The North American Phonics programs were not working for us.
I searched and searched. What was going to work for my daughter? We were both struggling. We tried Reading Eggs, but the luster of it had worn off, the lessons were becoming too repetitive in a boring way and it just wasn’t helping her at all. She could not read a whole word and she was getting frustrated. (We still have the membership for reading eggs but only use the extra aspects of this program right now.) The Mathseeds that comes along with ReadingEggs is also a great tool that we use regularly and now my 3-year-old is starting to use it too! As great as these online programs are, we needed more for not only spelling but phonics. I continued to search and search.
All of the phonics programs out there that I could easily find were still not using Phonetics.
I finally found SSP! Speech Sound Pics.
I watched this video and I got really excited. If you are curious please watch it! This is one more amazing lesson from Miss Emma, the creator. Watch it here to understand it much more clearly. This is a great long video that can be used for teacher training, as well as having the child watch it and follow along.
It is a program designed by a teacher in Australia, and it is the only one of it’s kind. She has created a program that is all about code mapping and learning to read the English language! I love this approach. If your kids are having trouble with the program they are on, take a look at this.
Once I found this, Miss Emma steered us to Jolly Phonics, another program that also uses phonetics, the sounding out each sound pic in a word. This is common in the UK, and there was one website that has a lot of free online printable files for small books for the kids to practice reading the exact letter sounds they are learning (there are 7 sets of sounds) (with PDF’s for iBook on the iPad as well) and worksheets found here. This was a great resource for us as it was free, and it included books that were written with the letter sounds they were learning at that time, nothing more. It really helped with confidence for them as they are actually reading every word on the page. It also offers teacher training, which I am now starting to do, which is a free course online. But that link to the free resources was just the beginning because searching more about Jolly Phonics, I really liked how they had organized this. I had found something different, and I hoped it would be the right fit.
So my first test of this plan that I was so pumped to try out, went a bit like this:
I printed off the set of six letters, all in lower case, pre-cursive font. She hated them! I mean, she said, “I don’t know what that letter is”. My heart sank. Oh man, I was certain this was the one! And so, I was a bit frustrated, as I had actually laminated the silly things. So, because of my haste, I soon realized that she was not ready for pre-cursive font, nor was she ready for lower case font, even though I wanted her to be. So, as I was crying to my husband, who always listens to me go on and on, he says to me, “well maybe we need to ask her what she needs.” And so, it hit me like a ton of bricks, oh man I guess I didn’t do that at all, did I?
This time, with her beside me I went to the computer, and I opened a pages document. I typed the letters out and changed the fonts with her, searching for what font she really felt comfortable reading and what she felt was an ‘A’, or an ‘N’ or a ‘P’ and so on. Then I printed them out and cut them into squares. Then I laminated them.(I do love to laminate things) They were so simple, it almost hurt. I wanted something more complex but that was not what she needed. Super huge mommy-teacher moment for sure!
So, now what? I had these super simple letters, hardly any of the letters of the Alphabet in my mind, and I was afraid she would not actually come to the table to look at them and I was worried they would get tossed in a bin and forgotten. What could I do to make these fun to play with? I turned around and saw our new easel. I looked at the new velcro sticker dots we just ordered from Amazon. And, I thought, let’s make it so she can stand up and move and sing and dance around this easel while she moves the letters around! Maybe that could work for her.
And it DID! Oh, my goodness that evening when I said, “come and look at what I have for you”, it was just brilliant. It was the ‘click’ awesome moment you want to remember forever when things start to really make sense for your child, who you have felt has been wanting to learn, but just not getting it up until now. It was really a great thing. Here are some pictures of how we had it set up at that time, in our downstairs art room and playroom (of which I am will be making a post of my new layout for my basement playroom and art room soon!)
As you can see how she started when I put up the letters, she was working with that she could, she was drawing a lot and trying to make up her own way of communicating her thoughts. And once she began to ‘see’ the sound pics she was then able to get excited and she was reading those words, and actually writing those letters. It was very exciting! 🙂 She was so happy and proud of herself. We face-timed her mom-mom and dad-dad to tell them all about it, and they were so happy for her.
So, after we played around with the first set of things I had printed out that first week, I then printed out the words from set 1 and soon after that, the Tricky Words in the Red Level, as well as those Duck Words (that she found ‘we’ from, it is still her favorite word) so we could place the written word (all in uppercase) for her to copy and look at for a reference. Then we would place the words in the upper corner of the easel. She could find the matching letters, that were in a bowl what she would dump out and search through and start to build the word while sounding out each sound. This had no stress of handwriting for her unless she wanted to grab the pen and try to write it because she was having a lot of anxiety with handwriting as well, and I wanted the learning to continue despite that. With the readers, the free books from the website I mentioned earlier, all the words were of course, in lower case font. So, I made little tabs, that would cover the words, and I wrote in upper case, all the words for each page, and she could flip it up if she wanted to see the lower case words. Then she felt comfortable with it and was happy. Ok, great, so I really needed to hand make everything for her…. good grief hey? But it has paid off because my little girl is an inventor in her own right and loves to learn. She was drawn to the idea of hieroglyphics because they were not letters, they were pictures. And when I learned about this approach, os SSP, and jolly phonics, and that the sounds have ‘pictures’, it really helped her. Because she is very creative and inventive herself, trying to work with that to her advantage, we have been leading down the road of using Minecraft for our school work, which you can read more about in that post here.
Here are some pictures of our playroom where I painted a mural of a tree and we hang up the Duck Words we are learning, which leads to under the stairs to the kids ‘FOX DEN’ which they just LOVE playing in. I also had the days of the week all lined out for us to see what we were doing that day. I did soon rearrange this, as I always tend to do for one reason or another (new house, cabin fever in winter, always at home, love to rearrange, moving the computer upstairs, the list goes on).
However, I also liked to reward for good work, or even just for good attitude, with little sticker cards. *Now, we do this sometimes, but not all the time. Stickers may just go on individual work pages, or on these special cards, but other times it’s all positive praise or they get to pick a surprise from the treasure chest, which they really like.
We take breaks a lot too, we never really do anything the same for longer than 2 weeks at a time, it seems to always make a shift after 2 weeks in some way. That may sound crazy, but it is true. They say it is important to give the brain a break, to process and mature, so it can then learn more and continue to progress.
At other times, I would use the Jolly Phonics Book that you simply read to the child and allow the child to trace with their finger on the letters on each page, that have a texture of lined grooves to follow, as well as listen to the Jolly Songs App on the iPad. You can also find them on Youtube for free, right here the Jolly Phonics Songs, All Phases, I would find this on my apple tv Youtube channel and play it while we play board games, or while we were driving in the car, or while we were eating lunch, or just simply playing in the living room. We would work on only those 1st six sounds, and my goal for them was to really let them sink in, that these are the only letters we are bothering with right now, nothing more. I allowed them to see them and they started to naturally build words out of them while they sat down and looked up at them on the wall. They were allowing the letters to sink in. That is what I wanted to do before we started on the next six. You can add them one by one after the first 6, but I did not, in the end, do that. Here you can see our two sets of Jolly Phonics Letters on our wall in our dining room, where they see them a lot. I also had them hanging up in our art room on the clothes pins wire with all their art work.
We would work on only those 1st six sounds, and my goal for them was to really let them sink in, that these are the only letters we are bothering with right now, nothing more. I allowed them to see them and they started to naturally build words out of them while they sat down and looked up at them on the wall. They were allowing the letters sink in. That is what I wanted to do before we started on the next six. You can add them one by one after the first 6, but I did not, in the end, do that. Here you can see our two sets of Jolly Phonics Letters on our wall in our dining room, where they see them a lot. I also had them hanging up in our art room on the clothes pins wire with all their artwork.
But, because I was so excited about the Code Mapping from the SSP Approach, I then created my own Code Mapped words for her, in the Tricky Words and with the words we are learning for each set of letters.(TAP, PIN, TIP, SIP, SAT, SIT, SPIT, TAN, PAN, PAT, AT, IN, AS) Because the Code Mapping really works for my daughter at this time, I am putting in that effort to make our own flash cards. We also use the Duck Hands Approach with sounding out each pic and my daughter enjoys that a lot. SSP has ‘Duck Words’ which are High-Frequency words and different levels for them but the Jolly Phonics Tricky Words are what we are starting with at this time, because they start with some of the smaller more frequently said words, that I wanted her to master them first, and I did not want to overwhelm them with too many words. I plan to still get into the Duck Words soon enough. They are High-Frequency Words, and there are A LOT of them! Before this way of Code Mapping, the sight words were actually freaking me out, as I had no knowledge of how to teach them, which made me feel a little inadequate, to be honest. I had downloaded, printed and laminated a bunch of flash cards with sight words on them, and they had pictures on them to try to ‘help’ you ‘remember’ the word, but it was SO confusing, that it just caused, even more, confusion! I was so happy to have found this, that is for sure. Now I have a clear path of how to teach, what to teach, and when to introduce it. Brilliant!
Before this way of Code Mapping, the sight words were actually freaking me out, as I had no knowledge of how to teach them, which made me feel a little inadequate, to be honest. I had downloaded, printed and laminated a bunch of flash cards with sight words on them, and they had pictures on them to try to ‘help’ you ‘remember’ the word, but it was so confusing, that it just caused, even more, confusion! I was so happy to have found this, that is for sure. Now I have a clear path of how to teach, what to teach, and when to introduce it. Brilliant!
We began to do a lot of keyboarding with Minecraft, and the typing in uppercase letters on the keyboard and seeing them type in lower case has really helped her a lot, and now when we do our Jolly phonics, we do it in Minecraft as she is learning to do it where she feels comfortable, where she can have fun and be create and doesn’t get bored. (It has also begun to trickle down to her writing and reading while she plays Roblox, many other tricky words) But, I soon made a portable version of the easel. I put it in their binders! The binders that we put all of their handouts, drawings, unit studies, etc and they go into their backpacks. My son really loves this, and he moves the letters around and picks his next word from the bag of words that I store in the handy pouches of the binder.
But, the easel was working for those certain times my daughter was not in the mood to sit, but I soon made a portable version of the easel, in case she was wanting to sit, or maybe take it from room to room. So, I put it in their binders! The binders that we put most everything into, and keep in their backpacks, of which you can find out more in ou homeschool space tour. My son really loves this, and he moves the letters around and picks his next word from the bag of words we store in the binder.
And here you can see how I adapted the free printable readers and added on the flaps with the capitals for her. She can flip them and check to see the difference.
Another fun thing I like to create are simple letter searches for my kids, to solidify the letters on their own, not just in the words we are learning. A review as it were. I print off free coloring pages from the internet and write the letters in the picture. We play games with those, place stickers or stones on top of the letter once they find it, I call out the letter or they draw the letter out of a bowl or a bag and they enjoy it as they are different pictures every time, but still the same concept. I have even started to do this with the coloring pages associated with the new countries and cities we are learning in our geography, like Pairs and lavender fields or London and the double decker bus. I am sure we will transform this into something different as we go, but that is the beauty of creating your own curriculum to suit the child. 🙂 Here we have her coloring pages, and her work page open while she finds a little school house to do her letter and word typing in Minecraft.
OK, here are all the Fun RESOURCE LINKS for you to check out!
Fun Coloring Pages: you can go and download and re-create this for you child
TPT: I found some good resources for the Tricky Words on Teachers Pay Teachers. I would say having an account for this website has been great.(however, just to note, that these do NOT have any Code Mapped words, I am currently working on my free downloads for those!)
- Tricky Words Workbook by Living Breathing and Loving Teaching on TpT, we use this a lot, it is helping with writing as well, and cutting and pasting.
- Tricky Words Fishing Game by Adam Claridge on TpT – this one is a FREE Download
- Tricky Words Bundle 2 by Living Breathing Loving Teaching on TpT
Jolly Phonics Readers and Materials that we use and have found on Amazon.ca
- Jolly Phonics Stories by Sara Wernham and Sue Lloyd
- Jolly Phonics Readers Level 1, Red, Complete Set in Print Letters
- Jolly Phonics Readers Level 2, Yellow, Complete Set
- Jolly Phonics Readers Level 3, Green, Complete Set
- Jolly Phonics Readers Level 4, Blue, Complete Set
- Jolly Phonics DVD
- Jolly Phonics Home Kit – Great if you want to just get it all at once!
- Jolly Phonics Workbooks 1-7 – We just started in with these, they are nice and compact, they do have pre-cursive letters and they have the same characters like in all the other material and fun coloring images
- Jolly Phonics Wall Frieze
- Jolly Phonics Alternate Spelling & Alphabet Posters
Jolly Phonics Videos on YouTube, and other learning resources:
- Jolly Phonics Songs, Phase 1 in the correct order of the sets, not alphabetical
- Jolly Phonics Songs, All Phases in one video
- The 42 Sounds of Jolly Phonics
- Jolly Phonics letter sounds ( pronunciation video, watching the mouth move with each sound)
Jolly Phonics Apps for iPhone and iPad that we use
- Jolly Phonics Letter Sounds App Info – More info on the official site
- Jolly Phonics Letter Sounds App – Download Link on iTunes
- Jolly Phonics Lessons by Jolly Learning -Download Link on iTunes ~ This is also another great teacher resource, helping you go to each letter, in the 7 sets, and they have the lesson outline right there.
- Jolly Phonics Songs by Jolly Leaning – Download Link on iTunes
- Lucas PhonicBurst App for Ipad: s,a,t,p,i,n,m,d, g,o,c,k,ck,e,u,r , h,b,f,ff,l,ll,ss, -Download these from iTunes
SSP videos for learning this unique approach to phonics, as you may never have seen before:
- Whole English Language SSP Phonics Reading and Spelling Lesson with Miss Emma * Such a great video, a MUST watch
This post really has been a work in progress, and I am sure it will continue to be that the more we explore this beautiful phase of learning to read! I hope that this information that I have shared with you has been helpful, as well as all the links. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below!
Until the next post, take deep breaths,