How a literacy lesson is taught

Teacher with children


There are usually three parts to a literacy lesson. The children are told what they will be learning and how the lesson fits into the unit they're doing.

1. The shared session

The teacher works with the whole class. In Key Stage 1, the children will probably sit on the carpet. 

The focus will usually be reading or writing. But speaking and listening activities will be used to support and 'embed' the learning.

The shared session is interactive - the children are encouraged to participate. These are some examples of interactive strategies:

  • Get up and go - children may be invited to highlight passages from a text on the interactive whiteboard
  • Talk partners - turning to the person next to them to discuss a question before answering (this gives the children time to order their thinking and to rehearse their answer)
  • Show me - use of mini-whiteboards to write an answer, to be held up for the teacher to see

Examples of reading in the shared session

Reading togetherThis is an opportunity for the children to see a text that may be at a higher level than the one they're currently able to read by themselves.

It gives them the opportunity to hear/read/enjoy a more challenging text than they can manage alone. The teacher is there as an 'expert' reader.

The teacher will point out the key features of the text in relation to the unit of work the class is covering (eg there may be a focus on the use of descriptive language).

Age 4–7: The teacher may share a large text with the children. This may be a 'Big Book' or they may use the interactive whiteboard.

Throughout infants, your child will be having regular phonics sessions in school. Work with the school to follow their advice about reading with phonics.

Age 7–11: The class may be read a shared text on the interactive whiteboard or each child may have an individual copy of a text (eg when looking at journalistic writing, the class may discuss the 'who, when, why, where, how' elements of the first paragraph of a newspaper story).

Examples of writing activities in the shared session

Age 4–7: The teacher may demonstrate how to compose a sentence, illustrating the use of capital letters and full stops.

The theme of the writing will be related to the unit that is being studied and links to the shared reading will be made.

The children will be encouraged to make suggestions and may try out their ideas on mini-whiteboards in pairs.

Age 7–11: The class may be working on suspense stories. Having examined a number of stories to see how the writer achieves effects, the teacher may demonstrate her own version of writing suspense.

The teacher may ask for suggestions from the class before the children start working in pairs or individually on their own stories.

Group work

The teacher will work with a small group of children to focus on reading or writing. This is sometimes known as guided work or targeted teaching.

It is an opportunity for the teacher to work on a specific issue with a particular group of children.

Guided reading

The children tend to stay in the same ability groups. The children have their own copy of the same text and the teacher rotates around the groups.

The pupils are encouraged to discuss the books in detail to develop their comprehension skills. These sessions do not always take place during literacy lessons.

Guided writing

The composition of the groups can vary. The teacher will work with groups of children to develop a particular aspect of writing according to their needs.

2. Independent work

While the teacher works with a guided group, the other children work independently. This will follow on from the shared/taught session and gives them an opportunity to apply what they have learned. They may work in pairs or individually.

A wide range of activities could take place. For example, in Key Stage 1 the children might be using pictures to devise the correct order of a story. In Key Stage 2 they might be asked to write the next chapter of the suspense story that was demonstrated in the shared part of the lesson.

3. The plenary

This is a chance for the class to get back together and revisit what they've learned in the lesson. Some children may share the work they have produced during the independent session. The teacher will conclude the lesson by reminding the class what they have learned.

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Last updated: about 3 years ago