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Jaz Ampaw-Farr on Teaching Literacy, Ninjas, Blind Date and The Apprentice – PP87

The topic of the week is Jaz Ampaw-Farr on Teaching Literacy, Ninjas, Blind Date and The Apprentice.

This week, Paul started off by telling us about:

‘Fantastic Walking’

This is something he saw at Belfield School in Rochdale. Individual children, groups of children and staff all walk around the corridors doing ‘Fantastic Walking’ which involves putting your hands behind your back, puffing your chest out and having your head nice and high and straight. This is a strategy to counteract the chaos which existed when the head took over. She needed something she could do immediately to set a routine and to bring the staff and children together. So she imposed Fantastic Walking. When staff go to other schools now, they long for the atmosphere created by Fantastic Walking. So Paul asks – “What is it which binds your adults together in your school?” It might not work in the school next door but it is your consistency, an absolute routine learners and adults engage in day after day. If you have a single routine you use, please share it on Twitter using the hashtag #fantasticwalking.

We also had a brilliant time interviewing Jaz Ampaw-Farr this week.

Jaz Ampaw-Farr began as a teacher with a passion for preventing literacy failure. She is now a literacy consultant and director of Which Phonics Ltd – providing teachers and parents with training and resources to boost reading, writing and spelling skills in children.Jaz has worked in a variety of educational settings offering solid, independent and unbiased advice. She delivers keynotes at conferences and has advised governments on teaching reading, spelling, writing and grammar in the UK and around the globe.

Invited by Sir Jim Rose to assess phonics programmes for the DFE, Jaz is regarded as a thought leader bringing straight talking and highly practical training and consultancy to schools resulting in measurable impact. She also delivers Outstanding Teaching Interventions for Osiris Education Ltd.

jazYou may recognise Jaz from the BBC spelling show, Hard Spell Abbey, which she worked on as educational advisor, writer and co-presenter. More recently she appeared as a candidate on The Apprentice. Fortunately she is more of an expert at delivering inspiring training than selling lucky Chinese cats!

As a trainer Jaz’s enthusiasm is infectious and hugely motivating. Her background as a stand up comedian, in-depth knowledge of her subject and passion for reminding teachers they are true heroes, mean that working with Jaz a game changing experience for literacy teaching and learning in your school.

Literacy teaching

After starting teaching literacy successfully, Jaz decided she wanted to know much more about why what she was doing seemed to work. So she contacted many of the ‘big names’ in phonics and literacy and started to try out a lot of approaches. Suddenly, she was invited to Jamaica to talk to a room full of 700 teachers about teaching literacy.

She doesn’t see herself as an expert – everything she does is based on existing research but she loves going into schools and helping teachers to simplify the requirements of the curriculum so they can spend their valuable time implementing techniques and embedding the skills with the children.

Literacy Ninja!

A boy called Trevor coined the expression, ‘Literacy Ninja’, and Jaz has used the tag line ever since.

The main things Jaz says in schools

10 minutes after a great phonics session, the children can’t apply that learning to their writing. They:

Can’t – they just don’t have the skills so they need to practise more

Won’t – this is about mindset e.g. sticking to safe words the children can spell and feel comfortable with rather than taking risks

Don’t – the children don’t know they are supposed to transfer from phonics to literacy lessons which is down to teacher expectations and making it clear

Jaz works a lot with schools to make sure that writing is embedded and approached via a clear plan of progression.

Teachers and research

Jaz points out that teachers don’t have the time to refer back to solid research all the time.

“Teachers don’t see themselves as researchers – they often feel that professional development is something which is done to them like having your appendix out.”

Teachers are kept so busy, so stressed and overworked that they very rarely can go off and say ‘I’m going to research that and bring it back to my classroom.’

Jaz’ own backgorund

Jaz also talks about her own story and the importance of teachers in her own life who gave her the belief to develop into a confident person despite a start in care.

What did Jaz learn from being on The Apprentice?

She was asked repeatedly what her strategy was and she always said the same thing – to do the best she can with the resources available at the time. She learned that all different parts of her own character have to be embraced – even the ‘broken’ parts – and not to be afraid to show the weaknesses and the fears.

On The Apprentice you have to live on your wits and figure out what to do. Jaz says that having kids prepared her for The Apprentice, rather than the other way round – the experience is rather like ‘nailing jelly to a tree’.

Blind Date

Jaz was a ‘picker’ on Blind Date when she was 19. Her date was on the ‘best of’ collection for nine years afterwards as her date climbed out of the window and went to McDonalds.

Connect with Jaz:
@jazampawfarr on Twitter

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(Creative Commons Sound clip by Johnny Pixel Productions, Inc. –



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