West Hempstead Weekly Update

November 14, 2022

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Thanksgiving Packing

Thank you to all the students and staff who helped organize and create packages for our families—hat tip to Ms. Zuluaga and Key Club for their efforts. We know how much they will appreciate a Thanksgiving meal.

Striving for Accuracy and the Habits of Mind

Are you in the habit of striving for excellence? ...Some students often let themselves slip into a rut of producing inferior or insignificant work. This is common, but dangerous because what you produce always something about you—about who you are and about your character. When you produce sloppy or insufficient work, it suggests that you are not the kind of person who takes the time to care. On the other hand, if you produce careful work—work that strives for excellence and checks carefully for any errors—it suggests that you are a fine worker committed to producing the best that you can at this time in your learning.

...[A]s you set goals for yourself is the degree to which your actions are striving for exceptional performance. Are you putting your best foot forward to push yourself toward your goals? Look at your output. Is what you are producing relevant? Accurate? Precise? Error-free? Are you meeting your goals?

Habits of Mind Animations: Striving for Accuracy
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image attribution: whatboots.com/au

Chestnut Street

The afternoon in an early childhood setting can bring about yawns and naps. But not at Chestnut Street! I saw some classrooms actively pursuing their best and striving for accuracy as they "played with JiJi the penguin." In eduspeak that would be ST Math. The website says, "It’s a PreK-8 visual instructional program that leverages the brain's innate spatial-temporal reasoning ability to solve mathematical problems. ST Math’s unique, patented approach provides students with equitable access to learning through challenging puzzles, non-routine problem solving, and formative feedback. With ST Math, students build deep conceptual understanding..."

I also saw students working on their foundational skills. Our phonics program, Fundations builds a foundation for reading and spelling. The program develops:

  • Phonemic awareness
  • Phonics/ word study
  • High frequency word study
  • Reading fluency
  • Vocabulary
  • Comprehension strategies
  • Handwriting
  • Spelling

Cornwell Ave.

"In the 1960s, a pair of researchers ran an experiment that changed the way the world thinks about expectations. Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson told a group of teachers that some of their students had been identified as having the potential to become very high achievers and that these students would bloom over the course of the year.

These pupils were, in fact, chosen completely at random. But when the researchers returned at the end of the year, they found that the chosen students had, on average, made significantly more progress than their peers.

The impact of having high expectations came to be known as the Pygmalion effect. In Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a sculptor who carved a statue so beautiful that he fell in love with it. His adoration was so strong that the gods turned the stone into a real woman. In sociology, the term is used in reference to living up to someone else’s high standards and expectations.

The opposite of this is the Golem effect– named after a mythical violent monster – where low expectations can lead to people performing worse as a result of other people’s expectations."

- https://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2016/aug/31/great-expectations-how-to-help-your-students-fulfil-their-potential

We love when teachers have high expectations for their students and do not confine them to a Lexile level, four walls of a classroom, adult perception, etc.

George Washington

Variety is the spice of life, the saying goes. I witnessed a variety of instructional strategies this week at GW. Students were deeply engaged in learning from whole to small group, to testing, to experiments. So what, one might say? Why can't they sit in rows and learn? Because learning is messy. Because learning occurs in an interpersonal context. Because learning is comprised of factors such as motivation, attitude, cognition, affect, and self-regard. No one approach works for all students all the time. It is incumbent upon the teacher to design learning experiences for students based on the outcomes they want students to reach and master.

West Hempstead Secondary School

The WHSS is committed to integrating different virtues of learning, identified as mastery, identity, and creativity. In this compelling learning environment, students and staff have opportunities to develop knowledge and skill (mastery), they come to see their core selves as vitally connected to what they are learning and doing (identity), and they have opportunities to enact their learning by producing something rather than simply receiving knowledge (creativity).

The goal is for learners to be apprenticed into expertise through inquiry, where developed knowledge is generative and unconstrained. It is learning how to find and solve problems and design solutions by using the stances and strategies of expert practitioners.

One approach we are trying to develop further is teaming. Our staff is striving to hone their craft as we develop a secondary school culture where we continue to support teaming to achieve mastery, identity, and creativity with a year’s growth for all students. They discuss and learn more about how

  • the teaming “marriage” is developing

  • planning influences achievement
  • various models of instruction can support all learners, and
  • differentiation meets the needs of your students.


I am reading, Reading for Our Lives by Maya Payne Smart, and over the next several newsletters, I will share some of her ideas from her writing.

In Chapter 4, Ms. Smart discusses six instructional areas that you can use to nurture a love of reading and development. They include oral language, sound awareness, print awareness, and letter knowledge (phonics and spelling). I will touch on each briefly. Please speak to your child's teacher if you are interested in learning more.

Spoken words are the precursor of all precursors to reading. When learning to read, a child can't make sense of a word in print that they haven't heard before in life. So parents must carry on conversations from the beginning to build up kids' word banks. Research provides evidence that the better children's vocabularies at kindergarten entry, the better their reading comprehension in third grade, and the better their third-grade reading skills, the better their high school graduation rates. Whatever your child's age, they'll benefit from more conversation with you.

A child can understand a sentence without labeling it a sentence They can grasp the declaration's meaning without having conscious awareness that it's made of individual words. And whether or not kids are aware of the presence of individual words, they focus on the message of the sentence as a whole, not the blending, blurring, and clustering of vowel and consonant sounds within the words. That's a different skill altogether.

Called phonological awareness, this "ability to recognize, discriminate, and manipulate the sounds in one's language" is crucial for learning to read. It spans from the recognition of syllables in words down to finer-grained discernment of individual speech sounds (called phonemes) like the initial /b/ sound in banana, Think of it as a single ability that plays our in a range of skills at different levels--the skill of clapping out the three syllables in banana would represent a beginning level, and the skill of replacing the initial /b/ sound with /f/ to turn banana into fanana as a part of a song or game would represent a more advanced level.

Teaching about print really is as easy as saying phrases like the following as you lift the cover, turn the pages, and point to relevant print features (no planning or preparation required):

Look at the words here on the book's cover. (Point to the words.)

This is the title of the book. (Point to the book's title.) It says Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. What is the title of the book?

The person who wrote the book is called the author. These words are the author's name. (Point to the author's name.) It says Vashti Harrison.

This is where the bunny is talking. The bunny's words are inside this bubble. (Point to speech bubble.)

In time, you can check your child's knowledge with questions and requests like: Where do I start reading? Show me the author's name. Point to the last line.

Kids need to know about letters and discern the speech sounds within words. But that's not all; they also need to be able to reliably recall which letters make which sounds so they can decode the print they see. 'That's why the best initial reading instruction in English directly teaches kids the links between letters and sounds, also known as

phonics. It's a basic fact of English that the sounds of the language are represented by the letters of the alphabet. Grasping the connection between the symbols and sounds is a necessary step that puts children well on their way to reading. Memorizing whole words one by one, not so much.

Many parents don't think about teaching spelling until lists of "irregular" and high-frequency words get sent home in their elementary schoolers' backpacks to "practice" (aka memorize) at home. But ideally, it should be on your radar long before your child is ready for spelling quizzes or even real reading.

From the beginning, encourage young children to attempt spelling by having paper and pencils handy, as well as by incorporating writing into imaginary play or games. Their creative "spellings" will progress from scribbles to letter-like scrawls to recognizable letters and ultimately readable words.

-Adapted from, Reading for Our Lives by Maya Payne Smart

Math at Home for PreK

There are many opportunities for children to learn about math in their everyday routines at home. At home, children can practice counting objects, identifying shapes, make patterns, and sort objects. See below for ideas.

UPK Interest Survey Is Now Live

If you are interested or know of people, please be aware that the 2023-2024 UPK Interest Survey is live. The link is below:


Home-School Literacy Connections

Every family wants the best for their children. How can we better support our students and your children in literacy?

  • Provide multiple opportunities - oral storytelling, written communication, and even cooking (the writing, writing, and sharing of recipes) are opportunities to engage in literacy activities.
  • Read stories together on MyON (https://www.myon.com/login/index.html). Ask your teacher or principal for more information (Grades 1-6).
  • Book clubs with the school and larger community.

Stay up to date and show some #RamPride on your phone

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It is not to late to join SEPTA, PTA, and PTSA!

Everyone involved is a volunteer focused on meeting student needs. The difference between a great school and a wonderful school community is the strong relationships between teachers, administrators, staff, and parents.

Why join?

  • You can have your voice and perspective heard.

  • You can fundraise to support programs and initiatives.

  • You can learn about the school community, and they can learn about you.

  • You can be “reflective.” Your children can submit their work to The National PTA’s Reflections program. This 50-year-old program provides opportunities for recognition and access to the arts. Students submit artworks in several categories based on the year’s theme.

Join today and follow on social media!

PTA Join: https://whepta.memberhub.com/store Twitter and Instagram @WHEPTA

SEPTA Join: https://1966.memberhub.com/store Twitter @WHSEPTARocks Instagram @WHSEPTA

PTSA Join: https://whptsa-10-285.memberhub.com/store Twitter and Instagram @WHPTSA

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Spirit Wear - Get yours today! It is as easy as holding your phone up to the QR code.

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Upcoming Events

11/14 Grades 9-12 Winter Sports Begin

11/15 7:30 pm BOE Meeting - SS VCR

11/17 & 11/18 Grades 7 & 8 Drama Production

11/18 Grades K-6 Report Cards Sent Home

11/18 SS Report Cards Viewable on PowerSchool

11/23 Secondary School ENL Luncheon

11/24 & 11/25 School Closed