Is Johnny Learning Phonics? Use this Checklist to Find Out

If you’re a teacher and have wondered:

“Is my school using a good phonics program?”

“Do the incoming students know phonics?”

“Am I giving students a full year of progress in phonics?”

Or, if you’re a parent and have wondered:

“Is my child getting a good foundation in phonics?

This is the checklist for you.


Any literate adult can use this checklist to assess a child’s phonics knowledge and track his or her progress over time. It’s the ultimate letters and sounds assessment and it looks like this:

To get the full PDF version of this phonics checklist, download it here. Need to know more? Keep reading.

You don’t have to know phonics to use the checklist

If you don’t know the sound of a letter or phonogram on the checklist, just use the words in parentheses to deduce it.

For instance, each of the vowels in the checklist below makes more than one sound. Let’s say you know the short a and the long a. However, you don’t know the third sound of a, the broad a. You would look at the word “all” and know that the third sound of a is the /ah/ sound in “all”. Once you know this fact, you can see if your child knows it.

Vowel Letters
The vowel letters in the phonics checklist.

Keep in mind that this phonics checklist is arranged from easiest to hardest. When checking what a child knows about phonics, start at the top of the left column. Go from top to bottom in the left column. Then, go from top to bottom in the middle column. Then, go from top to bottom in the right column.

How I used this phonics checklist with my daughter

The same day that I first published this checklist, I tried it out on my daughter. At the time, she was in the last month of her kindergarten year at a public elementary school in Texas. Her Q3 report card showed her reading above grade level. I was curious to know what an above grade level kindergartener knows about phonics.

My daughter scored above level in reading during Q3 of kindergarten.
My daughter scored above level in reading during Q3 of kindergarten.

Using the phonics checklist, my daughter began zooming down the left column telling me the letter names and their sounds until she reached the ch. She knew two of the three sounds of ch. She knew the ch in chin and the ch in chef. When I told her that ch also makes the initial sound in Christmas, she immediately wanted to commit that fact to memory.

At the next checkbox item, the ng, my daughter said, “I know that from i-n-g.” I wrote out a couple other words containing ng like lung and hang. For these words, she sounded out the n and g separately. So, I think she would benefit from learning the ng phonogram.

My daughter then breezed through all the vowel digraphs in the left column, except one. When she reached the au vowel digraph, she hit her first blank.

As a result of assessing my daughter with the left column of the phonics checklist, I became aware of three things that I could teach my daughter at home to help her achieve reading fluency. I can focus on the three sounds of ch, the sound of ng, and the sound of au.

After my daughter became confident with all the letters and phonograms in the left column, we moved on to complete the other two columns.

Be aware that phonics for the English language can take up to 3 years to learn, according to Stanislas Dehaene, author of “How the Brain Learns to Read.” This is why you’ll typically find phonics instruction taking place in kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade classrooms.

If your child can complete this checklist by the end of the second grade or earlier, they will have acquired a good foundation in phonics.

How you can use the phonics checklist

Using the checklist is easy.

Sit next to the child and point to a letter or phonogram. Say, “Can you tell me this letter name?” or “Can you tell me the names of these letters?”

Wait for an answer.

If correct, tell them how many sounds it makes and ask them if they can tell you the sound or sounds. I.e. “This letter makes one sound. Can you tell me the sound that it makes?”

Wait for an answer.

If they get the letter name(s) and letter sound(s) right, put a checkmark in the box. If they don’t, then skip over the box.

Continue until the child gets three checkbox items wrong.

Teach the child the information that he or she got wrong and return to the checklist to repeat the process.

Now you know how to use the checklist for a phonics assessment.

Do lesson planning with the phonics checklist

You can also use the phonics checklist to plan out the order that you will teach the letter sounds, phonogram sounds, and syllable types.

You can even use free phonics video lessons from Story Hour Academy to teach all of the check box items up through the augh phonogram.