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  • wforrest 8:49 am on September 24, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    The Why, How and What of Education 

    After reflection about our recent professional learning day, it is clear leaders need people in their organizations to understand the “why, how and what” in that order. This concept comes from a Ted Talks Simon Sinek: How Great Leaders Inspire Action”

    My thoughts…

    As educators if “we can empower our students to learn, achieve and grow, in a diverse world” (HWDSB mission statement – Todd White) we will be helping them to reach their full potential.

    As leaders we must focus on creating positive cultures and well being making sure all stakeholders feel safe, accepted and included. We must also increase student achievement in the areas of early literacy, mathematics as well as increase graduation rates. In the HWDSB we are working hard to transform our learning environments, relationships and opportunities to challenge students and equip them with the skills they need in this diverse world.

    Educators on a daily bases should be using a mix of high yield strategies such as guided reading, blended learning, inquiry, direct instruction, providing effective feedback and everything else that goes along with this. We should be teaching with a global context going cross curricular examining concepts such as power, success, struggle, being a hero, etc and help students create opportunities to demonstrate problem solving, higher order thinking and critical literacy.

    Writing this post has helped me reflect on some of my learning, and if you have any thoughts, comments or (hard) questions let me hear them please.



  • wforrest 10:47 am on September 15, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: #hwdsb #growthmindset   

    Growth Mindset and Building Relationships 

    People in education use the term growth mindset all the time, but what does it look like in action and what does it mean to students? I see bulletin boards and posters saying anyone can do anything or it’s ok to make mistakes but how do we live it as educators and lead by example?

    I have the pleasure of working with Mr. Tyler Aglor (@mr_aglor) #HWDSB and he taught me a lot yesterday about showing a growth mindset and building relationships with students. During a math lesson he was asking students how many buses the school would need to go on a trip, and he allowed students to solve the problem any way. By default some went straight to the multiplication algorithm, and others drew pictures or arrays etc. But one student made a carrying mistake and told us we got it right because we were smart and then there was a pause.

    Mr. Aglor asked the student to check his work and don’t give up, to believe in himself and with hard work he could learn from this mistake and not make it again in the future. He continued to tell the class a personal story about how when he was in school he wasn’t the smartest but he could guarantee nobody tried harder than him.

    That was a turning point, he had students thinking it’s better to try hard then to just accept if you’re smart or not. The story also showed a human side of teaching and you could see students relating to his experiences.

    As I think about growth mindset and my school board’s Transforming Learning Everywhere philosophy of transforming learning environments, relationships and opportunities I think this is a great example showing how this can be done.

    Do you have any comments, or examples of how you create #growthmindset within your students? Do you have examples of how you are transforming relationships with your students? Any Questions?

    Thanks for reading!

    • Tyler Aglor 9:55 pm on September 15, 2016 Permalink

      Thanks so much for the kind words Mr. Forrester. It’s so great having you pop by our classroom as often as you can because teaching students to have a growth mindset starts with the teacher, and I hope they can see that I have a growth mindset by us working together as I try to learn from you various ways to continue to improve my teaching strategies and abilities. Hopefully my willingness to keep improving will rub off on them! A video I love to show my students first day every year in math is linked below. It’s a great message to set a positive attitude for math, other subject matter and life beyond the classroom on day one.

  • wforrest 10:11 am on April 18, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    How Do We Learn to Ride Bikes? 

    This post is inspired by a discussion at #edcampham over the weekend as well as a real personal example I’m living right now. My oldest son is 6 years old and learning how to ride a bike. I put a helmut on him, gave him a few basics, helped him coast and said go! My wife has a slightly different approach and helps him slowly never letting go of the seat and never letting him fall.

    This bike riding analogy is great for teaching and correcting errors. When students are making errors in math do we correct them right away so they don’t reinforce an incorrect concept or do we let them fall and figure out on their own the mistakes they were making, after a certain number of trials?

    I do know this, the solution is probably a combination of both approaches depending on a variety of circumstances at that given time. I also believe students need to be asked questions to discover mistakes, not be told. Students need to reflect on math thinking and be given time to talk about math, exploring and sharing with others.

    I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic, (and please don’t say who has the better parenting style LOL). Thanks for reading.

    • wforrest 8:53 am on April 22, 2016 Permalink

      Alison, Thank you for taking time to reply. I too believe in good mistakes and learner reflection. I love your strategy of tell me more and moving away from the perfect question at the right time. It is a great coaching strategy and opens the door for students to examine how their thinking has changed during their learning experience.

    • Alison 9:52 am on April 21, 2016 Permalink

      Consider this. Do you think your son would learn to ride a bike without any instruction at all?

      While teaching is innately a difficult task, learning on the other hand, is something that I believe is rather intuitive.

      I use the learning to ride a bike analogy specifically in an inquiry based setting – therefor there is no ‘practicing’ of a mistake. I struggle to call any alternative direction in a student’s work a mistake when it strays from what I had envisioned. From a constructivist perspective, I believe in the process of allowing students to stumble, loose their way and sometimes fall off completely when they are learning. As the teacher, this takes a degree of self-control, discomfort, and of course a commitment to the assumption that what the student is doing, is exactly what they need to be doing to get to where they are going.

      What’s more important than the ‘mistakes’ are the conditions in which the learning takes place. Indeed, a certain amount of self-reflection is needed on the part of the learner as well as intrinsic motivation. The good news here is that when students’ direct their learning based on their own interest, these qualities are bound to arise. As the teacher, I take my lead from Sugata Mitra and employ “the way of the Granny.” When a student is sharing their learning, I congratulate them, and ask them to tell me more. I feel no pressure to ask the ‘right’ question, or at the ‘perfect’ time, mostly because I’m not sure either really exist. What might be the ideal question in my mind, may be meaningless to the learner.

      The unexpected learning that comes from the freedom to learn is boundless. Yes, some mistakes are bound to hurt more than others, however those are also the ones from which we learn the most.

      Good luck to your son and his 2-wheel endeavours!

    • wforrest 8:21 am on April 21, 2016 Permalink

      Aviva, Thanks for the reply and great insight. I totally agree we don’t want students falling to the point where they are getting hurt and at the same time we want them to explore and flourish on their own. I love the point of knowing when to insert direct instruction. Also the reflection is key, students need time to reflect on their learning and learn from their great mistakes. Thanks for the reply.

    • Aviva 3:57 pm on April 20, 2016 Permalink

      This is a very interesting post, Bill! While I think that there are a number of factors to influence decisions here, this is my thinking. Let’s go back to your bike analogy:

      If you let your son go, and he keeps on falling, falling, and falling again (not learning from his mistakes, but repeating them), what would you do? When would you intervene? And with your wife, after supporting him for so long, when does she let go? If he falls after she releases him, does she let him get back on and try again, or does she support him all over again? If she does let him fall and try again, how many “try agains” does she give him before she intervenes? I wonder if this comes down to the timing for instruction. It’s great to learn from mistakes, but it’s when students (or adults) are not doing so, that maybe some more direct instruction is required. Maybe it’s time to even teach some metacognitive skills and encourage reflection so that the kids can correct their errors. What do you think?


  • wforrest 3:50 pm on November 11, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: classroom community learning social connected personal shared   

    What’s Your Classroom Environment? 

    After talking with Dean Shareski at the TLE event for the #HWDSBTLE, I re-realized there needs to be certain conditions for learning to take place. If these conditions are not in place, learning might still happen but I need to ask on what level? Dean points out learning needs to be many things, but these five stick out in my mind:

    • Learning is social and connected
    • Learning is personal and self-directed
    • Learning is shared and transparent
    • Learning is rich in content and diversity
    • Learning ought to be joyful


    I didn’t think of these statements, they belong to Dean in fact I would encourage you to check out all his slideshares, you can only imagine what he was saying for some of them.

    Now think of yourself for a moment, are you making learning all of the above? I know at one point I wasn’t, but throughout my career I have learned to become more of a learner than a teacher by passing a shared responsibility onto my students.

    But now in my current role, I am figuring out ways to encourage other teachers to adopt a learning philosophy such as above (or create one that really works for students and not teachers alone).

    If you have any ideas how to create these conditions, I would love to hear them. If you disagree or agree with me too, let me know. Send me a tweet @MrBillForrester or make post.


    • Aviva 6:13 am on November 12, 2014 Permalink

      Bill, I absolutely agree with everything on this list, and I love Dean Shareski’s thoughts on this topic. I am struggling with one line in your blog post though. It’s the idea of being “more of a learner than a teacher.” When did it become a bad thing to say that we’re teachers? Why are people replacing facilitator or co-learner with teacher? I absolutely agree with the need for teachers to learn alongside their students, but they also have an important job of knowing what this learning has produced and where students need to go next. They know, and are responsible, for helping bring this learning to the next level. I think that people that speak about this co-learning stance understand and believe this (at least to some extent), but I wonder what’s lost when we don’t really acknowledge this. I’m a classroom teacher. I love my job! I love teaching kids … and yes, I’m a learner (I learn new things every day), but I’m also a teacher.


    • wforrest 6:42 pm on November 11, 2014 Permalink

      Donna, Thanks for pointing that out. Your point is till valid, but it was a typo…should have been transparent.

    • Donna Fry 4:49 pm on November 11, 2014 Permalink

      Hi Bill;
      Thanks for sharing this. I have enjoyed reading all of your posts.

      I really like the idea of a manifest for the classroom learning environment.

      It’s interesting that “personal” appears twice on your list. I am conscious of the introverts in the room who are less thrilled with a lot of social stimulation. I would want to see a quiet area and some noise-reducing headphones to use when it is time to focus.

      While learning is social, introverts need some processing time and the choice of when to interact with others.

      It’s so awesome to have “rich” and “joyful” on the list.

      Thanks for sharing Dean’s presentations. They are a source of inspiration for all of us.

      Keep writing and sharing!


    • Dean Shareski (@shareski) 4:06 pm on November 11, 2014 Permalink

      Thanks Bill. I don’t know if those tenets work for everyone but i’d encourage ever teacher to write a manifest of their classroom learning environment. I’m sure others have different beliefs but these certainly are important to me and I do believe there are some universal ideas here that are important for all learners.

  • wforrest 9:00 pm on October 29, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Are We Neglecting Relationships While Promoting Technology? 

    Wow, what an amazing event today at the brand new #HWDSB Education Centre to kick off the Transforming Learning Everywhere #HWDSBTLE movement. Guest speaker Dean Shareski @shareski was great to listen to and he posed some very real reflective questions for educators to think about. I also really enjoyed the face to face with many Twitter friends and board employees I knew about but haven’t formally met yet.

    But I have to say, my best learning and reflection came from a parent volunteer driver. After the small talk and introductions, I said to her, “Isn’t this amazing?” and she replied, “I’m not sure?, My 10 year old son hasn’t talked to one person and he hasn’t taken his eyes of his iPad.” And then there was a pause, I was thinking about her question, and she wasn’t sure if she should have said that. The first thought that ran through my mind was I begin every meeting I conduct with a line such as “Everyone in this room will be respected and heard” and I instantly realized her comment had to be heard and taken as a valid point of observation.

    She continued to say she feels her son is become too dependant on the device and he is beginning to isolate himself from interaction with his peers. He’s definitely learning new skills, but not developing skills we had from our school days. We talked a lot more about other items too, but it really started to make me think.

    At the end, Shareski said something along the lines about educators need to harness the power of technology while at the same time be aware of the pitfalls (those are my words of his idea). He continued to say we need to think of ways students can build healthy relationships with people while using technology. I instantly looked for this parent to say “This is what you were saying!” but I didn’t see her.

    So what do you think? As educators we know we should be embracing technology (and I will continue for sure), we know balance is healthy and we know students love using it, but are we neglecting the relationship building piece that comes with promoting a 1 to 1 environment?

    Would love to hear your thoughts.

    • dougpete 10:00 pm on October 29, 2014 Permalink

      Nice piece, Bill. And, you know what? If a teacher or a parent places so much emphasis on the technology to the exclusion of all else, it’s bound to happen. I don’t know what your implementation plans encompass but if the teaching and learning doesn’t focus on a multitude of opportunities for students, you’re doing a huge disservice. The types of classroom activities really guide the response. It’s like the old saying “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like nails.”

      Classroom activities and any work assigned to be done at home should be done carefully to engage all kinds of activities for students. I hope that, just because a system has adopted a 1:1 program, the explicit message isn’t that all activities have to evolve around that device.

      As an educational professional, you have a multitude of tools that involve teamwork or working with different modalities. I hope that those have not dropped off the plate just because of an initiative.

      It sounds like a great topic of discussion for an open house or parent meetings.

    • adunsige 9:12 pm on October 29, 2014 Permalink

      This is a very interesting post, Bill! I think that even a few devices in the classroom could lead to a similar problem. Maybe the key is the need to teach students how to socialize both on and off the device. Maybe it’s explicitly teaching students about the importance of looking at the speaker, engaging in face-to-face collaboration as well as online collaboration, and building these “social pieces” into our classroom. If, as teachers, we still want a quiet classroom, students are going to be staring at a notebook or staring at an iPad screen. If though, we value the social aspects of education along with the academic ones, then hopefully relationships and technology can co-exist. I’d be curious to hear what others have to say.


  • wforrest 8:47 pm on October 13, 2014 Permalink | Reply  

    Guided Reading Should be Happening Every Day 

    There are many questions around guided reading, such as: How do I run it? What are other students doing when I’m doing it? What exactly do I read or teach? and many more questions.

    This blog post isn’t about how to run guided reading, having discussions with your colleagues will probably help you the most. This post is about the importance of doing guided reading everyday with a group of students in your class.

    I must admit, I didn’t run guided reading every day as a classroom teacher, I often found excuses but knew I should be doing it. However in my new role as instructional coach I have realized the importance of this small group instruction. I am truly enjoying having discussions with people about student needs, learning outcomes and anything to do with guided reading.

    The bottom line is this, it’s an opportunity to address a weakness in the form of a student need, in a small group instruction that will allow you to make comments, implement tools and give instant feedback in a safe small setting. Groups need to be flexible and dynamic and constructed from data, observation and assessment. This small group setting gives students a chance to develop reading strategies and teachers can model these strategies and engage students in conversations about the text.

    The more I think about guided reading and the more I participate in guided reading the more I see the benefits of guided reading for students. I suggest diving in and going head first if you haven’t tried it. Also try this with writing and math or any other subject you teach.

    Below are two websites that really spells it out for people considering starting guided reading. I suggest reading them.


    • Laura Dillon 9:54 pm on October 15, 2014 Permalink

      I also teach first grade and run 5 groups in my guided reading. I have my students rotate through stations during the week; word word, work on writing, computer, read to self and work with teacher. The 5 groups allow me to touch on many items throughout our guided reading time, and add in specifics for each group or stations that needs more attention. It also allows me comfort knowing that my students are split up accordingly and all have a goal to reach in that 50minute period. It takes a while until we are “ready” for guided reading though. Today actually, was our first day of guided reading this year! It has taken 6 weeks up until now to train the students to work in groups, and staying focused on said tasks while being able to produce meaningful work! I know it will still take a few more weeks until they are running smoothly, but training is key!!

    • Aviva (@avivaloca) 9:35 pm on October 15, 2014 Permalink

      Bill, like you, I definitely see the value in guided reading. This year in Grade 1, based on my student needs, I run 3-4 guided reading and/or guided writing groups a day. (I don’t think that I’ve ever done so many!) I also do small group instruction in math. I don’t think that anything benefits students more than this small group time, and even my young students know the importance of not interrupting this time.

      That being said, I’m not sure that I totally agree with you on “jumping into guided reading.” If we jump in too fast without adequate preparation, what’s the impact on our learners? How do we ensure that the rest of the class is working independently, and doing so in a meaningful way? I think that many, if not all, teachers understand the benefits in small group instruction, but the question becomes, how to do so well? Can we really have a discussion on guided reading and not look at this question? What would you suggest to teachers that are struggling in this area? What have you noticed that does work well? I think it would be great if many people shared their ideas so that we can all benefit.

      Thanks for starting this discussion!

  • wforrest 6:45 pm on October 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: #critical #literacy #harsh #fact #mrbillforrester   

    Not Teaching Digital Literacy is Teaching Students to Become Illiterate 

    Three main discussions and readings inspired me for this posting. The Ministry of Education’s monograph – Critical Literacy , a video by George Couros @gcouros, and the #hwdsb focus of critical literacy.

    Today’s students are trying trying to take a drink from a fire hose when getting information from the internet was a concept introduced to me in a speech by Sam an #HWDSB student. The more I thought about it, the more I realized he is right. Teacher’s can’t be the keepers of all knowledge, how can we ever compare to the amount of information the internet possesses! Teachers need to teach digital literacy and teach students to be critical of the media around them.

    In order for teachers to teach critical literacy a few things need to happen. We need to develop and maintain a culture that embraces digital media and teach students how to interpret these messages. Teachers must embrace students’ beliefs, interests and backgrounds and understand they are creating their own identity from a diverse population of influences. We must consider students’ ideas and ensure all are represented in an equitable way.

    When teaching digital literacy we must realize all messages on the internet have meaning and contain a belief that each person may see differently. We must know that different media sources serve different purposes and they each have their own language that we must try and help students to decode.

    Youtube is a great example of multiple media sources coming at a student in any given time. When I was a child, a sample conversation went like this…Did you watch G.I. Joe yesterday and all my friends would say yes at the same time and we would all start talking about it. Today’s conversations are different, students are getting their information from the internet and it would be my guess that close to every student in your class has their own favourite Youtube channel and there is little duplication. My point is this, the source of information is so much more vast than just a few years ago, we need to teach students to understand what they are seeing, not try to control it.

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