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How to Squeeze the Most Out of Summer Homework

How to Squeeze the Most Out of Summer Homework

We know that it takes the adolescent brain a few weeks or more to get itself back up to speed after the long summer break. A lot of teachers, particularly in the high school grades, try to reduce their students’ brainpower regression by trying to keep them busy over the vacation.

In what ways can summer homework, particularly reading, be beneficial to students without seeming like a chore? The answer is complex, and it partly depends on how helpful you feel about homework in the first place. Just like classroom and home learning during the school year, if the tasks are inauthentic (e.g., busy work), they will serve little to no purpose.

But, the brain drain of the summer months is real, so how do we make sure that our students are firing on all cylinders when they walk through our doors in the fall? Here are some things to keep in mind when assigning summer work.

Make sure that the tasks count for something

Nothing will generate ill will amongst students faster than telling them their summer work was all for naught, but you wouldn’t believe how many teachers forget that their students even had anything assigned over the summer break. Students have read your books or have done your homework in good faith. The summer work needs to be included, if not dominate, your first unit of the new school year. Otherwise, you might have some trust issues to address.

Make the tasks authentic

Students, especially older ones, can quickly sniff out busywork, and they are obviously less likely to give their best effort when they sense it. If it’s something you wouldn’t assign during class—but might give to a substitute if you’re out—don’t assign it over the summer break. The goal is to prepare students for their upcoming studies just as much as it is to keep them from forgetting what they learned in the previous school year. Find a mix of the new with the old, and make it as engaging as possible.

Allow for some self-guided learning

It’s no secret that the more input the student has in the task, the more engaging the lesson becomes. Because you’re not necessarily worried about mastery of new material and aren’t focusing on academic standards, there’s no harm in letting the students choose from a list of possible projects or books to read. Looking for tips to help encourage your older students to read for fun? Check out this blog!

Utilize the ultimate flipped learning opportunity

Perhaps you’re a flipped learning veteran or may still be just dabbling; in either case, summer break is the perfect opportunity to assign some lesson videos, either from your own library or from an online resource. Have students watch some TED Talks or lectures from Coursera or instructional videos from Khan Academy. They might not come in with complete mastery of the assigned topics, but they will be much better prepared to begin learning the material than if they were just doing worksheets from last school year’s work.

Looking for other fun ideas to encourage learning over summer break? Check out Edmentum’s free 30-Day Summer Challenge. Our flyer includes creative ideas designed to keep students engaged in their learning. With 30 days’ worth of fun activities, facts, and resources, learners are bound to learn something new each day and make the most out of summer break.

This post was originally published June 2013 and has been updated.

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Scott Sterling

Scott Sterling is a former English teacher who worked in Title I middle and high schools in St. Petersburg, Florida who is now a freelance writer who focuses on education. He is also a stay-at-home dad to his 4-year-old daughter Lily, who will soon be starting her own educational journey.