Dear teachers, stop sucking the fun out of summer

Sept. 3, 2018, 8:29 p.m. | By Shifra Dayak | 5 years, 9 months ago

Summer reading assignments should cater to all students' strengths and interests

This summer, Blair students are going to camp, hanging out with friends, working… and scrambling to complete homework. Summer assignments vary depending on the classes Blazers are taking. Some classes offer a reasonable amount of summer reading, but many students find the work they have to complete during break stressful and unnecessary. In its current state, most summer reading is a burden and needs to be altered so students can have more choices.

For teenagers who are occupied with homework and classes every day during the school year, summer is an opportunity to recharge. Instead, many students are forced to spend most of their break doing homework. Junior Adiba Chowdhury thinks the time she spends on summer homework could be better-used. "Sometimes it feels like I'm spending my time doing something that won't be relevant, and that bothers me," she explains.

Research shows that students who are overloaded with work at any point suffer. Homework — summer or otherwise — can cause students to lose their motivation to pursue hobbies, face poor health and take away from their development of social skills, according to a study conducted by Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford's School of Education.

In an era where teenagers face more stress than ever before, it is wrong that students have to spend their summer break loaded with homework rather than doing activities they choose. Hailey Mitchell, another junior, feels weighed down by the heavy summer workload she gets. "I want to cherish the last summers I have with my friends before going off to college — I don't want to spend all that time cooped up inside doing work," she says.

"Summer brain drain" is a real problem, with students who do not have access to reading material during the break losing 25 to 30 percent of knowledge from the previous school year. According to Richard Allington, a Professor of Education at the University of Tennessee, "Children who do not read in the summer lose two to three months of reading development while kids who do read tend to gain a month of reading proficiency, [Creating] a three to four month gap every year." However, it's time to call for a system that allows all students to maintain knowledge but is beneficial to their mental health.

The key to creating effective but manageable summer reading is incorporating more student choice. Many Blazers, including junior Priya Dohlman, say the summer assignments they enjoy the most are ones where they can choose reading material. "I do generally enjoy the books I read, largely because there is some choice involved," she explains. The classes in which students are given a say in their summer homework should be used as a model. Each teacher should work to expand student choice to all parts of summer work.

Traditional summer reading causes students stress and prevents them from enjoying their time off. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Some might argue that teachers already provide enough choice in summer homework by giving students different book options, but not all departments practice this. For the ones that do, it's not enough. Because Blair students hold many different talents — filmmaking, drawing and public speaking, among others — it is important that they are not confined to the classic reading-and-writing combo during the summer.

Teachers should enforce the importance of practicing academic skills during summer break, but allow students to carry that out however they might wish, whether through reading a book, creating a short movie or making a speech analyzing a current event. By personalizing learning in this way, teachers will help "tap into student learning styles, permitting [students'] talents to spring forth" as Ray Heitzmann, a Teacher Education Professor at Villanova University, says.

Another reason why summer reading is non-constructive is because it is not expanded during the school year through discussion or any other means. If teachers were presented with varied, student-chosen assignments, opportunities for discussion would be much easier to facilitate when school starts. This change would give students time to fully absorb material and express ideas to their peers.

While incorporating choice in summer work may not be traditional, it's time for teachers to take initiative and curb any boredom or stress their students might face as a result of their assignments. Summer is meant for fun and meaningful learning, not for trucking through monotonous tasks.

Last updated: Sept. 16, 2018, 10:02 p.m.

Tags: summer reading

Shifra Dayak. Hi, I'm Shifra! If I'm not writing articles or doing homework, I'm probably making music, browsing through dog pictures, eating Thai food, or napping. More »

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