Junior and senior infants

Helping Your Child With Their Learning in Infant Classes

The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA) have developed some excellent resources for parents who wish to help their children with their learning. On their website they have video clips and tip sheets which are available in many different languages, on  how to help  children with different curricular areas. Click on the following link to access the Infants’ section of the NCCA website:


Helping Your Child With Maths 

The NCCA have developed video clips that demonstrate activities that parents can do with their children, as well as tip sheets that are available to download in many different languages. Click on the following link to take you to the infant maths section of the NCCA website:




Aistear is the curriculum framework for children from birth to 6years in Ireland. We have adopted Aistear in the infant classes in PETNS. To find out more about Aister click on the following link:


About Jolly Phonics


Jolly Phonics is a synthetic phonics scheme that teaches children the alphabetic code
of English. In the first nine weeks or so, the children are taught the 42 letter sounds,
how to blend them to read words, and how to cope with the first few irregular keywords.
At this point the children can attempt to read books for themselves.

There are five main elements to the teaching:

1. Learning the Letter Sounds

The main 42 sounds of English are taught – one sound every day and in the Jolly
Phonics order.
1. s a t i p n
2. c k e h r m d
3. g o u l f b
4. ai j oa ie ee or
5. z w ng v oo oo
6. y x ch sh th th
7. qu ou oi ue er ar

To hear the each letter sound, click on the following link: http://jollylearning.co.uk/2010/10/29/hear-the-letter-sounds/

A multisensory method is used to introduce the children to the letter sounds. There
is a storyline, action and ‘Sound Sheet’ for each sound. By doing an action associated
with the sound, e.g., rub tummy and say “mmmmm” for the /m/ sound, the children
remember it more easily. Click on the following link for a guide to the actions for each sound: http://jolly2.s3.amazonaws.com/Resources/Jolly%20Phonics%20Actions%20Sheet%20.pdf

In order to blend efficiently it is important to know the letter sounds fluently. Every
day flash cards of the sounds that have been taught should be held up for the
children to call out the sounds as they do the actions.

Some sounds, digraphs, are represented by two letters. The children need to recognize
digraphs in words, e.g., the ‘ng’ in ‘strong’. The digraphs ‘oo’ and ‘th’ each have two
sounds, e.g., ‘book’ and ‘moon’, ‘thin’ and ‘that’. In Jolly Phonics they are initially
written in two sizes to help the children understand that there are two sounds.

2. Learning Letter Formation

As the letter sounds are introduced, the children are shown exactly how to form each
letter correctly. Initially, the children form the letters in the air, at the same time as
the teacher. By regularly feeling the formation of each letter, and then writing it,
most children should form their letters correctly after the first twelve weeks or so. It
1is also important to teach the children to hold their pencil correctly, in the tripod grip.
Feeling letter formation in the Finger Phonics books or tracing over dotted letters gives
good practice.

The Jolly Phonics material uses the Sassoon Infant typeface with joining tails. This
makes it easier for the children to transfer to joined-up (cursive) writing when the
time comes.

3. Blending

As well as learning the sounds, the children need to be taught how to blend them
together to hear a word. This teaching starts on the first day. The aim is to enable
the children to hear the word when the teacher says the sounds, e.g., “Listen carefully,
what word am I saying … ‘d-o-g’?” A few children will hear ‘dog’. Try a few more
words, e.g., ‘s-u-n’, ‘b-oy’, ‘m-ou-se’.

Once the children can hear the word when an adult says the sounds, they are ready
to try and blend words for themselves. Initially, being able to blend letter sounds
fluently is the essential skill for reading and should always be the first strategy for
working out unknown words. Children must also be able to recognize consonant blends
and digraphs in words such as ‘fl-a-g’ and ‘sh-o-p’.

After the letter sounds have been taught and the children can read simple, regular
words, they start taking home the ‘Word Boxes’ for extra practice. The Word Boxes
start with simple words made from the first group of letter sounds. Invariably, the
children who are the fastest at learning to blend sounds become the more fluent readers.
At first, one way of spelling each vowel sound is taught, e.g., ‘ai’ as in ‘rain’. The
children should have practice blending these spellings in words before the alternatives
are introduced, e.g., ‘ay’ as in ‘play’ and ‘a-e’ as in ‘lane’.

Once the children have worked their way through the Word Boxes, and learned some
irregular common keywords, they should be given storybooks to read for themselves.
Explain to parents that their child may not bring home a storybook until they have
mastered the skill of blending. Parents should then encourage their children to talk
about what they have read.


It is essential that children can hear the individual sounds in words, especially for
writing. Initially, the children are asked to listen carefully and say if they can hear
a given sound in words. Start with words that have three sounds in them, for example,
“Is there a ‘s’ in ‘sun’ … ‘mouse’ … ‘dog’?”; “If there is a ‘s’ where does it come – the
beginning, middle or end?”. Then the children are encouraged to say the sounds they
hear. Practice by saying a word like ‘hat’. The children should respond by saying
‘h-a-t’. As they say each sound they hold up a finger … ‘h-a-t’ three fingers, three
2sounds; ‘sh-i-p’ three fingers, three sounds, etc. Progress to more complicated words
such as those with initial and final consonant blends.

The teacher writes the letters on the board as the children say them. Then the children
look at the word, say the sounds and blend them to read the word. This gives a good
understanding of how reading and writing work. A few examples every day helps to
develop this skill.

Once a child can hear the sounds in words, and knows one way of writing each sound,
they can write independently. Initially, the children will not spell accurately but
their work can be read, for example, ‘I went hors riedin that wos fun’. Most children,
by the end of their first year, should be able to write their own news and simple stories
independently. It will be exactly what they want to say as they are not restricted
by writing only the words they have learned by heart. Accurate spelling develops
gradually from reading books, knowing the alternative vowel sounds and following a
spelling scheme.

5. Tricky Words

After their first month at school, when the majority of the children know about 18
letter sounds and have been blending regular words as a group activity, they can
begin to learn the tricky words. Tricky words are words that cannot always be
worked out by blending. These can be introduced gradually using the Jolly Phonics
Tricky Word Cards. Look at what is ‘tricky’ in each word, e.g., ‘was’ has an /o/ sound
in the middle instead of an /a/ sound. Try and teach 2–3 a week, continually revising
for reading and spelling.

Three spelling techniques are:
• Look (identify the irregularity and say the letter names), Cover, Write and
• Say It As It Sounds, e.g., pronounce ‘mother’ with a short /o/ sound so that it
rhymes with ‘bother’.
• Mnemonics, e.g., ‘people eat omelettes people like eggs’ to spell the word ‘people’.

7. What Comes After this?

Every day a little work on each skill is needed:
1. Frequently work through the flash cards of the letter sounds:
– including the alternative spellings, e.g., ‘er’, ‘ir’, ‘ur’,
– practice reading regular words that use the alternative spellings.
2. Develop the ability to write fluently and neatly:
– correct formation of capital as well as lower-case letters,
– dictation of words and sentences.
3. Develop reading fluency and comprehension:
– reading individually to parents or to adults in school,
– group and silent reading,
– develop a wider vocabulary and understanding of the meaning of words.
4. Develop writing skills:
– draw pictures on the board and ask the children to write a sentence
about each one,
– writing news independently,
– writing simple stories that have been told to them by the teacher,
– write the first sentence of a story on the board for the children to copy
and continue,
– creating and writing their own simple stories,
– writing up science and topic work.
5. Continue teaching the tricky words for reading and spelling.


Fine Motor Skills and Handwriting


What are Fine Motor Skills:

Fine motor skills involve the small muscles of the body that enable such functions as writing, grasping small objects, and fastening clothing. They involve strength, fine motor control and dexterity.

How Fine Motor Skills Affect Learning and Living Skills:

These skills are important in most school activities as well as in life in general. Weaknesses in fine motor skills can affect a child’s ability to eat, write legibly, use a computer, turn pages in a book, and perform personal care tasks such as dressing and grooming.

Things That Help Children to Improve Their Fine Motor Skills:

  • Play with play dough.
  • Play with Lego, miniature cars, small blocks, action figures, and other small toys.
  • Jigsaw puzzles.
  • Play that involves using crayons, marking pens, scissors, and finger paints, as well as tearing paper.
  • Play games that involve the handling of cards and small game pieces.
  • Encourage your child learn to manage such everyday skills as tying and lacing shoes and buttoning their own clothes.
  • Practice writing with their fingers in, or on, different textures—shaving cream smeared on the table, play dough, clay, or sand.
  • Beading activities – making patterns using beads and a shoelace.