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Jolly Phonics and the New National Curriculum for English

Megan Entecott – October 2013

From September 2014, maintained schools in England will be required to teach the new National Curriculum.  The curriculum lists 7 core aims for English, centred on promoting high standards of language and literacy, and equipping pupils with a strong command of the spoken and written word. As has been widely reported, there are more statutory requirements for teaching spelling, grammar and punctuation. Alongside this, there is also a lot of emphasis on encouraging children to read (and write) for pleasure and it is clear that these two features don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Co-authors of the Jolly Phonics scheme, Sara Wernham and Sue Lloyd have developed the programme to provide teaching resources that allow the teaching of the rules of standard English while keeping children active and engaged in their own learning. The programme also matches the new National Curriculum well. Sue and Sara also also carry this fun element into their teaching and training. Take, for example, the activity that Sara uses to teach expanding a sentence.

To start with, Sara ties a ‘washing line’ across the front of the class, with a Snake puppet at one end, and ‘Grandpa Snake’ (another Snake puppet covered in grey socks) at the other end.  She then starts to talk about these two characters, setting up a scenario where Grandpa has come around for lunch. Snake, being a good grandson, is telling Grandpa what they are having for lunch.

“We are having eggs,” said Snake.

This is the sentence that Sara then pins up on the washing line, with each word and punctuation mark written on a separate piece of paper. As she writes it out and pegs it up, she revises each part of speech with the children. For example, she would do the action for a pronoun for ‘we’, and use a pink pen, which is the colour for pronouns. With older children, she might ask them to come up and put the sentence in order so that it makes sense.

Once this simple sentence is up, she then starts to discuss with the children what kind of information the sentence gives, and whether they think it is interesting or not. For example, what kind of eggs is Snake having? Does Snake say that it is lunch and not dinner? How did Snake say it? Where would the punctuation go? This is a good way to develop children’s descriptive vocabulary, as well as building their understanding of grammar and punctuation. When they suggest words, Sara discusses whether they are adjectives or adverbs, all the time revising and reinforcing the lessons they have already covered.

As the children decide on the words that they want, Sara adds them into the sentence, gradually building it until she has a longer, descriptive sentence that is full of information:

“We are having enormous ostrich eggs for lunch,” Snake hissed hungrily.

Once the children are happy with their sentence, they can write it down themselves. For an extra activity, you can also get the children to think about what might happen next and each independently write their own version of what happened at lunch with Snake and Grandpa.

Revision of key grammatical features runs throughout the activity and the children are kept active and engaged so that they do not realise that through this ‘game’ they are continuing to learn. The discussions that form part of the lesson also help to support and develop their speaking and listening skills.

Practical activities such as this, which are used throughout our training and programme, enable effective teaching that supports the aims of the new National Curriculum as it teaches spelling, grammar and punctuation, whilst also developing comprehension and both spoken and written language skills.

For more information on the new National Curriculum, take a look at our National Curriculum Frequently Asked Questions. Keep an eye out for our forthcoming document detailing how Jolly Phonics fits with the new National Curriculum.

Megan Entecott – October 2013