With Rigor for All, Second Edition: Meeting Common Core Standards for Reading Literature addresses the issues many of us English teachers are tossing around these days: how to teach a wide range of students in one classroom, how to reach reluctant readers, and above all, how to do so without sacrificing any of the rigor we strive to provide to challenge and enrich our students in their education.
Carol Jago, the book’s author, has plenty of credentials, published work, and years of classroom teaching to make her qualified, but even without knowing all of that, her confident, sure tone and practical approach would be enough to convince any reader. Every chapter is full of easily adaptable classroom stories, lessons and assessments, including reading lists grouped by category and age range and with titles such as “Comprehending Complex Literature” and “Developing Proficient, Independent Readers.” The back of the book includes a study guide for Professional Learning Communities and would be useful for any English department who chose to read the book together.
My favorite chapter is “Testing That Teaches,” where Jago addresses not massive state-wide standardized tests, but the objective tests many teachers give to assess a student’s understanding of a text. She begins the chapter asserting, “Every time a teacher of literature gives an objective test, students’ confidence in themselves as readers is undermined,” and moves from there to systematically dismantle any argument in favor of tests. I was thrilled to read so many cogent arguments that aligned with my own frustration with quizzes, and my own refusal to give objective tests in my classes. For Jago, these tests waste teachers’ valuable professional time, encourage destructive competitiveness in the student community of learners we are trying to build in our classrooms, discourage critical thinking, and place the emphasis on what a student is able to recall under pressure, rather than concrete and valuable reading and writing skills. While all of this is important and thought-provoking, what makes Jago so useful for the classroom teacher is that she offers alternatives, assessments and activities she uses in her teaching to assess understanding. The most creative example is giving her students Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird for class discussion, and then asking them to write poems titled “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Raskolnikov,” while reading Crime and Punishment (Vintage Classics), but she offers several others that are easily adaptable to any text and grade level as well.
While I understand altering the title for this edition, when so many public school teachers are adjusting to Common Core standards, I hope independent school teachers will still check it out, because I found it incredibly useful. I’d like to read her Classics in the Classroom: Designing Accessible Literature Lessons sometime in the near future; I can always use new inspiration, and I trust Jago to guide me in a productive way.
- Increasing Rigor in Your Classroom (donnaroman.wordpress.com)
- What English classes should look like in Common Core era (washingtonpost.com)
- Four Quick Ways To Boost Rigor In Your Classroom (teacherpop.org)
- What English Classes Should Look Like in the Common Core Era (dianeravitch.net)