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English Unit Planning

Part one of a series of blogs that attempts to explain a coherent model for planning in primary.

Planning is so time consuming and exhausting. Sometimes, the detail in which we plan doesn’t always lead us directly into the classroom.

A guiding principle:

Although genre outcomes are sometimes considered by some as a hangover from the ‘National Literacy Strategy’, I believe they provide ‘big picture’ direction. Unit plans are sharper when we start with the end in mind, knowing clearly the genre that we are trying to create. I don’t think we need to be too prescriptive about these genres or the amount of time spent on them or whether they are taught over a few days or a few weeks. This is all teacher discretion. More important than any of this is that what the pupils are writing is deliciously intriguing, purposeful, ambitious and imaginative.

Once we provisionally know the common sense amount of time we are going to spend on a unit then it is worth taking a wide angle view of it and consider which lessons are going to be working sequentially towards the larger genre based goal and which are functioning to excite and stimulate their engagement.

Broadly over a unit there is probably a mix of these two types of teaching;

1. Experiences:

Open ended in nature, research-based, drama-heavy, visits out, visitors in, exploratory, immersive, creative, no set structure, experiential, practical. More time to explore things properly and slowly.

Purpose of this type of lesson is to be enriching, information yielding and highly engaging. A powerful opportunity to share, talk and explore. Invest in time to develop awe and wonder.

2. Structured Lessons:

Highly didactic, teacher agenda driven, closely modelled, explanations, clearly directed, sharp focus, underpinned by success criteria, well paced, bite-sized chunks.

Purpose of this type of lesson is to help pupils remember, to scaffold ideas and to practice key aspects. To apply something new learnt, to demonstrate understanding, to polish up newly acquired techniques. Invest in time to provide feedback and strengthen smaller skills.

Wide Angle View of the Unit

The key to the successful completion of work is the art of keeping all pupils chronologically at the same point each day so that during the structured teaching times the work produced that builds over time can be pieced together to make a whole text.

There is nothing more tricky to try and teach a text type over time. By lesson four many of the pupils are at different points and we have lost control of the ‘moments’ that we are exploring together to insert in the next section of our story or non-fiction piece.

Ultimately, a unit is most successful if it is a mix of these two modes of teaching and ‘togetherness’ is prioritised through the highly interactive whole class teaching that is sequenced logically over time.

8 thoughts on “English Unit Planning

  1. Do you have a unit template (and editable one). I’ve just finished reading the book and am feeling highly inspired but wanted a bit of a structure when I branch out on my own. I’m going to use the example in the book but just wondered if there was already some examples before I make my own. I’m moving into a mixed year 3 and 4 class (from reception) so keen for ideas. Thanks Emma

    1. Hi Emma. Jane is currently putting together a selection of plans that she has developed. We are also having a template built that we will be making available for free in the next few weeks.

  2. That is wonderful news, I’ll keep checking for the templates. Thank you

    1. If you contact Kate Rawson she will be able to send you the planning template. It has been made in Microsoft Word and Excel and is very easy to use. She will also be able to send you some of the unit plans that are already completed.

  3. Thank you so much Ian, I’ve just sent an email – I can’t wait to try this way of teaching out – If I feel inspired I can only imagine how the children will feel.

  4. Hi me again, I emailed as you suggested but haven’t heard anything. Is the planning out yet?

    1. Hi Emma, the planning is now in our free section. Jane has also built a planning tool that is also free to download.

  5. Hi

    We have just had the training, last week, and I feel inspired!!

    Do you have any planning for playscripts? I am in year 4 and this is our focus after Christmas.

    Thank you,


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