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 Spotlight: Why Elizabeth Kearney Has The Best of Both Worlds She loves teaching kids during the day and adult graduate students at night. Here's what keeps her motivated, and what reading teachers do for fun

 

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NLU student Elizabeth Kearney is working towards her doctorate in Reading, Language and Literacy.

When NLU student Elizabeth Kearney finishes her dissertation in the Ed.D. in Reading, Language and Literacy program, she will have two masters degrees and a doctorate in education.  What does one do with that kind of firepower? In this Q and A, she told us what makes her get up in the morning, which NLU professors inspired her and where her passion lies.

NLU:  Elizabeth, could you tell us where you work now, and what you’re doing?

Elizabeth Kearney:  I work for the Chicago Public Schools as a part-time second grade teacher.  I also work for Concordia University as an adjunct faculty member, teaching in their Master of Arts in Teaching program. I teach literacy courses.

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Carnegie Foundation Honors NLU’s Community Engagement NLU's community partnerships, service learning get national recognition

 

Carnegie CEC digital sealNational Louis University is proud to announce it has been recognized with the Carnegie Foundation’s Classification for Community Engagement.

This honor recognizes NLU’s support of community partnerships and service learning, as well as the university’s collaboration with local, regional, state, national and global communities to exchange knowledge and resources. Continue reading »

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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Mexican Government Grants NLU $15,000 in Scholarships More than 25 students have received scholarships since 2010

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NLU staff, students and friends attended the scholarship presentation at the Mexican consulate. They included, from left, Margaret Stemler, Ed.D., Dulce Coronado, Juliana Alejandre, Maria del Socorro Ramirez, Monica Ramos, M.A., Alison Hilsabeck, Ph.D., and Ignacio Lopez, Ed.D.

Students from Mexico or of Mexican descent will be able to apply for $15,000 in new scholarship money from a grant awarded to National Louis University by the Institute of Mexicans Abroad (Instituto Mexicano para l’Externo or IME in Spanish).

Last year, 15 NLU students received scholarships provided by a grant from the Institute. On Dec. 4, one of them, Dulce Coronado, a sophomore pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education, told an audience of diplomats and educators how much it meant to her during a press conference at the Mexican consulate.

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Dulce Coronado, an early childhood education student at NLU, told consular officials how much it meant to her to receive an IME BECA scholarship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Catalyst: NLU Will Use $8.3 Million TQP Grant to Prep Teachers In STEM

 

Having students solve math equations or do science homework is one thing, but letting them tackle real-world problems allows them to think and analyze in a different way. Catalyst Chicago profiled a Chicago Public School which gives students a real-world-type of conundrum--for example,  whether to site a garbage dump in a neighborhood–and lets them approach it from many angles to weigh the costs and benefits.

Catalyst suggested National Louis University, which was awarded an $8.3 million Total Quality Partnership federal grant in September to figure out how to improve STEM teacher preparation for schools in high-poverty areas, may consider such an approach.

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