In order to be in our honors program in the English Department, we first require the students to submit a letter of application and then require the students, prior to the 9th and 10th grade years, to complete summer homework. These assignments are due on the first day of school.
If a student does not complete this work, they are denied entrance into the honors classes.
I’m not a huge fan of assigned summer work, but if we are to continue the practice I’d like to see us make a couple changes. First, I would have the students write to a specific prompt rather than use the vague summary assignment we currently use. Along with the prompt, I would provide a detailed rubric for the students to use while composing. After reading the summer work, not only do I get a definite sense of the skills the students are lacking, but I also see that the students do not understand the level of excellence expected of them.
Secondly, I think I would require a written response to each of the 2-3 readings we assign. Right now we only require that the students read some of the material without having any way of assessing whether or not the students actually did the work. I’m going to suggest to the department that we either eliminate the extra readings or have a short reaction assignment for each.
Do you use summer readings for classes? How do you feel about them?