 18 months and at 25 months, she knows all the letter sounds (42) in English but has not shown an interest or ready-ness to blend or pick out other letter sounds away from the books such as signs around her.

I am curious to know when they will be ready (although I know each child is different)- or what the average age onset is for blending. I remember the literature that I have read puts it at 3. I was hoping that since we have gone through the letter sounds, maybe she would progress onto blending but no. She’s just not ready yet.

Early Literacy is not about Reading Early

Early literacy skills are developed during the preschool years and do not necessarily equate to “reading at an earlier age”.

The skills that are focused on include *:

  1. Phonological awareness- understanding the different sounds, that words have syllables and phonemes (42+ in the English language)
  2. Alphabet knowledge- recognising the 26 letters and knowing their names
  3. Letter writing- knowing how to write letters
  4. Print knowledge- includes decoding and alphabet recognition
  5. Oral language- spoken language, grammar and vocabulary

Before my current occupation, I was a literacy instructor and studying to qualify for a mid-career change in Speech Language Pathology. So I’ve always had an interest in speech and learning and literacy was one of my pet subjects. When I became a mum myself, I thought that I would just try (very casually with not much expectations) teaching R what I taught other kids using this really popular phonics system known as Jolly Phonics.

Jolly Phonics

Jolly Phonics started in the UK and is used by the majority of schools there as its literacy programme. It is also popular in Australia and I personally decided on using this system as I was very impressed by the pedagogy and accessibility of it as a trainer learning it.

Basically the system is about teaching that letters (alphabets) have their equivalent sounds. You do not learn the names of the letters but its sound. Each letter has an accompanying action which is part of a story and this is really fun for younger kids like mine.

Jolly Phonics in a nutshell:

  • learn an action to accompany each letter sound
  • begin with the most commonly used letters in English, including vowels
  • teach lowercase letters first
  • 7 groups of letter sounds – making it a total of 42 that represent the main sounds in English
  • children can start blending simple (putting words together) after they have done the 1st book
  • covers tricky words – words that cannot be decoded by how they have learnt to read the others (meaning they cannot apply the code)
  • learn letter formation by the supplementary materials



*Barbara Goodson and Carolyn Layzer, Abt Associates, with Peggy Simon and Chris Dwyer, RMC Research Corporation. Early Beginnings: Early Literacy Knowledge and Instruction. National Institute of Literacy. 2009.(

Many, Few: Development of Quantifiers and Adverbs in Children’s Speech



There are many birds. There are a few birds.

Quantifiers such as many or a few, started to emerge in R’s speech at about 21 months. But the way she used this was in a different context.

The first time I heard my daughter using this was when we were rehearsing if it was ok for a stranger to kiss her.

I asked, “Can Uncle (term used to refer to anyone older, not familial relation in this context) kiss you?”

“Mai, mai. Many mai” (mai in a local Singaporean dialogue to mean, “no”)

So she was trying to use “many” as an adverb of degree, as you would say, “definitely not” or “extremely nice”.

Today when we walked to the supermarket, my daughter spotted some birds on the ground. Naturally drawn to animals (birds included), she exclaimed, “Bird! Many bird”.

Interesting how this  is picked up at this age which I thought was a bit early. I wonder when she would use this gramatically, though.

Teaching Colours to my Daughter: The pen is Red


At 21 months, my daughter doesn’t really know her colours but she is able to do most of her letters and sounds. Given my background in art, maybe my peers would find that a surprise or perhaps I may be even be a little conceited to think that it can come later.

So I took a look at most of the baby board book recommendations on my Amazon account and found that the following themes seem to be really popular–numbers, colours and animals. And so I set out to try to teach her colours.

I thought about how I would teach her colours- using real life objects? flashcards? re-visit those themed board books? It was not until I came across this article (interestingly via Facebook) that a light went off.

“Why Johnny can’t name colours” explains how many children often have difficulty doing well on tests on colours. Apparently, retaining knowledge about colours (and then responding to a question on them) isn’t really a walk in the park. It takes a long time to learn this and even children whose parents claim to have “gotten it down pat” often fail tests to point out colours being asked. Does this mean that our children are mostly colour-blind at the early learning stage?

The language learning problem here isn’t limited to learning “a word to color mapping, but also in learning the peculiar color “maps” your language uses in the first place. The task is further complicated by the fact that color is ubiquitous in everyday life. ” This is further complicated by the fact we have things in so many different hues in the immediate environment.

The article explains that the conventional way we teach colours is “prenominally”- such as “the red balloon”. This is because it is exactly how we make sense of colours, grammatically. But if we teach colours, using the postnominal construction, “the balloon is red.”, the results would be different.

The study showed that children with postnominal training improved significantly over their baseline test scores over those who were taught “the red balloon”.

So I’m going to try this approach this week and will see how we go.

Source: “Why Johnny can’t name his colors”, Melody Dye, July 13, 2010, Scientific American (, retrieved 7 Feb 2016.