The two words every student groans at when ending any school year is "summer reading" -- especially since at the end of the school year, the last thing we want to think about is homework. No, sir. Despite that fact, by the time August rolls around, students start to scramble to finish reading all of those books and completing all of those additional writing assignments. Summer turns us into the biggest procrastinators.
Not every book teachers have us read are drag-your-feet boring, though. All of the books I had freshman year were interesting and amazing, and the same goes for most of the books I had for sophomore year. Sophomore year was the first year I actually got summer reading since I moved to a new city and school where the teachers actually gave out summer reading. Seeing as I only moved a few days before school started, though, my summer reading basically became homework on top of the homework I got the rest of my classes, and every assignment I couldn't complete because I hadn't finished the book became additional homework on my plate. That was completely awful and a million times worse than summer reading actually done in the summer.
You don't have to be excited to do your summer reading and assignments. However, you don't have to torture yourself through it, either. There are a few quick tips that can make it all just a little less painful.
• Don't wait until five days before school starts -- even procrastinating until a few weeks before school starts is a better fate than waiting until the very last minute.
• Find that sweet spot to start working where it's not so early in summer you'll forget everything you read by the time you go back to school but it's not so late that you feel too rushed and can't pace yourself. It helps to know how much you have to read and/or write and to know how quickly you can read, annotate, and work.
• Don't start complaining before you even begin. If you start going on about how awful the book is going to be or how much you don't want to do the writing assignment, the entire fiasco is already spiraling downhill before you even begin, and it's all going to seem that much worse. Instead, try to get yourself pumped up and tell yourself it's not going to be bad and that you can do this -- a positive mindset will get you through without feeling like you want to die every five minutes. A bad attitude won't get you anywhere, and it'll only encourage procrastination.
• Get a good idea of what your book is about before your begin reading. If you understand the basic plot and themes, it'll help keep you from getting lost or confused, especially if it's a complicated book with a lot of archaisms and allusions. Also, while you're doing your research, find out why the book is highly acclaimed or why people like it.
• If your summer reading book seems like a complete bore, try to find interesting trivia about the book or author. Find any interesting facts on how the author first started, what problems the book went through before it was published, the success of the book, famous people who have read the book, or anything else that may interest you. Look at pictures of places in the book or illustrations people have made for the book. Let your curiosity soar, and the more interesting things you find related to your book, the more interesting the book itself may seem.
• Space your work. Take it apart and take the assignments little by little, gradually increasing the amount you do. This will help keep you from getting immediately overwhelmed, and the slowly increasing amount of work will help you get back into school mode so you don't get completely shocked when the load drops on you.
• Set your goals. Set reading goals to reach by the end of each day or each week to keep yourself on track! This will also help you space out your homework!
• Find something to motivate you. Some people need an extra motivation to get them through. Try setting up a reward system for reaching your daily goals like getting a little treat or find something you really want and only let yourself buy after you successfully finish your summer reading assignment. You know yourself best- what will motivate you?
• Give yourself periodic breaks. Don't work your butt off for hours reading or working on assignments. Make sure you give yourself short breaks every now and then, clear your mind or take time to reflect on what you just read, and get a snack in you to keep your energy up!
• Read in a way that suits your learning style. If you're reading a summer book, find some way to do it that works best for you. If you need to be interactive with the next and read it out loud or act out any dialogue, do so. If you just need a quite environment, make it happen. You can also find audio versions of just about any book -- you can listen to them in the car or when you're bored, and you can read along, as well. The bottom line is to do whatever works best for you.
• If you're reading a book and absolutely hate it, you can at least try to appreciate the quality of the writing itself or the messages behind it. When a book doesn't necessarily ring my bell, I can usually at least respect all of those rhetorical devices and structures the author used or the beautiful writing or the style and so on. Anyone can have an appreciation for great writing. You can also respect the deeper messages and the use of symbolism and archetypes, too. In fact, the meaning behind the book is always my favorite part about reading, whether it's Nicholas Sparks showing us the power of love or Dante giving us lessons on the worst crimes a person can commit in life, such as becoming a traitor to your benefactor.
Do whatever you need to do in order to succeed. This list isn't foolproof and not everyone is going to find it helpful, but hopefully there are some tips you can try to use. Don't be afraid to test different methods and alter them as you go! Make them your own techniques! The main goal is to get through that summer reading assignment! Good luck!
Follow Isabel Song on Twitter: www.twitter.com/IsabelSong
The summer months usher in warmer weather, seemingly unlimited time for relaxation and rest, and increased opportunities for socialization with friends. The very last thing that you may wish to do is summer homework (including summer reading). Unfortunately, there is no way around it, but it is not as terrible as it may at first seem. Here are five tips that can help you complete your summer homework and reading without a great deal of pain:
1. Allow yourself a brief respite before you begin
This suggestion may seem counterintuitive, but after a full school year, you may need a brief break before you delve into your summer assignments. If so, take one--you have earned it. However, first choose the date when you will begin your homework and reading.
2. Select the right start date
Your start date for summer assignments will depend on how much homework you must complete, and on when your school year begins again. When it comes to summer reading, for instance, you should avoid procrastinating until the last week of the summer. However, you may also wish to avoid starting too soon if you are concerned about forgetting each book's content. In this case, you might begin reading four to five weeks before school starts.
3. Consider completing other projects prior to your summer reading
If you have summer assignments like history papers and math problem sets, consider finishing those tasks before you begin your summer reading. In some instances, these projects may have multiple steps, and they may require a greater investment of your time than an assigned biography or novel.
4. Create a schedule, and adhere to it
How often you read or work on projects will depend on your homework load. A general rule of thumb is to commit five hours per week to summer assignments. This is only one hour per weekday. Compare this single hour to your daily schedule during the school year, and this commitment may suddenly feel much easier. Be sure to create a schedule that works for you, as well as one that you can make a priority. If you fall back on the "When I have time..." mindset, you will likely always find reasons to avoid summer homework and summer reading.
5. Maintain a positive mindset
This is perhaps the most important tip of all. While the physical act of completing homework may not be entertaining, improving your performance is worth the effort. Look for small gains--for example, perhaps your understanding of percentages has increased, or perhaps you are now able to read history passages more quickly and more accurately.
As you focus on summer reading, try to enjoy each assigned book. Read outside with a glass of lemonade or water, read in a park, or even read by the pool. Even if you dislike the book, try to appreciate its writing style or character development. Such strategies can help you finish summer assignments to the best of your ability, rather than simply doing them because you must.
Follow Chuck Cohn on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@chuckcohn