Effective teachers of literacy

Mar 19, 2021


This study was commissioned to help the Teacher Training Agency and teachers in England to understand more clearly how effective teachers help children to become literate. The findings are based on close examination of the work of a sample of teachers whose pupils make effective learning gains in literacy and of a sample of teachers who were less effective in literacy teaching.

The aims of this research were to:

  • identify the key factors of what effective teachers know, understand and do which enables them to put effective teaching of literacy into practice in the primary phase;
  • identify the strategies which would enable those factors to be more widely applied;
  • examine aspects of continuing professional development which contribute to the development of effective teachers of literacy;
  • examine what aspects of their initial teacher training and induction contribute to developing expertise in novice teachers of literacy.

The research found that effective teachers of literacy in this study tended to:

  • make it explicit that the purpose of teaching literacy is to enable pupils to create meaning using text. They were very specific about how literacy activities at the whole text, word and sentence levels contributed to creating meaning.
  • centre much of their teaching of literacy around ‘shared’ texts, that is, texts which the teacher and children either read or wrote together. Shared texts were used as a means of making the connections between text, sentence and word level knowledge explicit to children.
  • teach aspects of reading and writing such as decoding and spelling in a systematic and highly structured way and also in a way that made clear to pupils why these aspects were necessary and useful.
  • have developed strong and coherent personal philosophies about the teaching of literacy which guided their selection of teaching materials and approaches.
  • have well developed systems for monitoring children’s progress and needs in literacy and use this information to plan future teaching.
  • have extensive knowledge about literacy although not necessarily in a form which could be abstracted from the context of teaching it.
  • have had considerable experience of in-service activities in literacy, both as learners and, often, having themselves planned and led such activities for their colleagues.