How To Stay Focused On Summer Homework

It's summer again—a long-awaited time of rest for many students, time to have fun, explore, travel or dedicate yourself to a new or an old hobby. Who doesn’t want that? As we’ve said in the past, we all need a break, and we probably deserve it.

However, long summer vacations could also make you forget a lot of what you’ve learned over the past school year. And we value the time and effort you’ve put during that time, so we’ve come up with the following five tactics to help you stay focused, avoid summer learning loss, and get ahead with your future goals.

Beat procrastination. It’s human nature to tend to put off what we should be focusing on right now instead of starting on time and stretching the work out over a longer period. But it’s not recommended. This is something teachers tell their students constantly: it is better to do work little by little over multiple days than to cram it all into one marathon session. Regardless of your objective—whether it's learning a new language, studying for a major exam, or choosing colleges—you will be far more successful breaking the task down than getting it all done under pressure.

Read. Create a summer reading list, or ask your teacher for recommendations. English writer Joseph Addison once said: “Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Reading develops the imagination, improves memory, and stimulates the long-term health of your brain. Read daily. Choose a quiet area outside, find a bench, or spread your blanket and enjoy!

Create a routine. Make a list of goals and set up an agenda that helps you accomplish them. Setting a fixed schedule where work is a regular part of the day (like meals and other activities) will help you stay organized and motivated and will teach you essential time management skills. For example, look at your calendar in advance of your vacation to determine when there are 30-60 minute stretches of quiet time that can be used for school work. 

Ask teachers for extra work. Whether you want to catch up in a certain subject or you simply find a particular subject area especially interesting and want to excel in it, you can ask your teacher for additional resources. Most teachers have worksheets that review material they’ve covered in their classes or can point you to the right workbooks or online resources. Summer work packets get assigned for a reason--it's easier to do a little bit to keep material fresh in your mind than it is to forget it and have to relearn it all from scratch in the fall.

Leave plenty of time for fun. At the end of the day, don’t forget that this is supposed to be a vacation. Allowing yourself to relax and enjoy this time will help you come back more focused and more productive. Just make sure you stay on track with your goals and integrate productive periods into your daily schedule so you can remain focused and retain all the knowledge you’ve gained over the past year. Happy Summer!

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    Designate a time for reading. Of course, one of the great things about reading is that you can do it almost anytime and almost anywhere. But if you are not excited about what you are reading, it can help to set a designated time that you will get it done. Set your alarm, or create a reminder on your phone for “reading time,” and when it goes off, get your book out and get going.
    • Plan manageable blocks of time. If you read for an hour or more in one sitting, include short breaks to get up and stretch every twenty minutes or so.
    • Mix it up. You don’t always have to read in the same place. If it’s a nice day, try reading outside. If you are bored of reading in your house, try the library or a local coffee shop, instead.
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    Bring your book with you. You never know when an opportunity to read might arise. You might get stuck waiting at the dentist’s office for half an hour, or arrive at swimming practice twenty minutes early. If you have your book with you, you can take advantage of this time, and get something accomplished.
    • E-books make this even easier, since you can read your book right on your cellphone.
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    Read every day. Regardless of how you wrote out your schedule, the best way to get your list done is to read a little bit every day. Not only does this help you make your way through the list, it also keeps you from forgetting what was going on in your book and from wasting time by re-reading.

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    Take notes. If you are working through an assigned reading list, chances are good that you will either be tested on what you have read, or have to write about it in an assignment. Taking notes will help you remember what you have read. You probably don’t need extremely detailed notes, but some basics to keep track of, including the names of the major characters, a bit about what they are like, and a brief summary of the events in each chapter.[3]

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    Avoid procrastinating. If you get off schedule or miss one of your deadlines, your workload can quickly pile up to the point that it feels impossible. If you get behind, cancel some other activities if you need to and get caught up as soon as possible. You will thank yourself come August.

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    Get help. If your book contains words that you do not know, don’t guess; look them up in the dictionary! If you are having trouble understanding the plot of the story, ask around and see if anyone you know has read it and can help, or look for a study guide online or at the library.
    • Reading a study guide can help, but it’s no substitute for actually reading the book.
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    Find a reading buddy. If you know someone else who is reading the same book, meet up a few times to talk about what you are reading and compare notes. When you are both done reading, consider watching the most recent movie based on the book, if there is one. You can then discuss how it differed from the book and which one you liked better, and commiserate over the ordeal you have been through.

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    Enjoy yourself! It can be hard to get excited about compulsory reading assignments, but remember that most of the books on your list were chosen because they are really good. Ignore the fact that you are being forced to read the books on your list, and try to let yourself enjoy the experience. You might be pleasantly surprised at how fun and interesting this kind of homework can be.

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