Jolly Grammar


In the first year of Jolly Phonics the children are expected to:

  • learn 42 letter sounds, followed by 22 alternative spellings
  • form the letters correctly
  • blend words that use the known letter sounds
  • segment and write words and sentences, from dictation and independently
  • read and spell 72 tricky words
  • read decodable books

This gets the children off to a flying start. Once a child can read and write relatively easily then it is important to strengthen other literacy skills, namely more complex comprehension, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, dictionary work and grammar.


The Jolly Phonics Grammar Handbooks have been developed to provide these skills. The same multi-sensory and active approach has been used to make the learning more interesting and effective, such as providing actions and colours for the parts of speech. For example, the nouns are black, pronouns pink, adjectives blue, verbs red, adverbs orange, conjunctions purple and prepositions green. You can also see that there are actions for the parts of speech. They are shown in the boxes (demonstrated).


The Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation programme extends throughout the primary years until the children are 11 years old. There are five handbooks, which will soon be six, consisting mainly of reproducible activity sheets for two lessons a week. Each lesson is designed to be about one hour in duration and materials are provided for 36 weeks.


Generally speaking ‘The Phonics Handbook’ covers the first year of teaching and is followed the next year by The Grammar 1 Handbook. At the end of the first year of Jolly Phonics it is important that the majority of the children have learnt the letter sounds, automatically blend unknown words and write confidently. They should have developed a good phonic knowledge.


Circumstances around the world vary a great deal and if the majority of the children in a class are not confident with reading and writing simple decodable text then it is better to delay the start of the Grammar 1 Handbook and concentrate on improving the basic reading, writing and phonic skills that the children should have learnt in the first year.


The first grammar handbook is similar in format to the Jolly Phonics Handbook. Here is the contents page, which lists what is taught each week, followed by useful information about teaching the grammar and spelling. Teachers know very well that some children take longer to learn new information and that it is important to always revisit and practise what has been taught. This applies particularly to the digraphs that were taught in the first year of teaching, which is why one digraph is revised virtually every week in the spelling lesson. Here the <sh> digraph for the  /sh/ sound is being revised. Opposite the children’s activity sheet are the lesson notes for the teacher. The first part of the lesson is a revision exercise of all 42 letter sounds, then the main point; in this case, making a list of the words that use the <sh> spelling of the /sh/ sound, Then there are instructions for what is needed to complete the spelling sheet. Each lesson includes the dictation of six words and three short sentences, which concentrate on the focus digraph.


Lastly there is a spelling list of 10 words for the children to take home and learn. These words should also be practiced at odd moments during the week at school. The first two in the list are really easy. The children just listen for the sounds and write the letters for the sounds. The third one has a consonant blend in it, which makes it slightly more difficult to hear all the sounds, as with ‘clap’ /c-l-a-p/. Then the next four spellings are simple and use the focus letter sound. For the 8th & 9th words the tricky words are revisited, starting right from the very first ones, but this time putting more emphasis on accurate spelling. Lastly there is a challenging longer word that is regular and relatively easy, too. The other 35 spelling sheets follow the same format, revising the digraphs.


Now the other lesson in the week is the grammar lesson. As the children are young, the word grammar is used broadly and includes punctuation, alphabetical order, doubling rules, dictionary work, as well as parts of speech. The aim, over the years, is to bring more conscious control over the clarity and quality of the children’s writing, which later will help them understand more complicated texts and learn foreign languages with greater ease.


The first lessons revise the formation of capital letters, and provide the children with a simple understanding of what a sentence is: that it should make sense, start with a capital letter and end with a dot, which is known as a full stop in the English version of the handbook and a period in the American version.


Then the children are introduced to Proper Nouns. There is an action for them and the colour linked to them is black. The colours are useful for identifying the parts of speech and are the same as those used in Montessori Schools. So here are the lesson notes starting with the Aim, then the Introduction and Main Point.


For this lesson the children are learning that special names, such as their own names, the name of their teacher, school, road, town, hospital etc. are always written with a capital letter at the beginning. They are known as Proper Nouns.


For the first two years there are big books to support the teaching. This is the Proper nouns page. Here are pictures of some of the other pages (demonstrated). There is an action for a Proper Noun. It is to touch your forehead with two fingers. This is the same action as that used for the word ‘name’ in British Sign Language. Teachers can then ask the children to give them one of these (action demonstrated) and the children provide several proper nouns. Alternatively the teacher can call out words and if it is a proper noun the children can do the action. It helps to keep the children active and interested.


The colour for nouns is black. This enables the children to start learning to parse, which is identifying the parts of speech. They look at a sentence, like this top one, ‘Javid attended Hillside Primary School’ and underline the Proper Nouns in black (demonstrated).


Later on, after the children have been taught more parts of speech and their colours, then they can identify more words in sentences like this one, ‘She looked carefully for the silver coin.’ The first word is a pronoun, so the word ‘she’ is underlined in pink, the next word is the verb ‘to look’ and the word ‘looked’ needs a red line under it. Then there is the adverb ‘carefully’, which describes the verb and needs an orange line under it. The noun is the word ‘coin’, so the word ‘coin’ should be underlined in black but there is also a description of the noun. It is a silver coin, so silver is an adjective and needs a blue line under it. Lastly the word ‘for’ is a preposition. It is a word that enables the pronoun to link to the noun. So it should have a green line under it (parsing demonstrated).


The format for all the handbooks is similar, except that each one becomes progressively harder as the children become older and more skilled.

For example, in ‘The Grammar 3 Handbook’ there are more activities to be completed, not just those linked to learning the spellings. Here are activities for practising skills that were taught in the grammar lessons. The words in this activity have to be looked up in the dictionary, these words split into syllables and the children have to identify the parts of speech and the subject in these sentences. It is only through regularly practising these skills do they become easy.


Traditionally the teaching of grammar has been thought of as being too difficult for young children. In our experience this is not true, particularly when the children, like those using the Jolly Phonics Grammar Programme, are taught in a fun, active and multi-sensory way, starting with simple aspects and gradually progressing to the more complex ones.


It is important to keep the teaching simple, use the step-by-step progression and frequently revisit what has been taught, which is why it is advisable to follow the order of the teaching in the handbooks. For example, the nouns need to be known before the adjectives because the adjectives describe the nouns. Also older children cannot be expected to start the handbook that is appropriate for their age if they haven’t been taught the concepts and knowledge in the previous handbooks.


In this Jolly Learning catalogue there is information for teachers wishing to have a much more detailed training in the Jolly Phonics Grammar programme. One of the options is the extremely informative CPD online training course and the other is a training day delivered by an experienced Jolly Phonics teacher. Links to these courses have been provided in the Links section below.


Teachers around the world often prefer their children to have pupil books, like these, rather than reproducible activity sheets. Information about these and other materials linked to the Jolly Phonics Grammar programme can be seen in the ‘Other videos’ section below.