Summer Work

Today we discussed whether or not to continue requiring students to complete summer homework in order to enroll in the English honors programs. Originally, we asked students to read a biography (and compose a 1-2 page summary), to read a Newbery/Pulitzer winner, and to read three consecutive periodicals.

My beef was always that we received book reports on the biography, and we had no real way to know if the students actually did the other work. Besides this, the writing did not feel authentic while the reading did not connect to anything in the class.

However, today I think we made some progress. We’re keeping the readings but directing the writing much more; plus, we’re eliminating the periodical readings. The students will have to connect personally to the biography, and we’re going to have the students use the Newbery/Pulitzer reading as part of a presentation in the first week of school. We still need to finalize the writing prompts we will use, but I think we’re heading in the right direction if we’re going to assign summer work.

I try to have my students relate to the readings in their writing, and I believe we leave out the students’ experiences and connections to the literature much too often. How do students relate to the readings? Do the authors’ or subjects’ beliefs match those of our students? Why should students read these types of texts? What is learned from the texts? These are the types of questions I want my students to answer, and I think they become better writers for it.


7 thoughts on “Summer Work

  1. Jen

    How do you collect summer work? Does it receive a grade? What do you do about students who transfer in from other schools or from out of state?

  2. drpezz Post author

    I collect the work on the first day, and I just use it to see what immediate needs the kids have; however, that may change a bit once we switch the assignment. I typically give a credit/no credit score, but it’s a required assignment to stay in the honors program. Students who transfer in get a quarter to complete the assignment.

    Like I said though, all may change once we finalize the way we are going to use the summer work.

    Do you have summer homework?

  3. Jim Van Pelt

    I’ve argued strongly against summer work for our honors kids with my department. I like the idea of task-free time. The kids who love to read will read the works of their choice (some ask for reading lists), while the ones that don’t take a break and do what relaxes them. My oldest child graduated high school last year, and my 15 year old is a sophomore. Both are honors kids who love to read. They (and I) resented being told what to read or what sort of supplemental activities they should do during the summer.

    Of course, there are strong arguments from other department members. When I’m done listening to them, I think that they sound like the English teacher equivalent of very stern faced task masters, and that the only way to approach an honors curriculum is through hard (preferably unpleasant) work. “It’s an honors program,” they say. “It’s supposed to be hard.”

    My two cents.

  4. Cheryl

    I only teach 4th grade, but as a former honors student myself and the mother of a student in gifted programs, I abhor the idea of summer work. Students of the caliber to be in these high programs need the summer to expore their OWN ideas that are meaningful to them. I never had summer work, and my life might have gone quite differently (not in a good way) had I not had summers free to explore the arts, which is my love.

    And the idea of making students who move in from out of state make up summer work during the first quarter on top of other work is Draconian. No wonder so many students hate school now. I am seriously keeping the option of home-school for my highly gifted child WIDE open, mostly due to this very issue.

  5. drpezz Post author

    I hear ya both. I think over the next couple years I will try to phase out the summer work, but I can’t win that battle right now so I plan to reshape it for now.

    I get a few odd looks when I say I give my students Thanksgiving, Christmas Break, and Spring Break off with no work. I think the kids should have this time off as well.

    I can’t say that summer homework is going to ruin a student’s high school career or that it’s the cause of any hatred towards school, but I do think we can eliminate it without any ill-effects.


  6. mz.w

    I liked having summer reading as an honors student. I am an avid reader anyway, and didn’t mind the so-called extra. I didn’t mind the US history work I had to do before I started AP US History as a junior. I did my own thing during the summer as well. What I DID mind was what happened the beginning of my junior year English class: we had been given a reading list of 3 books. I read the books. Well, the teacher we were supposed to have left and the teacher who took her place was hired at the last minute, and didn’t want to use the books and simply gave us a multiple choice/short answer essay test and then moved on. I minded having read these books for what appeared to be no reason, particularly as I didn’t like at least one of them. But overall, I would say it was an excellent lesson for someone who became a teacher. Also, I read books I would never read on my own and am now a more culturally literate person, which I don’t mind at all.
    Literature and history work is one thing though; I would have pitched a major fit if I had been told to do math, chemistry or physics over the summer. Probably would have been good for me though, as those are my weak spots. I also liked being given assignments over winter and spring breaks. I could work on things my own way, at my own pace. They were frequently more creative type assignments, and I enjoyed that time to focus on just one or two long term assignments.
    I see nothing wrong with requiring a reading/writing assignment or two over a summer/winter/spring break for all students, not just the honors kids, as long as that assignment is meaningful, and used in class. But then again, I had a stable home life, didn’t have to work to support myself or my family, and access to any materials I might have needed so…yeah. Equity or lack there of changes things.

  7. Betty

    At least summer homework gives some kids something to do other than sit around, watch television, and text their friends. I know that some kids work very hard during the summer months, but reading one book and writing about it is doable.


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