3 Reasons Summer Assignments are the Worst
I’m not going to mince words here – I hate summer assignments. I mean, really hate them. I’ve completed them as a student and assigned them as a teacher. Y’all, they’ve got to go.
Many AP and IB courses give incoming students an assignment to complete over the summer. Usually due sometime within the first 2 weeks of school, assignments can include reading books or articles, writing an essay, visiting museums, or creating projects. Assignments can take anywhere from 1 hour to days to complete.
Often, the teachers themselves create the assignment, though not always. Teachers give summer assignments for many reasons – to weed out students, to cover material, to practice skills that will be used in the course, to preview course content, or because it’s required by the school administration.
As a teacher, I’ve done summer assignments in 3 different schools. Sometimes I wrote the assignment and other times it was assigned the spring before I arrived. And I disliked the entire process each and every time. Let me tell you why:
3 Reasons that Summer Assignments are the WORST
I’ve read a lot of summer assignments (they are almost always posted on school websites over the summer). While most seem interesting and are well-written, I’ve also seen some not-so-great assignments. Ones that were boring, would lead to a TON of plagiarism, and/ or would stifle any interest in the course. Sigh.
Even when the assignment is carefully designed, though, the results can be less than stellar. In my case, the quality of the work turned into me was always low. Students didn’t even bother to spell check. That low. It was disheartening for me to read work that had clearly been thrown together at the last minute.
I also questioned just how much students actually learned from the assignment. When I held class discussions, most students barely participated. I suspected that many of them just skimmed the reading, if that. Heck, some flat out told me that hadn’t completed it.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”If students aren’t learning anything, then what is the point of a summer assignment?” quote=”If students aren’t learning anything, then what is the point of a summer assignment?”]
This is one of the reasons many school districts are phasing out summer assignments and I applaud that decision.
Many low-income students don’t have the time and/ or money to complete a summer assignment. Some teens are working 40 hours a week (even during the school year) to help pay the rent or put food on the table. Other teens are babysitting younger siblings all summer while mom and dad work. Many can’t afford the assigned book, the needed supplies, the museum ticket, or transportation to a free place or event.
These kids are smart and would do well in advanced classes, but just can’t get the summer assignment completed. We are setting them up for failure and/ or keeping them from even signing up for the course.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”What a miserable way for kids and teachers to start the school year.” quote=”What a miserable way for kids and teachers to start the school year.”]
Students rush to skim the book and write something up. They are starting the year already stressed about the class. Teachers end up with piles of assignments to read. And piles of mostly bad work to grade. Let me tell you, there is nothing more demoralizing than reading 90 bad assignments.
Kids usually end up with so-so grades or even a 0. This can have serious consequences for students. I used to teach AP Government in Virginia, where the course is mostly taught to seniors and required for graduation. When Johnny didn’t complete his summer assignment, he tanked his 1st quarter grade. The one assignment could imperil his high school graduation.
In one school, all students had to complete four (yes, four) summer assignments to participate in activities. Not only were MANY students denied access to school activities, but it became a paperwork nightmare for the staff. #neveragain
What to do instead?
Some schools are scaling back assignments and making them count less. In one of my schools, it was not supposed to count for more than a quiz grade. That assignment was a heck of a lot of work for both teachers and students to be worth a just quiz grade.
However, my recommendation is to just scrap the summer assignment altogether. In 2 schools, my content teams just stopped giving a summer assignment. And nothing bad happened. Students who were going to work, did so. Students who didn’t work, didn’t work. As the teacher, the year started off much easier and the kids really started with a blank slate. Honestly, I was so much happier without it and so were students and parents.
BTW, if you have a summer assignment to complete, grab my planning guide so you can enjoy your summer AND turn in an awesome assignment. (Hint: It’s the best way to impress your new teacher!)