Sunday, 27 September 2015

Introducing Phonics through Interest-led Learning

I am a huge supporter of young children learning  phonics as a foundation for reading, writing and spelling. Phonics is the connection between graphemes (letter symbols) and sounds. Phonemic awareness (understanding that words are made up of small segments of sound) can develop naturally through speaking and listening so a good phonics program will help connect the sounds that the learner already knows with written symbols or letters . 

The most effective programs will have a synthetic approach to learning phonics where they introduce a small set of sounds with letters that can be immediately used in reading and writing of small cvc (consonant vowel consonant) words such as cat, mat, hat etc. We have been using the Jolly Phonics Program together with Montessori learning, as it follows a synthetic, multi-sensory approach to learning phonics. So to suit the needs and learning styles of my children, these are the different resources that we use for introducing phonics through interest-led learning.

Before my children began to read and write, we made it a habit of listening to the Jolly Phonic Songs CD whenever we were driving in the car or when we wanted to dance to some music. I had implemented the jolly phonics program when I was teaching in the classroom and loved this multi-sensory approach of using actions with songs to learn phonics. We used the phonics CD which comes with a book so you are able to see what actions go with each song and sound. This was a very informal, natural way of introducing my children to phonics.

To further support the learning of phonics, I prepared our learning environment so it would giving my children maximum independence with plenty of opportunities to explore letters and sounds. I started with putting together an alphabet box. You can read more about DIY Alphabet Boxes from here

I used objects from around our home to place inside each box making sure each objects initial sound matched the alphabet box it was in. For example, for the 'i' box I placed in a felt picture of an 'igloo' and some 'insects' as they start with the short 'i' sound unlike ice cream which uses the long 'i' sound.

Once the box was together, my children was immediately interested in what this box was and how they could use it. So I spent time talking with my daughters about the sounds and objects that they were interested in and how they go together with our jolly phonic songs and actions that we already knew. My daughters would remove the objects from the draw of their choosing and tell me what each item  was called. We would select our matching Montessori Sandpaper Letter to reinforce the sound and to look at how the matching letter was shaped in this multi-sensory activity. This would be followed by singing our jolly phonics song and lots of dancing of course.

As my daughters became more familiar with the alphabet box, we began using it in a few different ways. The Jolly Phonics approach is sequential in that it focuses on introducing five letters/sounds at one time and starts putting these sounds into simple words (spelling) and reinforces these words with readers. To introduce more sequence to our approach I took the opportunity to select the objects from our alphabet box that matched the sound/letter sequence suggested by the Jolly Phonics program and put them into a little basket for my daughters to sort, match and explore. 

At different times we used our Montessori Movable Alphabet (pictured below) to match items from the basket to the sound/letter and at other times we used Montessori Sandpaper Letters to reinforce the sound as well as the letter formation. Before we got the movable alphabet, we used the Jolly Phonic Magnetic Letters which are also colour coded too.

Although it is suggested that learning in sequence is good, it is also just as important to follow the child. With having an environment that supports independent learning, spontaneous activities can occur and should be encouraged and supported where necessary. At different times my daughters put letters in order of the alphabet, using our movable alphabet, and matched objects from our alphabet box to each letter independently.

They did the same thing when they put together their giant jumbo alphabet puzzle (below). In many ways these child-led activities were like an 'assessment' in that it gave me insight into what sounds my daughters knew and what they may need further support with. 

When we aren't playing with our alphabet box, there are other items in our learning environment that encourages an interest in phonics. As well as our Jolly Phonics CD, we use the large Jolly Phonics poster to provoke a curiosity and to support learning where necessary. When we were first learning the songs and actions of each song we also used this poster as a reference to what sound we were singing and what little items help remind us what sound the letter makes.

There are many different ways to learn phonics and each approach/program should be aimed at supporting the learner and their needs. For those learners who learn better with workbooks, there is also Jolly Phonic Workbooks 1-7 that go with this program. My daughters also like to listen to stories so we used the Jolly Stories Book to reinforce sounds.

Thanks to one of my favourite Australian educational websites, have kindly offered you, my readers, a chance to win your very own FREE copy of the Jolly Phonics Letter Sound Poster and a FREE Jolly Song Book and CD. PLUS I will also throw in a FREE Jolly Phonics Letter Sound Strip. All you have to do is comment at the bottom of my blog post and tell me what is your favourite product on the


This giveaway is open to Australian residents only. The winner will be announced on my facebook page and I will contact them via email.  
The giveaway is now closed.


This is not a sponsored post. I have not received any money or products however all ideas and thoughts expressed here are my own.


  1. Hi Suzie, great competition, thanks! I also have a 5 year old homes schooler and I always appreciate your posts. I have looked at the site and all of their products look great! but I really like the Melissa and Doug: See and Spell. Melissa Scheffer

  2. Thanks for sharing all these inasiring ideas! I am totally sold on creating my own alphabet drawers for my kids now. Love the natural spaces see through coloured blocks on

  3. Thanks for sharing. I love so many things from this site it's hard to pick one!!! I love all the building block, particularly the natural building blocks, but what I have been looking for is resources for emotional intelligence, so I'd have to pick the emotion stones and my favourite.
    Think I just might have to go spend up big

  4. Oh wow what a terrific post, and I'm just drooling over your wooden letters:) Haven't even heard of, where have I been?! anyhow love the look of their Lakeshore wipe and write letter lower case. makes perfect sense!

  5. This was such a good post for me right now! My son is really becoming interested in phonetics and I have been trying to expand on his interest in our daily work. You have really inspired me with the alaphabet box! I would love anything from the site! Since we are nature lovers, I especially loved the rock card kit.

  6. I love your blog and agree with what everyone has said especially your letter box idea. Your really dedicated. I have an 11 year old who has strong sensory and dyslexia issues but is very dedicated to his reading. I also have a eight and three year I am homeschooling. Thank you for these great ideas. From the site I love the maths resources especially the different types of abacus and multiplication bingo. Thankyou

  7. We love all of the Micador products!

    1. Congratulations Sandra, you are the winner of our Jolly Phonics GIVEAWAY!

    2. OMG this is the first thing I have won in over 10 years! Super cool and perfect for my 8 year old who is starting to learn how to read.

  8. Your blog inspires me in my homeschooling journey with my complicated kids. I particularly like Orchard. Toys literacy game

  9. I would SOnlive this as I am teaching 4 of my children to read right now. Need everything you mentioned in this awesome post. Haha

  10. Oh this post is so timely! My daughter is going through a sensitive period for reading at the moment. From the website, I'd love to get the Jolly Phonics Readers Level 1 for her. Thank you!

  11. Ooh I love the science kits like the solar power and weather station.

  12. Wow what a great opportunity to obtain these fab resources! Thank you :-) I love the alphabet bean bags! Perfect for my Son who struggles with letter recognition.

  13. I love the ABC poster! I have been trying to find a pretty one for ages that would suit our home and that is the closest I have seen. Thanks for the great information in your post. So fun to see an Australian home school blog, as most I've come across are US based. Best Wishes Georgina

  14. So excited to read this blog -

    This is something I really feel I missed completely when I was young and passionately want to encourage 'phonics' in our home.

    However I feel completely overwhelmed! just how I do that.

    I'm excited about what you have shared and how interactive I could make this for my sons to explore, as I think this would be very appealing for busy little boys.