You all know by now that I’m a phonics curriculum junkie, so I’m pleased to bring you this review of Jolly Phonics and Jolly Grammar from jollyliteracy.com, a division of just2ducks LLC. We had access to the entire phonics program as well as the first book with guide for the grammar portion, so I had several students working with different aspects of everything provided for us for review.
The jollyliteracy.com approach to phonics is what’s called systematic phonics. Instead of taking the child through the alphabet and teaching them a single (or even all the) sound/s that letter makes, systematic phonics teaches the 42 phonograms that make up the auditory component of our English language. The biggest example I can give you to demonstrate that is the difference in the vowels. A says /a/ as in apple most of the time, and if you’re teaching phonograms that’s all you teach. (In fact, this program encourages that you only teach the sound and not the letter name at all to start.) To teach the long A sound, you teach the phonogram <ai> says /A/ as in rain. So the child associates the <ai> with the long A sound, and at the appropriate point in the program learns that there are other ways to spell this sound.
Most of the time, I take a different phonics approach with my kids. There are several phonics methods, and honestly I don’t think that any one of them is better than another. I just prefer a certain approach because I find it easier, and I teach the alphabet names at the same time.
At this point in my homeschooling career, though, I have two beginning learners at the same time, and they are not learning at the same pace. My son picked up everything very quickly this past year, doing our normal approach. His sister can now tell you the sound that most of the letters make, but her learning hasn’t stretched past that. Caleb is spelling words and reading; Lynndi is still struggling to remember letter sounds and shapes. So it was for her that I was excited to use this program.
The program teaches that even very young children can pick up these sounds and phonograms very quickly. In fact, the method is that you teach a new phonogram every single day, reviewing those you already learned as you go along. I have my doubts about how well that might work for a very young child, but I can tell you that it’s working with my almost-6-year-old and she has finally begun sounding out words so that she reads them!
The Jolly Phonics Student Book 1 is simple. You read a story to the child. The story includes repetition of the sound itself, so you can emphasize that sound, and it also serves as a reminder to the student about the motion that the jollyliteracy.com has associated with each sound. These motions are really the core of the program, and what makes it different from anything else I’ve seen. The story for the letter I, for example, is all about a curious little mouse who ends up with ink spilled all over his back. He squeaks the short I sound – /i/, /i/, /i/ -while the student uses his fingers across his mouth to show the whiskers of the mouse, now dubbed Inky Mouse.
This actually has helped Lynndi not only remember the sounds, but there’s a hint in the Jolly Phonics Teacher’s Book in print letters that really helped us with one specific issue she’s had in making the connection to sounding out words – or, blending, to give it a technical name. She’s making an extra “uh” sound after her consonant sounds; now, this is not a problem that I’ve encountered with any of my other students. This book told me to take each consonant as it’s introduced, and write it down for her with each vowel following it, and pronounce each set. So for the letter B, you have the sound /b/ and you place that with each vowel: /ba/, /be/, /bi/, /bo/, /bu/. That seems to have been the key she needed, and now she’s reading every word they give her to sound out! YAY!
At this time, I can recommend this program for any student who just seems to be struggling, is a little bit behind, needs any sort of phonics remediation, or even for someone who hasn’t seemed ready for reading but is frustrated by not being able to do so. It’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s been effective in our home. I’m so glad we had the opportunity to utilize it! The Jolly Songs in print letters has been a great asset to the program as well, with cute little jingles to help kids remember the stories, phonograms, and movements. My kids have had so much fun dancing and playing with these!
The reason I was excited to have access to the Jolly Grammar 1 Teacher’s Book in print letters and the accompanying Jolly Grammar 1 Student Book was for my middle student. He’s 12 years old and dyslexic, so most things language arts related tend to be more difficult for him. I know that having a visual component to any program helps him, and he’s largely an auditory learner, but the real way to help him retain information is to present it in all of the learning styles and to review it, review it, review it.
The Jolly Grammar program is definitely geared to a younger audience than Brandon. It’s intended to be used after all of the three student phonics books. Instead, I had Brandon learn the phonograms and the movements in several days, and we moved straight into the Grammar book. I’ll admit to letting him skip a few pages; this program doesn’t introduce capital letters in the phonics books at all, and is finally introducing the alphabet. Brandon already has these components learned, so if a page focused primarily on one of those two things I let him skip it.
The teacher book said that each lesson – a 2 page spread – should take about an hour. With Brandon, we have been going through two full lessons in less than a half hour. I’m only making him do this a couple of times per week, because he does have some more on-level activities he can be doing, but I know that the grammar review is good for him.
The grammar lessons consist of two components; first, there’s a spelling page where the student reviews the phonograms learned in Jolly Phonics. There’s a spelling test, practice using the phonogram, and a dictation exercise with generally 6 words and 3 short sentences. For Brandon, I gave him the words and he spelled them orally, proving that he didn’t need to study them. If he happens to miss any, we’ll add those to his list for his primary spelling program that we are interspersing with Jolly Grammar. The dictation is right up his alley; it’s pretty simple, but he hasn’t done much of it, needs the handwriting practice, and it’s a great way to review the phonograms. He does need that review and this is an easy (and compliant on his part) way to get in that practice.
The second component is the grammar portion. This might be a specific part of speech, or it might be a mechanics lesson such as alphabetizing or article usage. The program provides an action for each part of speech; honestly, I don’t see at this point how the action benefits the student for grammar. What I do see as beneficial is that each part of speech is assigned a specific color, and the student does the workbook page in a pencil of that color. The action is used to answer an oral quiz, deciding what part of speech each in a list of called out words is. We haven’t gotten very far yet in this program, but I do see the colors being beneficial to him as we go along and I’m going to seriously consider purchasing Book 2 when we finish this first one.
All in all, I’ve been very pleased with the way this program seems to be helping us turn the corner with my three youngest students, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to utilize this new approach to phonics and grammar. It’s certainly different than anything I’ve ever seen, and I look forward to seeing this company grow in popularity within the homeschooling community. Do check them out! You can connect with Jolly Literacy on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.