Do summer assignments successfully aid students in retaining information and skills learned in the previous school year?


As I completed reading the concluding sentence of the AP World History summer reading booklet, I sat back in my chair and released an exhale of utter relief. As I flipped through the pages of notes that I took, I quickly realized that it had taken me thirteen days to complete my summer homework for the class. Unfortunately, those thirteen days did not compare to the even more overwhelming amount of days I spent completing a packet for AP Chemistry and reading and annotating Brave New World and the prologue of The Canterbury Tales for AP Lang. 

I am certain that the roughly three months students are given off of school is called summer break; however, high-school students taking advanced classes do not receive a break at all. 

Are summer assignments as beneficial as we believe they are? 

An article posted on The Talon lists the benefits of summer homework: keeping students occupied during sluggish summer days, refreshing everyday skills used in school, providing an introduction to the class and its typical workload, and preparing students for returning to school. The article argues that although summer homework is occasionally tedious, it ends up benefiting students in the long run. 

After I realized that the amount of time that I spent doing summer homework was significant, I evaluated what I learned. I learned that although my teacher requested that students take no more than two pages of notes per chapter, I had taken five pages of notes per chapter. I chose to record every thing that seemed even slightly important because no guidance or reading questions were provided. I also learned that I became frustrated with the difficulty of Brave New World and frequently begged previous students of AP Lang for assistance to relieve my confusion. 

David Theriault described on his blog an interaction he experienced with a student during their first week of school. He gave a test involving a book he assigned over the summer on the third day of school, and a student approached him after class speechless—because she was sobbing. She explained to Theriault that she did not want him to perceive her as a “disappointment” because she failed the test. 

Instead of blaming the student, Theriault blamed himself and the nature of summer homework. He realized that the student was asked to read a challenging book without being provided any interaction with a teacher, was given no checks for understanding while reading the book, and was given a poor grade to commence the class with. 

An article on GreatSchools credits the lack of success students face with completing their summer homework to an absence of engagement on students’ part. The article mentions that in order for summer homework to be effective, it is crucial that students are motivated to learn and are engaged effectively, behaviorally, and cognitively in what they are learning. However, this is rarely—if ever—the case. 

I can recall a limited amount of books that were assigned to me to read over the summer that I was absolutely obsessed with. I have discovered it to be a challenging task to teach myself material while ignoring the anxiety I feel about possibly missing an important detail or not noticing something I should have. I believe it to be crucial for time with a teacher to be available while reading an assigned book. 

In his blog, Theriault also included that students simply need a mind break after over nine straight months of material in copious subjects being thrown at them. Some argue that students do not begin summer homework until the last weeks of summer; however, Theriault sees assignments hanging over students’ heads their entire summer as extremely unfair. Plus, he added that students do learn various things over their summer break through sports, jobs, vacations, camps, hobbies, socializing, exercising, and spending time with their family and friends. 

It is true that instead of spending thirteen straight days on AP World summer homework, I could have been hanging out with my friends. Did I turn down invitations because I knew that I had to get my homework done? Yes. But did I also have other days where I chose having fun at the beach or going out to dinner instead of doing my summer homework? Also yes. Summer homework teaches responsibility which is a concept that students who take advanced classes must exhibit. 

To make summer homework more effective and beneficial for students, the amount of it should be limited and pertinent ideas should be promised to be discussed and reviewed before any test is given. Through the summer homework I completed this summer, I had the opportunity to refresh my annotating skills, note-taking skills, math skills, and chemistry concepts—which will aid me in transitioning into school again.

Although I am not necessarily refreshed and eager to begin another school year, I am at least somewhat prepared for learning and memorizing difficult concepts again thanks to the summer homework I was assigned.