A Day in the Life of FunLab Integrated Phonics – 1. Sounds and meanings

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Today we would like to share some special moments captured during one of our English classes for children using our method of teaching which is based on Jolly Phonics. Welcome to a”Day in the Life of a FunLab Integrated Phonics English class“. This first post is dedicated to showing how our young students are able to recognize single sounds and then blend to read their first words in English!

The aim behind these posts is simple: we would like to directly show you how much our students learn. Sometimes seeing is believing – in our case, we think that seeing these videos will help you understand the strength and value of our classes. We do not just ask the kids to learn to say “my name is” or repeat memorized sentences such as “the sun is yellow”. Here we can show you how the children learn to correctly pronouce sounds, blend the sounds into words AND associate a word to a meaning, all of this without passing through ITALIAN. Our motto is “do not translate!”.

We have written about the strengths of Jolly Phonics in previous posts (click here for the link). We have explained how FunLab has created a method of teaching English based on a phonetic approach (Jolly Phonics) combined with arts, crafts and games: many of the posts that you find on the FunLab blog are dedicated to showing the FunLab approach to teaching English  (click here). Futhermore, we have implemented the FunLab integrated English method in local schools for years. Now we would like to share some videos illustrating the fantastic level that children can reaching using such an approach. Remember that the children in these videos are in PRESCHOOL!  Some are only 4 years old. Truely amazing. Stay tuned for videos from children in our elementary school classes in upcoming posts!

This class has completed 18 hours of lessons and the first three Jolly Phonics books giving us a first set of sounds to use in our blending excercises.  The class is held in a public preschool in downtown Milan.  It is a large class for us (12 children), as we usually prefer a maximum of 10 kids but in this case the class has worked out really well even if a little “oversized”.

The class is composed of 5 four year olds and 7 five year olds.

Here is our open class: curious to see what we do?

1. Sounds. The first part of every lesson is dedicated to reviewing sounds. Here the children are presented with single letters and need to remember the corresponding sound. Notice than when a child is blocked, the teacher sings the Jolly Phonics sound song which acts as a trigger for the child’s memory. This highlights the importance of songs in the Jolly Phonics method in the learning process:).

In the following videos, you can see children recognizing single sounds:

Ginevra, 5 years old

Giorgio, 5 years old

Anna, 5 years old

2. English:  linking words to meanings. While implementing the Jolly Phonics method, we need to intregrate ENGLISH content (meaning words and meanings).  We use many techniques but here you can see: Magic Finger and Take a Picture. In Magic Finger, the teacher points at a flashcard with an image and the children say the word represented in the image.

In Take a Picture, the children take a picture in their minds of the flashcards on the table and then close their eyes. While the children have their eyes closed, the teacher removes one of the flashcards. When the children open their eyes, they need to recognize which image is missing and call out the word.

Watch this video showing how the children play Magic Finger and Take a Picture. We would like to remind you that these are Italian children, native Italian speakers who have only had 18 lessons. Look at the suprising results. Listen to the pronuciation. Great job kids!

3. Blending is an important next step – uniting those single sounds into a word (not an easy thing in ENGLISH!?). During every lesson, we take some time to blend sounds into words. With Jolly Phonics, it is quite easy to get children to read using blending. However, it is important to remember that Jolly Phonics was developed for English native speakers, instead our children need to learn to associate English words to meanings. Reading without understanding anything would be too frustrating for this age group. In the following video, you will see how the kids first read the single sounds and then blend them together to READ a word in English. To complete the game, they then need to point to the flashcard with the image of the word that they have read.

In these videos, you will see children who read using blending and then recognize the meaning of the word (the meaning game) – (gives me goose bumps everytime!)

Federico, 4 years old

Anna, 5 years old

Ginevra, 5 years old

Giorgio, 5 years old

Stay tuned because we will keep you updated on the progress that our little students make in further posts in the a “Day in the life of a FunLab Intregrated English class” series. We hope that you can discover and understand the strengths of this method.   In future posts, you will find confirmation of what you have seen in this post as well as see the other great activites that we use during our classes. Children LEARN English with this modern method, a perfect mix of Phonics English (Jolly Phonics) and the arts, crafts and games developed by FunLab.

For more information regarding this method, please contact Alison Smith, FunLab Workshop Director and codeveloper of the Funlab integrated English method by writing to

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