There is almost no hope of preparing our students—particularly our most disadvantaged students—for what lies ahead if we don’t ask them to do rigorous work that is worth doing every day. In English class, that means actually reading great—often challenging—literature. In science and history, it means ensuring that all students have access to real content and the academic vocabulary that goes along with it. ...
At the same time, we scratch our heads and wonder why our students are ill prepared for the rigorous work they will be asked to do in college and beyond. But we need look no further than these examples to understand why they aren’t ready: it’s because we haven’t prepared them. ...
The reality is that if you flip through the SAT or through the table of contents of any conventional literature textbook, you’ll find page upon page of esoteric vocabulary: circular plot, denouement, elegy, epigram.
These are words that are perfectly good to know. But, let’s be honest, these are not words that our children need to master to prepare for the rigors of college and careers.
What’s worse, for students in the Latino community, these can become unnecessary barriers. These are not words that deepen student understanding or that help propel them into more advanced coursework. And so, we need to help teachers and students focus on the first things first.
Finally, this effort—this fight—demands that we give our students the support they need to meet the expectations we’ve set. In English language arts, the standards focus on reading texts that are worth reading. It means emphasizing the importance of content and vocabulary. And it means bending instruction and support to meet students where they are, rather than bending work to meet what we think they can handle.
You can argue that you don't need to know literary terms if you don't think literature is important. Or if you don't think school is important. Or if you're some kind of reader response purist perhaps. But it makes no sense at all to argue that literary terms are unimportant when you are also emphasizing reading complex literary texts for the purpose of creating analytical arguments about the texts, with the objective of preparing students for college.
It just makes no sense.