The end of the school year is fast approaching and as educators our minds turn to the obvious celebration of this glorious time of year, the end of a year of hard work, students growth, and this amazing sunny season: assigning summer homework.
Assigned book lists for the in-coming grade. Essay prompts to write. Sometimes even packets to complete. A lot of which many of us secretly reveal we barely read or do anything with in September.
It’s all well meaning. We know that students over summer can drop reading levels if they don’t read. We know that September can feels like the September of the year before, not the continuation since June if students are not actively thinking. We want our students to carry with them the work of a year so we can hit the ground running. We do this out of love.
What we are really asking students to do is to take on new habits, to make the work of the year part of their daily lives.
Here is the problem. Most of us hate new habits.
New Habits are Horrible
My self-directed summer assignments include: eat better, exercise more. Could you think of anything more terrible? This will, as it always is, be hard to maintain and tough to make time for. Enjoyable and amazing when it goes well and frustrating when I skip the gym for two weeks and just eat everything.
New habits are not made from book lists handed out on the last day of school. New habits do not come from assignments.
New habits come from self-drive and from a community of others. Think how you will use these last weeks of school to continue to build both.
Habits Helpers: Drive and Community
- Summer reading club or reading partner lists, instead of simply book lists: Have students begin to organize now who they will be reading alongside, who they will talk with about their reading. As simple as phone numbers or email address, as complex as setting up book club meet-up dates.
- Begin writing for self now, instead of just relying on a prompt: Have students begin exploding with writing, any genre, any purpose, any technology. Then just as with reading clubs, help them think about who they will share writing with. When will they check in? Or even who could they be writing with? A google docs epic sci-fi adventure written by three classmates could fill an entire summer with writing.
- Find a writer or reader you want to be: When we want a habit of better health we often look to people we admire: celebrities, family, friends. We learn about their routines and try to emulate them. Have your students write about the readers and writers they plan to admire over the summer. It could be you, classmates, professional writers (You could even draw connections beyond literacy, like in my guest post What the Kardashians Taught Me About Reading Instruction (No, For Real).
Think beyond summer assignments to engaging students in the real, tricky, exciting work of developing new habits.
Happy summer! Happy growing!