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Are They Really All Named Charlie? How Reading Teachers Teach Complexity A 7-Year-Old Looking At A 'Je Suis Charlie' Crowd Asks an Obvious Question

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Jan. 11, 2015.
Credit: Frederic Legrand – COMEO / Shutterstock.com

By Susan McMahon, Ph.D.,  professor in Reading and Language at National Louis University

The other day, I was shopping at one of the major national stores, waiting in line to check out.  Ahead of me was a mother with three children—a toddler, one about 5, and the oldest maybe 7.  The oldest was looking at the magazines that lined the left side of the check-out lane.  There were a couple with pictures of the French standing together holding the sign “Je suis Charlie.”

“Momma, I can’t read this,” said the boy.

The mother temporarily turned her attention to the magazines and said, “It means ‘I am Charlie,’” then returned to piling her purchases on the conveyer belt and containing the other two children.

“Wow!  That’s a lot of people with the same name!” said the boy, who turned his attention to some plastic toys below.

This interaction between a mother and son was complete and appropriate.  She answered his question and he had gained some understanding of the meaning communicated by the picture.  The parent in me understood her response, as well as the need to keep the answer simple given the situation.

At the same time, the reading teacher in me had to think about how complex his question really was, and that in a classroom the teacher could use this as a means of exploring complex texts with her students.

Imagine a classroom in which a student brought in the same picture and asked the teacher the same question. She would have to decide whether to focus on just a literal meaning or delve more deeply into the interpretive or critical significance.

Certainly the age of the student would matter, so the teacher’s response may be as simple as that of the mother above.  At the same time, focusing on a literal meaning addresses only the functional purpose for reading.

Teachers understand that students need to learn to delve more deeply into complex texts.  For example, the Common Core State Standards require students to read critically to evaluate meanings.

Teachers question how they can identify “complex texts” and think they need entirely new sets of texts—which they may.  However, the pictures that filled the news after the terrorist attack in Paris were good examples of complex texts that could provide deep analysis and discussion in a classroom.  Let me explain.

Imagine any one of the many pictures published in the media with crowds of people holding a sign saying “Je suis Charlie.”  As adults, we immediately know that all those pictured are not literally named “Charlie” so we begin looking for other meanings.  However, students may only comprehend the literal.

A good reading teacher would lead students to a number of different, yet plausible reasons people whose name is Francois or Marie carried this sign.  This may include reading additional related articles about the terrorists who killed staff members at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper or killed Jewish shoppers in a grocery store a few days later.  By reading additional texts, teachers could help students understand that proclaiming “Je suis Charlie” was a way of speaking up for those killed, for freedom of speech in general, or for democratic values.  Therefore, the teacher would make clear that for each individual who chose to proclaim, “Je suis Charlie,” the meaning differed.  That varied meanings emerge from the same document is one characteristic of a complex text.

In addition to an interpretive stance, a good reading educator helps learners construct a critical meaning from complex texts as well.  In this case, she may ask students to consider what the political implications might be for large demonstrations in a city already attacked by terrorists.  Such discussions would enable students to discuss the potential increase in danger as well as the ramifications of doing nothing.  Through such instruction, a teacher could encourage readers to look for different perspectives on the same events, deepening their reading comprehension of multiple texts.

The busy mother in the checkout lane did not discuss all of these—nor should she have.  The mom answered her son’s question in the most appropriate way for the circumstances.  However, when asked the same question, a teacher needs to encourage students to move beyond a literal meaning.

Recent policies, such as No Child Left Behind, reduced reading to a response to “right there” questions on tests, focusing only on literal comprehension and emphasizing functional reading. As we move into an age of the Common Core State Standards, teachers are now being asked to enable students to think more deeply about the texts by examining claims and the subsequent support.

Therefore, teachers must push their practice to encourage students to read more deeply, to analyze and critique the ideas.  Are you ready to provide such instruction?   As a literacy leader, are you capable of supporting teachers who are looking for better ways to teach reading?   Both students and professors in National Louis University’s advanced reading doctoral program enjoy the thrill of working with such ideas and analysis. I can’t imagine doing anything more professionally rewarding.

 

Community College Undergrads Visit, Learn Early Childhood Education Options Profs brief them kindergarten teachers will need early childhood endorsement in Illinois

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About 35 Triton College students sang multicultural songs, critically examined children’s books and contemplated getting an Early Childhood Education degree at National Louis University when they visited the Chicago Campus for an Institute Day on December 1.

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Student Honor Society Grows, Thrives–Apply Before Deadline

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By Amanda DaSilva

Last fall, NLU launched its inaugural chapter of the National Society of Leadership and Success and has attracted nearly 550 undergraduate and graduate student members to date. This January, the Society invites its next round of eligible students to attend leadership workshops, network with fellow members and enjoy benefits that include success coaching and exclusive access to job banks, recommendation letters and scholarship funds. Invitees were again selected using GPA and credit hours criteria, and students who decide to join earn lifetime membership in the Society through the following induction events at the Chicago, Wheeling or Lisle campuses: Continue reading »

How to be Merry & Bright During the Holidays Valuable Advice from the NLU Counseling Center

snowmansandThe holiday season is filled with expectations of cheer and bliss.  From decorations and carols to gift-giving and time with family, the messages we receive are that we should be jolly during this time of year.  For many people, however, the holidays can bring about a great amount of stress and anxiety. Oftentimes there is an unspoken pressure to buy just the right gift to make your loved one happy.  Other times it’s reconnecting with family that brings up difficult feelings, unhealed wounds.  Just beneath the surface of society’s messages of abundant bliss and good cheer is the reality that with joy comes sorrow.

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California Alum Presents Early Literacy Program To Students

 

By Ayn Keneman, Ed.D.

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Mary Kay Moskal, Ph.D., an NLU alum, returned to present a talk on early literacy to students.

Early Childhood students of NLU’s Ayn Keneman, Ed.D., were treated to a session with  Mary Kay Moskal, Ph.D., on early literacy assessment. Moskal is from the Kalmanovitz School of Education at Saint Mary’s College of California. NLU’s Early Childhood students are all in schools as part of the practicum undergraduate course.

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Want an Edge Getting Hired or Starting a Biz? NLU Launches Entrepreneurship Concentration

 

Students will be able to pitch business ideas, just like on ABC-TV’s ‘Shark Tank’ 

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Almost everything people do on the job starts with an idea, and with the skills to sell that idea.  Whether it’s a counselor offering her professional services, a company looking to diversify into new product lines, a person starting a small business or a human services grad setting up a non-profit, all of them needed to brainstorm an idea, refine it, bring it to market and sell it to customers.

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Rodriguez Named Student Laureate, Honored at State Ceremony

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NLU Early Childhood undergrad Hortencia Rodriguez, wearing medallion with red ribbon, was given the honor of Student Laureate by Illinois’ Lincoln Academy, a non-profit. A ceremony took place Nov. 1 in Springfield. Also pictured are Hortencia’s daughter at left, NLU’s Ayn Keneman, Ed.D., right, and Hortencia’s mother.

Hortencia Rodriguez, an NLU early childhood undergraduate, was recognized as a Student Laureate by the Lincoln Academy of Illinois during a ceremony Nov. 1st at the Old State Capitol State Historic Site in Springfield. Hortencia was one of 52 students in Illinois to receive this honor. This is the 40th year Lincoln Academy, a non-profit organization, celebrated students’ excellence in Illinois.

The Lincoln Academy’s Student Laureate Awards are presented for excellence in curricular and extracurricular activities to seniors from each of the four-year, degree-granting colleges and universities in Illinois. At the Student Laureate Convocation, Hortencia received a Student Laureate Medallion, along with a certificate of achievement and an educational grant of $1,000.

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Meet the National Louis counseling team; they are here to help you!

Did you know that National Louis offers counseling services? With free support groups and mental health workshops, as well as affordable individual, couple and family counseling, there are plenty of ways to get extra support this school year.

Ask Us Anything
One quick way to get support is to send an email to counseling@nl.edu with any question that you have. Your question will be answered within 24 hours by our trained counselors and you may find the answers, resources or relief that you are looking for. No question is too strange, and you might be surprised that you’re not the only one with the same concern!

Meet Your Counselors
The counselors at the NLU Counseling Center are well trained and dedicated to bringing lasting change to people’s lives. They are empathic, creative and focused on helping individuals, couples and families develop insight and health. Any of them are available for consultation. Simply email counseling@nl.edu for more information.

Counseling1David Klow, LMFT
David is the owner of Skylight Counseling Center and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. David works creatively and collaboratively, drawing on ancient wisdom and modern practices to bring lasting transformation to people’s lives.

Counseling2Kristen Snell-Anzalone, LPC
Kristen works with adults, children, and couples.  Her focus is on individuals with histories of trauma, depression/mood disorders, parent-child attachment problems, spirituality, and women’s issues, particularly perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, work-life balance, and mind-body-spirit integration.

Counseling3Kathleen Farrell, AMFT
Kathleen believes that change comes from within.  As an experienced, compassionate therapist she has had tremendous success at empowering clients to effect positive change.  In addition to being a therapist, Kathleen is a certified group fitness instructor and personal trainer. She values the connection between the mind and body and enjoys working with clients to strengthen this connection.

Counseling4Kevin Lanham, LPC
Kevin focuses on empathically tuning into the client’s story and collaborating with the individual to create transformative change. Kevin aims to meet the needs of each client and discover how therapy will produce change in his or her life. Kevin’s interests include working with men, couples, anger management, depression, communication skills, and developing a sense of self-worth.

Counseling5Kate Engler, AMFT
Kate works with couples, families and individuals from diverse populations who want to live more fulfilling lives by addressing and helping to solve relationship challenges. She has a particular interest in working with those experiencing life transitions such as adolescents, couples moving into new phases of their relationship, and women exploring the “what’s next” in their lives.

Counseling6Johanna Davenport, Clinical Intern
Johanna works with adults, couples and families from diverse backgrounds who are seeking therapy to improve their lives. She focuses on individuals who have a history of trust issues, problematic relationships, substance abuse, work-life balance, depression, anxiety, low-self esteem, and transitions, particularly with twenty-somethings.

Our Next Event
Please join us for the next Mental Health & Wellness Workshop on Monday, October 27th from 4pm-5pm in the Chicago Campus Atrium. This month’s topic is on how to deal with feeling alone. When we can relate deeply and effectively with others, we become more effective in our lives, academics and work. Yet most of us don’t know the skills to be our best in our relationships with others. Learn how to instantly touch, move and inspire others and become more effective in your relationships with teachers, classmates and loved ones. More information is online available here.

This is a Free event. RSVP and join us for a chance to win a $25 e-campus gift card.

Criminal Justice Honors Society Comes To National Louis

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By Richard Schak,  Criminal Justice Program Director

National Louis University has been approved for a chapter of the Alpha Phi Sigma (National Criminal Justice Honors Society). Our Chapter name is Phi Psi and we are accepting new members. The criteria for joining our chapter is as follows:

Undergraduate Students: Undergraduate students shall be enrolled in an institution represented by a chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma. They must have declared a major, minor or equivalent in criminal justice or a related field, have completed three full-time semesters or their equivalent. They must attain a minimum GPA of 3.2 on a 4.0 scale in their cumulative and criminal justice classes, and rank in the top 35% of their class. A minimum of four courses of the above course work shall be in the criminal justice field.

If you meet the above criteria and are interested in joining our new chapter, please email Chapter Advisors Mr. Rich Schak, Richard.schak@nl.edu or Dr. Dan McGuire, dmcguire3@nl.edu.

Why I Love NLU Students

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Wow. What a start to Fall 2014. I just love our students. Honestly, they are the reason I get up in the morning, bounce along on the train and take a lovely walk from Union Station. I’ve been in Student Affairs for close to 15 years and I still get excited each new school year, including goose bumps of excitement as the buzz of returning students infects the campus.

I’m proud to say that I hope to be the NLU Difference. In a previous blog, I shared some of my vision for the National Louis Student Experience this year.  Last week, the Student Experience Team visited each campus with gifts, food and excitement to tell you all about our plans for this year. We had such a great time conversing with students, trying out a little Zumba (don’t worry, we won’t quit our day jobs), and displaying our blue and platinum pride.

Here are the top 3 reasons why I love NLU students:

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