West Hempstead Weekly Update

October 31, 2022

Big picture

Thinking about Thinking and the Habits of Mind

Thinking about your thinking or metacognition is the process you go through to plan, monitor, and assess. Another way of thinking about metacognition is knowing what you know, knowing what you do not know, and knowing what to do. Our staff is working with our students/your children to understand themselves as learners, their strengths and weaknesses, and how they can kaizen or continuously improve.

The video below speaks about seven questions that can help our students/your children. They are:

  • What should I do first?
  • Is anything confusing me?
  • Can I explain what I have learned?
  • Should I ask for extra help?
  • Why did I get this answer wrong?
  • Can I apply this in different contexts?
  • How can I do better next time?

Developing this disposition of thinking about your thinking is about continually improving and learning.

What's Metacognition and Why Does it Matter?
Big picture
image attribution: whatboots.com/au

Chestnut Street

Chestnut Street is a small learning space with so many wonderful pockets of learning opportunities. Every nook and cranny is used to allow our youngest learners the opportunities to inquire, explore, and learn daily. Learning through play and imagination are important parts of the learning process. Not every "lesson" is structured, nor should they be. Play and the use of imagination allow students to grow socially and emotionally, they help develop language, independence, creativity, and help to develop problem-solving skills.

Cornwell Ave.

What is equivalence? What does an equal sign represent in an equation? What do equivalence and equation have in common? How are they different? These are some of the questions students discussed and debated in Ms. Simone's class this week. One assumes that all students understand these concepts, but unless developed and taught, students do not always have an understanding.

As you can see, Ms. Simone was building in word work by discussing the words, introducing a novel word (equivalence), and spelling. Our staff always looks for avenues to teach multiple skills throughout the day.

By building a better conceptual understanding, teachers can reduce the "cognitive load" of students, therefore freeing up "space" to think.

George Washington

Sometimes we need to teach a specific skill for a specific purpose. We are often building a bridge that links what students need and the content we teach. Common sense tells us that students are more motivated and engaged when learning in an interdisciplinary environment. Information is more relevant to their lives. The content is relevant because our teachers are building those bridges between the disciplines. If we believe that students need to learn deeply, then we must allow them the time and space to gain deep, significant understandings. If you do not believe me, ask Jaylen, who taught me a thing or two about plate tectonics. Keep learning and learning, Jaylen!

West Hempstead Secondary School

I had the opportunity to discuss the Suzuki method with a colleague, Mr. DiPasquale. Shinichi Suzuki was a violinist and teacher well-known for developing the Suzuki Method, a hugely popular approach to early music education. "[He believed that} the achievement of a certain level of mastery on the violin was only an example—albeit a powerful one—of what all children could accomplish with proper guidance from an early age. His goal wasn’t to create professional musicians but to transform society, and he believed that many social ills stemmed from adults’ failure to help children fully realize their potential and become enlightened individuals. By children, he meant all children—whether their potential was great or small, whether it lay in music, mathematics, poetry or athletics. “This method is not education of the violin,” he told a reporter in 1977. “It is education by the violin.” (https://on.wsj.com/3Nt8InJ)

Why do I mention Mr. Suzuki and his approach? Because I think we need to remind ourselves and our students (children) that:

  • we need to build a foundation
  • success comes from effort
  • there are positive unintended consequences of a well-rounded education
  • a poorly-educated society can lead to undesired consequences
  • it is everyone's job to help children fulfill their potential

What does this have to do with a secondary school education? A lot, but in its simplest form, students need to understand the importance of having a work ethic. They need to understand the importance of "knowing things" at the moment may not be applicable, but applying these lessons will help in the future (aka "transfer of learning"). Students should accept the idea that becoming well-rounded individual helps them zero in on what they want to focus on in the future.

At the secondary level, students should be doing work at home for ten minutes per grade level. Therefore, a tenth-grade student should be doing work at home for one hour and forty minutes daily.


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.

Ms. Smart writes about five touchstones and believes reading is taught, not caught. We know reading is a complex process; children cannot master it by watching others read or being surrounded by books. This reminds me of the Yoda quote, "Do or do not. There is no try."

The first touchstone is about creating shared meaning between us and our children/students. This means meeting them where they are, capturing their attention, engaging in back-and-forth exchanges, and helping them to their next level. Parents should ask questions, introduce new and novel vocabulary, and arrange words and phrases in advanced ways. Of course, how you respond plays a major role as well.

Touchstone two involves accepting and planning for learning to take time and space. At home, "the lessons" do not need to be formal. Teaching young children often looks like talking, playing, and singing. Find something you will enjoy and follow through on.

Making the lesson personal and the more personal, the better is the main idea of the third touchstone. The power of personal meaning helps explain why we as parents often find that something that worked with one child falls flat with another. Kids' associations, judgments of usefulness, and identities vary widely, even when they grow up under the same roof. So determine what makes your child tick and create relevant experiences for them.

Praising the process is the fourth touchstone and something we discuss at school regularly. Having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset is very important. Be specific in your praise and avoid phrases such as, "You're so smart."

When you do not know, look it up. This is the last touchstone. From keeping a dictionary handy to learning about the origins of words so we can teach our children are part of nurturing and developing a reader. Children cannot sound out words like right, people, and sign as they do not have clear letter-sound correspondence. The lesson a child needs in these instances isn't how to blend this letter sound into that one but how the English language and its writing system work overall.

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

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 the area of 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.
  • Book clubs with the school and larger community.

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

Big picture

Have you joined 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

Big picture

Upcoming Events

11/7 5:30 pm - 9 pm Districtwide Parent-Teacher Conferences

11/7 Winter I Sports Begin - Grades 7 & 8

11/8 8:30 am - 2:30 pm Districtwide Parent-Teacher Conferences

11/10 Quarter One ends

11/10 7 pm SEPTA Supermarket Bingo

11/11 Schools Closed - Veterans Day

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