The Best Quick Phonics Screener for Your Primary Students

The Best Quick Phonics Screener for Your Primary Students

Need some data on your students' phonics skills? Try these quick phonics screener options to help you know exactly which skills your students have and where they need to go next.

Phonics skills are such an essential part of learning to read. Especially as we transition to teaching through synthetic phonics or the Science of Reading, educators must understand which skills their students truly have and identify any gaps. 

If students don’t have sufficient phonemic awareness or phonics skills, their goal to become fluent readers will feel much more challenging than it needs to be. 

To prevent this, you need to find the right tool to tell you exactly where your students are. 

Fortunately, you’re in the right place! In this post, I'll outline a few quick phonics screener options to help you get the right tool for the job!

Quick Phonics Screener Options

If you’re new here, make sure you get your copy of my free handbook Phonics and Bee-yond! This 250-page guide breaks down everything you need to know about teaching phonics, and in Section 8, I break down phonics assessment even more. 


Phonics & Beeyond Handbook


You’ll learn about informal assessment strategies and learning check-ins you can conduct individually, in small groups, or with the whole class.

This post aims to break down some simple printable quick phonics screener options that will help you get the data you need so you can plan your next round of instruction.

Free Printable Phonics Profiles

I created my free  phonics profile assessment for teachers to assess the phonics skills of K-2 students. This assessment is best given to students one-on-one to track their specific responses. This free download includes the following:

  • Nine pages of letters, sounds, and words for students to read during the assessment
  • A four-page assessment sheet that tracks student responses

quick phonics screener

This phonics screener is highly comprehensive, covering these specific skills:

  • Sound recognition- single sounds
  • CVC words
  • CVCC & CCVC words
  • CCVCC words
  • Sound recognition- common consonant digraphs
  • Common consonant digraphs - beginning sounds
  • Common consonant digraphs -end sounds
  • Common consonant digraphs - 4 sound words
  • Long vowel sounds
  • Diphthongs
  • R-controlled vowel sounds
  • Short /oo/ and schwa
  • Consonant phonemes (more advanced)
  • Short vowel sounds (more advanced)
  • Less common spellings
quick phonics screener

Top tips for use:

  • Use highlighters to track progress at different points in the year.
  • Record errors to identify target areas for growth

If you're in a rush or need to assess just one discrete skill, simply identify one or two skills to evaluate. Use this tool in any way you see fit. It's excellent as a cumulative assessment or for quick skill checks.

Free Phonological & Phonemic Awareness Profiles

My phonological & phonemic  awareness profiles are one of my favourite assessments! They make it extremely easy to tell which phonological and phonemic awareness skills kids have. 

quick phonics screener

A strong background in oral language paves the way for literacy.

I created this assessment to be used as an individual screener to assess a wide variety of phonemic awareness skills, but I also separated the assessment forms so you can evaluate one distinct skill at a time.

quick phonics screener

This free printable quick phonics screener includes a one-page oral assessment for each of these skills:

  • Sentence segmenting
  • Syllable identification
  • Rhyme identification
  • Rhyme production
  • Alliteration
  • Sound isolation (beginning, end, and middle sounds)
  • Oral blending
  • Oral segmenting
  • Sound deletion
  • Sound addition
  • Sound substitution

The individual assessment pages even include four lines for results, ideal for tracking student progress throughout the year.

quick phonics screener

If you need more ideas on how to teach phonemic awareness in your classroom, don't miss these free resources!

Free Spelling Inventories

A spelling inventory is basically a spelling test, except the words are specifically chosen to assess developmentally appropriate phonics patterns. The most popular option is from Words Their Way, which includes a Primary Spelling Inventory and an Upper-Level Spelling Inventory for older kids.

The best thing about these spelling inventories is that you can clearly visualize your students' skills and where they need to go next.

When you score a student's Primary Spelling Inventory, you track their spelling skills on a score sheet to check their proficiency with Initial consonants, final consonants, short vowels, digraphs, blends, and more.

These results make it easy to see where your students are struggling. Plus, Words Their Way makes it easy to know what to teach next, how to structure small groups and more.

CORE Phonics Surveys

One of the most popular quick phonics screeners is the CORE Phonics Survey from Assessing Readers: Multiple Measures. 

The great thing about these tools is that they go from grades K-12. Since so many students learned how to read using Balanced Literacy strategies, many students may lack essential phonics skills.

Plus, the CORE Phonics Survey assesses alphabet skills, letter sounds, and reading and decoding skills. 

The reading and decoding skills section assesses skills like:

  • Short vowels in CVC words
  • Consonant blends with short vowels
  • Short vowels, digraphs, and the -tch trigraph
  • R-controlled vowels

Read Naturally’s Quick Phonics Screener

The Quick Phonics Screener from Read Naturally is another great way to get a snapshot of data about your students’ phonics skills.

I especially appreciate that this assessment includes nonsense words, which is a great way to test students’ sound-symbol connection.

This assessment also covers a variety of phonics skills, including:

  • Letter names and sounds
  • VC and CVC sounds
  • Beginning and ending digraphs
  • CVCC and CCVC sounds
  • Silent e
  • R-controlled vowels and more

This assessment was made for primary students specifically is another great one-on-one tool to identify students’ strengths and areas of growth.

Which quick phonics screener is the best?

I like to use all of these assessments for different purposes.

  • My phonics profile is ideal for spot-assessing individual skills or getting comprehensive information about student performance. You don't need to give the full assessment at once, so target 1-2 skills to see where your students are right now.
  • The phonemic awareness profile is fantastic for assessing specific phonemic awareness skills one-on-one or in a small group. I like to create a binder with an assessment for each student to track their progress through the year. Each page of the test takes just a few minutes, and the data is very helpful.
  • Words Their Way is a fantastic way to get information regarding your entire class or small group at once. If you don't have time to assess each student right now, try this one! 
  • The CORE phonics survey is similar to my phonics profile, although it addresses skills beyond the primary grade levels. It's an excellent tool for getting a quick snapshot of a student's skills.

  • Read Naturally’s Quick Phonics Screener is a nice way to get a profile of a student’s full phonics skill set at a glance. It does take more time to implement since it’s one-on-one.

Which quick phonics screener do you prefer?

I hope this post helped you find a free tool that addresses your needs! I'd love to hear how you've used my phonics or phonemic awareness profiles! 

Just remember that the goal of assessment is to know where students are right now to plan instruction that takes them to the next level.

Assessments, when done well, should change outcomes for kids. Phonics assessments can demonstrate what students do and don’t know, so that teachers know how to best provide them with the instruction that they need. 

Want to take your phonics instruction to the next level?

Check out The Hive's Word Builder tool!