Jelly and Bean

Frequently Asked Questions

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There are 4 principles of synthetic phonics set out by its advocates at the Reading Reform Foundation and by the Department for Education in England.

1. Initially children are taught one grapheme for each of the 44 phonemes of the English language. They begin with the sounds corresponding to a few letters of the alphabet. They are taught how to blend these sounds together to approximate real words. Then, using their own knowledge of their own spoken language, these approximations will hopefully lead them to words that they recognise and understand. (Their ability to blend combinations of sounds corresponding to letters is later assessed using real words and pseudo-words in the Phonics Screening Check at the end of Year 1). 

2. Children are NOT taught an initial sight vocabulary of words to start them on their journey of learning to read. By this, I mean that children are NOT taught to recognise some very common words, that they know and understand, by seeing them written down and remembering them as whole words, before they are taught the sounds corresponding to letters.

3. Children are NOT taught to recognise any words by the sight of the whole written word. They are taught to say out loud the sounds corresponding to the letters (graphemes), and then to blend the sounds together. The sounds in irregular words are explained as variations of the 'alphabetic code', i.e. the 44 sounds have different spellings in different words, e.g. 'o' is a different spelling of the sound /oo/ in the word 'to', and 'ou' is a different spelling of the sound /oo/ in the words 'you'.)

4. Only single cueing from sound is allowed for decoding. Multi-cueing from pictures or context (semantics) or sentence structure (syntax) is NOT allowed. This is because the synthetic phonic method is based on the Simple View of Reading, which has only two components, skilled word recognition (decoding) and spoken language comprehension.


The Jelly and Bean approach to learning to read and write is based on a more analytical method of decoding and deciphering written words.

1. Children begin by looking at whole written words that they already understand. These words are then analysed. It is essential that teachers ensure children know the meaning of the written words they see before they start to decode them.

2. Pictures are used to make sure children understand the words prior to learning the sounds within them. These sounds in words are abstract knowledge. They have been abstracted from the continuously changing stream of speech to correspond to symbols invented especially for the purpose of changing a communication in a spoken medium to a communication in a visual medium. Children have to learn how to recognise the sounds in their own spoken words first, and then abstract these sounds in order to say them. This is not an easy task. Children have not needed to do this whilst they have been learning to talk. It is the meaning of the words they have been paying attention to, not the sounds within them. (Listen to someone talk. Do you notice the sounds in the words whilst you are paying attention to what is said? No. You have to go back and think about the words to analyse them into the perceived sounds.)

3. High frequency words like 'the, to, go, me, you' are thought of as whole words with specific spellings. Children are not given an explanation of 'alphabetic code' variations, e.g. We do not advocate telling children that the 'o' in 'to', or 'ou' in 'you' are alternative spellings of the /oo/ phoneme, when they first see these words because this pre-supposes that they have already learnt the /oo/ sound and the spelling 'oo'. Similarly, telling children that the the 'o' spelling in 'go' is a different spelling of the /oa/ sound, pre-supposes that they have met the sound and spelling /oa/. Trying to spilt the word 'the' into phonemes pre-supposes that children have met the phoneme /th/ and the schwa sound of 'e'. Whilst this is true linguistic knowledge, the author believes it is a 'top down' approach which can only be appreciated when the children have more experience of reading many more words. Children meet words like 'the, me, you, to, go' very early in their own early writing and it is easier for them to learn the whole words as meaningful concepts with specific spellings.

4. Multi-cueing from pictures, context and sentence structure is to be encouraged so that children use all their senses and knowledge to think about what they are doing and to work out the written words from all the clues available to them. When reading continuous text, it is impossible to ignore what has been read prior to meeting the next word in the sentence. It is also impossible to ignore the structure of the sentence in terms of syntax (order of words). These facets are used automatically, and they show that we all use a multi-cueing approach when reading. 

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Marlene Greenwood (nee Whalley) was born in Lancashire in 1945. She lived in Ramsbottom until 1951. Then the family bought a shop in Manchester and moved there. Four years later they all moved to Southport. In 1956 Marlene passed the 11 plus examination and began her secondary education at Southport Highschool for Girls.

She gained 9 GCE O Levels in 1961 and 3 A levels in 1963. These were Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry. However, Marlene did not go on to higher education. She began working as a bank clerk in Southport.

After marrying in 1964, she and her husband moved to Wolverhampton and their first house was in Shifnal, Shropshire. Her husband's career then took them to Horsforth, near Leeds, in 1968 and on to Garforth in 1970. Their two children were born in Garforth and Marlene was a fulltime mother. In 1977, her husband's work took them to Harrogate, where they have lived ever since.

In the late 1970's Marlene studied Art at GCE A Level. By 1980 she was ready to embark on the next stage of life and went to the local FE college to retake A Level Mathematics. This lead to a Bsc Honours degree from Leeds University in Mathematics and the History and Philosophy of Science in 1984.

After a PGCE course in 1985 she qualified as a teacher of secondary Mathematics and Science. She taught pupils of all ability levels aged from 11-18. Her teaching groups ranged from pupils in Year 7 to A Level Pure and Applied Maths groups. She also taught GCSE Information Technology and Year 9 Physics and Chemistry.

She retired from teaching in 1996. By this time she had two young grandchildren and she became interested in how children learn to read. She wrote and illustrated some books based on phonics in 1997, then the first Jelly and Bean books in 1998. These have developed into the complete Jelly and Bean reading scheme of 140 books available today.



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A. Yes. Jelly and Bean books have been structured to form a reading scheme for children of 4-7 years old learning to read in nursery and infant schools or at home.

The stories provide children with small achievable steps when they are learning to read. They learn without any difficulty and enjoy the process. Each series of stories introduces written words with new phonic content and more common irregular words. Each series reinforces the work of the previous series.

The phonic phases that underpin the Jelly and Bean books are those of Letters and Sounds (2007). The phonic teaching strategy on which they are based is that of the National Literacy Strategy (1998).

Within the detailed guidance for these two schemes, the Department for Education identified the elements of a systematic phonic progression and the 100 most common words in written English that children need to know for them to make progress in learning to read and write.

Some of these words are 'phonically regular' and some are 'common exception words'. They have been incorporated into our books gradually. Their first point of introduction can be found in our Reading Order List.

By combining these two aspects of the National Literacy Strategy and Letters and Sounds, we have ensured that our books fit comfortably within the Phonic Phases of Letters and Sounds and also the coloured book-band system for guided reading. Our Reading Order List gives the book-band colour, the phonic phase, the point of introduction of each phoneme/grapheme correspondence, the point of introduction of the 100 most frequently written words in English as well as the next 200 most common words.


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No. The order of introduction of letters and sounds is different in all the phonic programmes. However, they all introduce the letters of the alphabet, the consonant digraphs, 'th, sh, ch' and the vowel digraphs, 'ee, oo' in the Reception Year.



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The use of these two words early in the A Series is due to them being on the old list of 45 high-frequency words set out in the National Literacy Strategy in 1998 for children to learn in the Reception Year.

However, they are both very useful verbs to hold CVC words together in simple sentences.

Both words have two identical letters in the middle, 'ee' and 'oo'. It is possible to draw a pair of eyes in each of these letters. The verbs 'see' and 'look' then genuinely do represent their own meanings. In this way, the words 'see' and 'look' become very good reminders of the sounds for 'ee' and 'oo' in other words learnt later.

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The letter 'y' has at least four different roles in the English language, three of these as vowels and one as a consonant. Young children meet these different roles in the very common words 'mummy, my, yes, gym' before they first attend school.

Jelly and Bean books deal with the role used in 'mummy' first. Here the sound at the end of the word 'mummy' is /i/ (or sometimes /ee/, depending on accent and region). Now, 'i' is a shy little letter and does not like to be at the end of a word, so big tough 'y' helps him out and takes his place. This rule is known as the 'Shy i, Toughy y Rule' and it gives children a good way to remember that we use 'y' at the ends of words like 'happy, daddy, sorry' and 'mummy'. Children need to know this rule early so that they can write birthday cards to 'mummy' and 'daddy'.

The second role of 'y' is in words like 'my, by, cry, sky, fly', where it is pronounced as the 'long vowel' of the word 'I'. It is first introduced in the word 'my' in book 10 of the A Series.

The third role of 'y', as a consonant, can be found at the beginning of words like, e.g. 'you, yes, yell, yellow'. It is first introduced in book 15 of the A Extra Series.

The fourth role of 'y' can be found in the middle of words like 'gym, crystal, gypsy'. In words like these 'y' is pronounced the same as the 'short i' /i/.

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Yes. The phonic approach used in the books gives children in the Foundation stage in nursery schools and Montessori schools an easy introduction to reading and writing so that they will be successful and well-motivated learners.

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Yes. Our first book, A1, begins with 7 letters (a, c, h, m, n, o, t) and 5 words (cat, mat, hat, on, a). Letters and words are gradually added to the books in the AB Starter Pack, the First Words Series and Tom and Bella Series 1 until all 19 letters of Phonic Phase 2 of Letters and Sounds have been introduced. All the vocabulary is phonically regular at this stage except for the irregular word 'the'.

Then the Phonic Phase 3 letters, 'j, q, v, w, x, y, z', are introduced in words, followed by the consonant digraphs, 'sh, ch, th, ng', and the vowel digraphs, 'ee, oo, ay'. The 'high-frequency' words for this phase, 'me, my, go, to, no, he, she, we, they, you, are' are introduced at the same time. Some words with consonants to blend are also used as part of the vocabulary.

Please click on the 'Phonics' tab and access each phase from the drop-down menu for full details of the introduction of the letter/sound correspondences.

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Our books are now included in 'Which Book and Why: Using Book Bands and book levels for guided reading in Key Stage 1' published by the Institute of Education Press, 27 February 2014.

To assist teachers as best we can, we have estimated a suitable band ourselves by taking into account the number of words and sentences per page, the complexity of the sentences and the overall structure of the story. Our estimates are in the left-hand column of the reading order list and can be accessed from the Teaching Guides page.

Our books take into account the nature of the vocabulary used, making sure that it progresses gradually from simple to complex. Teachers may see the vocabulary used in each story by clicking on the appropriate icon on the Teaching Guides page.

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Decoding simply means pronouncing the words that are seen written on a page or screen. When children can pronounce a word that they see on a page, i.e. they can say it, then they have 'decoded' it.

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Jelly and Bean are sister and brother. Jelly is the female cat with blue eyes and a white chest, paws and tail. Bean is white around his nose. Otherwise, he is a black cat.  He has green eyes.

Wellington is the father of Kevin. Father and son are farm dogs and they have an outside kennel, although they live in the farmhouse when it is cold and wet.

Lotty is the farmer's pet dog. She has a basket under the kitchen table.

Jelly, Bean, Wellington, Kevin and Lotty all live at Follifoot Farm.

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No. Training is not necessary for anyone to use Jelly and Bean books. They can be used with any approach to teaching reading. The words and illustrations are very closely aligned to make sure that children understand the words on the page. The letters are introduced gradually so that children only have to learn a few at a time. The writing activities help children learn the shape of each letter. By reading, writing and saying the words in the text, children can be taught the grapheme/phoneme correspondences at the heart of the written English language. 

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