My original title for this post was “How to turn in a summer assignment that doesn’t suck,” but that seems a little harsh, no?
This is how it generally goes: It’s the week before school starts and I suddenly remember that summer assignment I received in May. How am I going to complete it in a week?? Wait, was I supposed to buy a book? Crap! Hmm, I can either lose my last week of freedom completing this assignment OR hand in something I slapped together after skimming the reading. Dang it!
Summer assignments are common in high school AP and IB courses. There are a few reasons teachers assign them: to cover course content ahead of time, to have students practice skills that will be honed in class, to weed out students who aren’t willing to do the work, or because they are required by the school administration (been there, done that). Summer assignments come in all shapes and sizes. Students might have to read and respond to books or articles, visit museums or historic landmarks, complete math problems, or create original artwork. Some assignments are meant to take just a few hours, while others take days.
Over the years, I came to loath summer assignments. Most were completed too quickly and without much thought. Like, literally no editing. Frankly, it took a lot of time for me to grade mediocre (at best) work. Annnd many of my students started the year off with a low grade – that’s no way to start the year. Since I knew the kids wouldn’t spend much time on it, it was not a great tool for covering content. I also came to have misgivings about equity issues related to summer assignments – how do you make sure everyone has access to the book? A computer? I finally stopped giving summer assignments and never regretted that decision.
As much as you and I might agree, unfortunately, I am not your teacher. Your teacher did assign a summer assignment. Let’s talk about finishing it in a timely manner and with some genuine thought. There is no better way to impress your new teacher than with an amazing summer assignment!There is no better way to impress your new teacher than with an amazing summer assignment! Click To Tweet
I am not advocating that you complete your summer assignment right away. I firmly believe that summers are to be enjoyed. If school interferes with that, that interference should be minimal. However, there are some things that should be done before school ends or right after to make this process easier.
I made a planning worksheet for you, so click below and grab it! You can type directly in the worksheet in Google Slides or print it out as a PDF.
Print out a planning worksheet for each summer assignment. Make sure that you have the full assignment sheet, rubric, and teacher contact information for each BEFORE school ends. I HIGHLY recommend that you buy any necessary books or supplies right now.
Step 1: Break down the assignment
Read each summer assignment and write down action steps for each one. Estimate how long it will take you to complete each step – I recommend being generous with your estimates. I would rather you have too much time than too little!
Let’s imagine that your assignment is to read a book with 5 chapters and answer 3 open-ended questions. Each answer should be 1-2 pages long. Your action steps might look something like this:
Step 2: Your Schedule
Next, you will need a blank calendar or use an app on your phone. Add any family vacations, day camp, concerts, or parties you will attend. If you have a work schedule already, add that. Given even the most hectic summer, you should still have plenty of free time.
Step 3: Working Backwards
How long will you work on your summer assignment? Two weeks? One month? If you’re reading a book, keep it under 3 weeks. Longer than that and you will start to forget what you read. When do you want to finish? I recommend no later than the week before school starts. Starting at the final step, start putting the action steps you outlined above (along with the amount of time needed for each) on your calendar. Work backwards! Skip busy days or weekends when it is unlikely you will be able to complete any work.
Let’s say that school starts August 22. I want to finish my summer assignment on August 15, work every other day, and take no more than 3 weeks total. Therefore, I place “Editing (30 minutes)” on August 15. “Write #3 (30 mintues)” goes on August 13. After working backward and placing on the steps on the calendar, I need to start reading my book on July 30. Not too shabby!
Step 4: Build in some rewards, yo!
It will take so.much.motivation to complete stats homework rather than go to the beach. I get it. Create your own motivation by building in some small rewards – 30 minutes at the skate park, ice cream with a friend, a new magazine. Something small that floats your boat.
If you didn’t print out the planning worksheet earlier, grab it now!
Put these dates in your phone and set reminders. Place the calendar in a place you will see it every day – your bathroom mirror, on the fridge door. Consider buddying up with a friend in the same class – you can keep each other on track!
Have a great summer and complete that dang summer assignment!