Tips for planning

Here are some tips and advice on some of the general principles of effective planning for primary English.  This is not at all an exhaustive list but it will help you to think about what is important when planning – and perhaps to think about things you would not otherwise consider.

Teaching does not always equal learning

Effective planning requires careful thought and extensive knowledge of what the children already know and what they need to learn.

As with all planning, it is vital to first consider what you want the outcomes to be from the teaching sequence.

Focus on the learning

What is it that you want the children to know and understand by the end of the sequence?

This should build on previous learning or identified areas of misconception.

What might they produce or do to demonstrate this new knowledge and understanding?

There is a clear route through identifying learning

Intended learning arrowSuccess criteria arrowAssessment strategy

You do not always need a ‘product’ from the children to identify/evidence of their learning but HOW you will evidence it must be considered from the start.

Consider your ‘hook’

How will you engage the children in the activity right from the start?

Think about your classroom environment.  Is it best if children begin ‘on the carpet’ or ‘in front of the whiteboard’?  Is there any room for the children to move around?

At each point you should think about three things:        

What will the teacher be teaching and why?

What will the children be doing in order to learn?

How long will it take to do both of these?

Timing is important. Manage your time effectively, set clear expectations and communicate the time limits with your children.

Although you may be planning for English, the end product doesn’t necessarily need to be a piece of written work.

Think creatively.

Always start with your learning objectives and then plan your activities to support these.

Begin your teaching sequence with a high-quality text that allows children to develop their reading skills and provides a model for a final outcome.

Select the right text.

The text must be one that will spark children’s interest, be suit­able for their comprehension levels, and contain interesting language features and a variety of narrative structures. (see the CLPE’s Book List for ideas)

Spend some time at the start

Sharing and discussing the text

and its type with the children. Consider language and grammar. Why has the author chosen certain words and phrases?

Plan for shared, guided and independent writing in your teaching, with focused objectives for each approach.

Don’t forget grammar, punctuation and spelling

Ensure it is identified in your planning.

Although some aspects of grammar and punctuation need to be taught separately, it is also important to take a holistic route to developing this knowledge through immersion

High quality texts.

Learning spelling patterns and rules through spelling investigations is more effective than rote-learning spelling lists.

Systematic synthetic phonics is important, yes but it is also vital that language comprehension and a

Love of reading and books

is developed alongside this.

When planning guided reading session, decide on the aim – for example, developing reading strategies, or developing understanding of a certain aspect of the text.

Use questioning effectively

Plan the kinds of questions you might ask and include questions that require literal, inferential and deductive reading.

Identify formative and summative assessment opportunities throughout. Always be clear on what the children need to do to succeed.

Be clear on your assessment strategy and your success criteria.

High-quality children’s literature should form the bulk of your resources for English.

Consider also any other resources that will encourage, support or enhance learning -  story sacks, ICT resources such as cameras to capture and review drama activities; software to create storyboards; or apps to encourage reading for pleasure.

How will you use the addition support you have In your classroom?

Plan and discuss the lesson with your TA.

Always evaluate.

Planning is cyclical and your evaluation from the previous lesson should inform future planning.

Identify what went well alongside what didn’t work

It is often easier to identify what we do not do well than it is to identify our strengths.  Make sure your evaluations are balanced and realistic.

In this extract, Keira Sewell and Laura Quinton Maryon have given some advice on planning for primary English.  For support on planning for the whole primary curriculum, see:

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Keira Sewell is an independent educational consultant at Visionary Education ( She has over 25 years’ experience of support­ing the professional development of both trainee and experienced teachers and specialises in science education.

Laura Quinton Maryon is a primary school teacher, literacy subject leader and SENDCo who specialises in the development of early reading and reading for pleas­ure. She has also worked in primary teacher education.