Ideally we would always have two hours of uninterrupted time at the beginning of every day to run our literacy session. I’ve spent days of my life organising timetables and all the stars and the moons in the universe need to be lined up in order to manage that.
So to address this difficulty I’ve started talking with teachers about finding forty minute blocks of time and identifying a teaching focus for that timeslot. Rejoice when you can run the sessions back to back. Accept when the RFF timeslot is inconvenient. The literacy session still has a common thread through reading and writing and wordwork and you need to think in a cohesive way. It just needs you to remind students at the beginning of each section how the strands interrelate and build on each other.
The suggested outline for a daily balanced literacy session is a free downloadable. (See Resources). Think in three blocks of reading, writing and word work (otherwise known as spelling but much more interesting and effective). Begin each mini-block with 10 minutes of focussed, explicit and precise teaching then move into guided groups and independent groups for another 30 minutes. Bring the whole class back together and highlight the good learning. Then move onto the next teaching focus.
It takes time at the beginning of the year to train the kids to work independently and I have a major issue with students being left to work by themselves for long periods of time. They just learn how to create chaos! So take it slowly and build a repertoire of activities that students can do independently. I always start with independent reading. Back to back and knee to knee is my new favourite!