No more pencils, no more books…


“No more pencils, no more books. No more teachers’ dirty looks.”

I can remember singing this ditty on the last day of elementary school before summer break. The sense of elation that came with knowing that days spent sitting at a desk would soon give way to mornings of tennis and swimming, following by afternoons of crafts, biking, ice cream, and reading for pleasure was unlike almost any feeling of anticipation I have experienced in my adult life.

That is why I was so interested to read and participate in this discussion in the New York Times’ “Room for Debate.” The Times invited seven educational experts to weigh in on the question of summer homework for students. Most agreed that summer assignments were essential to keeping students sharp over the break, although they offered differing reasons for their positions as well ideas of what summer learning should look like. Below are a selection of excerpts from their statements, followed by my own contribution.

Take a read, and then offer your perspective. I want to know from the real experts–parents, students, and classroom teachers–what you think of homework over summer break. Yes? No?

If yes: How much, and what should it consist of [geography, perhaps!] ? If no: Why not?? 

Harris Cooper is chairman of the
department of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University.

The long summer vacation disrupts the rhythm of instruction,
leads to forgetting, and requires time be spent reviewing old material when
students return to school in fall.

Also, [the research indicated that] the impact can differ
based on a child’s economic background.

Nancy Kalish is the co-author of
“The Case Against Homework: How Homework Is Hurting Our Children and What We
Can Do About It.”

Some studies claim that students lose skills they don’t
practice over the summer. However, if a child can’t regain his grasp of
fractions with a brief review, maybe those skills weren’t taught well enough in
the first place.

But there are a few things summer homework does accomplish
effectively: It steals time away from other important aspects of learning such
as play, which helps kids master social skills and teamwork. In addition,
writing book reports means kids spend fewer hours being physically active,
which is essential for good health and weight control, not to mention proper
brain development.

Mark Bauerlein
is a professor of English at Emory University
and the author of “The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young
Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future.”

To the general question of whether or not schools should assign summer
homework, the answer is, “Yes, most assuredly.”

The reason stems not only from the brain drain of summer and
the fog of texting that enwraps youths during leisure hours. It relates also to
an attitude young people take toward education. In a word, they regard learning
as a classroom thing, that’s all.

Denise Pope is senior lecturer at the Stanford
University School of Education and co-founder of Challenge
, a research and student intervention project.

The problem with summer homework is a lack of buy-in from one of the main
constituencies: the students.

Why should we care if the students are bought in? We know
from research that motivation plays a central role in engagement with learning
and, subsequently, student achievement.


Tyrone Howard is an associate
professor at the U.C.L.A.
Graduate School
of Education and Information Studies.

Homework should help to reinforce content or materials that teachers have
taught or covered in class. But in many cases today, homework has been reduced
to busy work that posseses minimal value in developing deeper understanding.

That said, assigning summer homework is a good idea in theory.

A better approach than homework over the summer is the more
intensive, small learning community-type summer school programs that last four
to six weeks.

Sarah Jane
…seems to me the best model would be to design summer learning experiences
that reinforce concepts taught during the school year to avoid summer loss, but
that also take advantage of unique summer environments and opportunities and
give students a greater degree of choice and flexibility; which is motivating.
Allow students to write book reports on books THEY choose from a recommended
list, or have them keep a field journal of their outdoor explorations.

And, where available, why not take advantage of online tools to structure
deadlines over the course of the entire summer so that students keep the
learning going, rather than cramming it into the beginning or the end of the

What do YOU think??

Images courtesy,

2 thoughts on “No more pencils, no more books…

  1. We live in Italy and my kids will have had just over three months holiday when they return on the 14th September. My son got a ridiculous amount of homework (Italian, Maths, reading, English), whereas my daughter was given none. Her class teacher suggested that she go over her timestables and read. My son is pushed particularly hard during the year and is practically brain-dead by the end. Then to have a mountain to get through really isn’t appealing. And he is coming up to his 9th birthday, and my daughter is 13 months younger!

Leave a Reply