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There is much current interest in the identification of effective programmes for raising literacy standards. However, the effectiveness of such programmes might vary greatly according to implementation integrity and the preferred teaching styles or behaviours of teachers. This research explored whether highly effective teachers of literacy used teaching behaviours that were independent of any specific programme, whether these were consistent between teachers and different literacy teaching contexts, and whether teacher perceptions corresponded with observations of their behaviour. Five teachers were selected on the basis of high pupil literacy attainment and expert nomination, and observed during shared reading and general literacy teaching contexts. These highly effective literacy teachers tended to utilise similar teaching behaviours, but they did not utilise all behaviours thought to be associated with pupil achievement. Additionally, they utilised effective behaviours more in shared reading sessions than in general literacy sessions. Thus even these highly effective literacy teachers had room for improvement. To some extent the teachers were actually using more complex behaviours than they reported perceiving. They did not appear to perceive their behavioural variation between contexts, nor any under-use of other effective teaching behaviours. The implications for professional practice, professional development and future research are explored.