Teaching and learning cycle

The teaching and learning cycle is outlined in some detail in the section Teaching–Learning Cycle: Reading and Writing Connections.

The cycle consists of four interrelated stages:

  • building the context or field—understanding the role of texts in our culture and building shared understanding of the topic
  • modelling the text (or deconstruction)—the use of mentor or model texts to focus explicitly on the structure and the language of the text, how language choices work to shape meaning, and to build a metalanguage
  • guided practice (or joint construction)—teachers and students jointly constructing a text
  • independent construction—students’ independent writing or approximation of the genre.

(Derewianka & Jones, 2016; Humphrey, 2017; Humphrey & Feez, 2016)

A key feature of the teaching and learning cycle is the emphasis on the teaching about language, and image, in explicit meaningful ways to "invite the use of a shared metalanguage understood by both teacher and student, (to) open up access to repertoires of possibility in both interpretation and composition" (Macken-Horarik, Love, Sandiford & Unsworth, 2017, pp. 136-37).

Mentor or model texts are selected by the teacher to support the contextualised understanding of how choices in language and image work to establish meaning.

Writing an information report on farm animals

In this video, students work with their teacher to write an information report about farm animals. 

Writing a paragraph

In this video, students work with their teacher to write a paragraph about sleep.

Writing Conferences - Upper Primary

In this video, the teacher conducts one conference with a small group with a focus on creating definitions of technical terms using linking or relating verbs, and another conference with an individual student with a focus on using precise verbs.


The Victorian Curriculum F-10: English identifies a range of genres that primary school children write as part of their work in English and across the curriculum. The key genres primary aged students typically write are:

  • narrative
  • recount
  • procedure
  • information report
  • explanation
  • persuasion. 

Each genre can take different forms. For example, a narrative could be a:

  • ballad
  • fable, or
  • fairy tale.

While the structural elements of a genre such as a narrative can vary, being familiar with the ‘generic’ or prototypical structure of the genre is important for young writers before ‘they begin to explore how the stages might be manipulated for rhetorical effect and how to position the reader’ (Humphrey, Droga & Feez, 2012, p. 105). 

This principle also applies to other genres, although in school English and across the curriculum, the generic structure is often an expectation for particular tasks and for particular audiences.

That said, exploiting the possibilities through alternative design should not be ignored by teachers or young writers.

Building the context or field

Begin with the reading of a narrative for pleasure. This might involve reading a novel like The Twits as a serial, chapter by chapter over a period of time, or a shorter picture story book in one sitting.

Discussion of the text might be guided by questions such as:

  • Who are the characters in the narrative? How are they portrayed through the words? How are they portrayed through the images?
  • What are the relationships or connections between the characters?
  • When and where does the narrative take place? Does the setting change at different points in the narrative?
  • What is the problem or complication in the narrative? Is there more than one problem or complication?
  • How is the problem resolved?

Modelling the text (or deconstruction)

In the modelling stage, ways in which language and/or image is used becomes the focus using a shared metalanguage. Depending on the text or image, this might involve a focus on:

  • the range of verb choices—doing, thinking, saying, and relating, highlighting any patterns of these, for example, there could be many doing verbs, or action—reaction sequences where doing verbs and thinking verbs feature at different points to illustrate what is going on and a character’s reaction
  • dialogue between characters—how do they speak to each other? Do they use terms of endearment? How do the characters speak about other characters? What does this tell you about them?
  • prepositional phrases used establish the setting in the orientation
  • noun groups with a pre- and/or post-modifier which build up descriptions of characters
  • evaluative vocabulary choices which convey a judgement about a character’s behaviour or an appreciation of their appearance
  • the use of intensifiers to establish a more forceful idea about a character or action
  • how the words complement, or not, the images they accompany
  • the framing of an image—close, mid or long distance
  • gaze in the image—whether the character is looking directly at you or not.

Whatever the teaching focus, careful selection of text and image for teaching purposes is important.

Guided practice (or joint construction)

Having examined a text or image in some detail, the students can now be supported through a joint construction of a text where the teaching focus examined through modelling the text is featured. This might be a paragraph or paragraphs, a stage of the narrative or a complete narrative, dependent on the age of the students and the focus. 

Students assume more responsibility throughout the guided practice stage as the teacher directs, questions and highlights the focus as the text is constructed. 

Teaching about the processes of writing form an important part of guided practice as the teacher and students plan, discuss and revise the text. 

Independent construction

During the independent construction stage, the teacher’s role is to guide the students in their composition, supporting them to design and compose their texts creatively and independently. Writing conferences with individual or small groups of students provide a means for additional support to be given. 

For information on using the teaching and learning cycle with EAL/D learners, see: Using the teaching and learning cycle with EAL/D learners and VicTESOL’s Teaching and Learning Cycle Project.


Derewianka, B. & Jones, P. (2016). Teaching language in context (2nd ed.). South Melbourne, Vic: Oxford University Press.

Humphrey, S. (2017). Academic literacies in the Middle Years: A framework for enhancing teacher knowledge and student achievement. New York and London: Routledge.

Humphrey, S. & Feez, S. (2016). Direct instruction fit for purpose: applying a metalinguistic toolkit to enhance creative writing in the early secondary years. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 39(3), 207-219.

Macken-Horarik, M., Love, K., Sandiford, C. & Unsworth, L. (2017). Functional Grammatics: Re-conceptualizing knowledge about language and image for school English. Oxon, UK: Routledge.