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The busy summer: School just began, but homework never stopped

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By Kelly Cantrall

About a week before the school year began, Bailey Latham was trying to finish homework assignments. Though today is the first day back for Hardin County Schools, it also is the due date for readings, reports and questions Latham had to complete during summer break.

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Latham, a junior at Central Hardin High School, spent her summer like many other students taking advanced classes. Students taking dual credit and Advanced Placement courses commonly are assigned work at the end of the school year, and it’s expected to be complete by the start of the next year or sooner.

Latham chuckled at her procrastination, and advised other students not wait until the week before school begins to finish summer assignments.

“I went into it with the intention of working on it continuously,” she said.

Central Hardin junior Becca Isaacs admitted to some procrastination with her assignments. Like Latham, she is taking AP U.S. history and a dual-credit English class this year.

They read two books for each class, write reports for history and answer questions for English assignments. Isaacs said she knew there would be work assigned over the summer, but the amount was somewhat unexpected.

Summer work isn’t new to her. She had to work on packets of material for an AP biology class last year. She views the work as an essential part of taking advanced classes.

“It definitely isn’t great to work over the summer,” she said.

But Isaacs said the work keeps her focused during the long break, and the transition back to school is easier because of it.

Kathy Thompson teaches the dual credit English class Latham and Isaacs are taking, a course in which students can receive college credit for their work. The class is set at a college-level pace, and Thompson feels the summer assignments prepare students for the rigor of the class. It forces them to work independently to complete it by the start of the school year.

Along with reading assignments, Thompson assigns an essay that must be turned in by mid-July. The essay allows her to see students’ writing abilities before they enter her classroom, and she can tailor instruction to their needs.

Thompson grades those first assignments mostly on completion though students who are late still have been successful in her class. Summer work also helps students decide if they’re ready for a dual credit course.

“I think for those students who are serious, they’re proud of what they’ve done,” she said.

Jennifer Fulford structures assignments differently for her AP world history class at Elizabethtown High School. She asks students to turn in work throughout summer instead of the first day of school. She asks students to read three chapters and complete four assignments per chapter. The students turn in work either by email or in her mailbox at the school.

Fulford said it’s necessary to have students start working before the school year begins so they can cover all the material. She didn’t assign summer work the first year she taught the class, and it was difficult to teach the entire curriculum.

Fulford said she thinks summer work keeps students in a school mindset and makes returning to school easier.

“I feel like it keeps these students focused on education,” she said.

KeeHup Yong is in Fulford’s class and agrees summer work helps with retention of material.

“It kind of keeps that momentum of school learning,” Yong said.

For Yong, a sophomore, it also gives him a look at what the class will be like and eases his anxiety about the upcoming year.

Yong realizes summer assignments mean work for teachers, too, and he appreciates Fulford’s summer availability.

“I think it’s really generous and supportive that they’re doing that for us,” he said.

Summer also can be used to review old material, saving time in the school year for new lessons. For the AP chemistry and biology classes at North Hardin High School, teachers assigned review work for that reason.

To assist students in completing assigned questions, teachers Tonya Vowels and Kristi Lynch held two workshops for students to work through material. Workshops were offered with a grant to help break down barriers for students wanting to take AP courses. Summer work might have intimidated some students before, Lynch said.

Lynch also said the biology curriculum includes so much she needs time to progress through it with students.

“From day one, we get rolling,” she said.

At John Hardin High School, summer work is not left to advanced courses. English teachers started a summer reading program last year with incoming freshmen. It will follow them through their high school careers until all grades are participating. Students are asked to read a book and complete an assignment based on it, teacher Jenny Brown said.

For Brown, along with benefits students receive from reading, she finds the program gives her classes something to discuss immediately.

“It was huge for me as a teacher to start off on solid ground,” she said.

Brown said she doesn’t want students to think learning stops during June and July.

“We just can’t do it all in class time anymore,” she said.

Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or kcantrall@thenewsenterprise.com.