It’s been a difficult two school years for all of us in education. The transition to online learning wasn’t smooth. So much changed, but most schools just didn’t have the time or resources to prepare. It’s no wonder that so many students felt as though they had been left behind. So, it is essential that you make the most out of the time you have this summer to study. I promise you: it is possible for you to get caught up and ready for next year – if you put in the hard work.
Unfortunately, it isn’t so clear what the government’s catch-up plan is right now. Sure, some articles are saying that teachers might work this summer. However, everything is just such a mess at the moment. You can’t rely on “perhaps” and “maybe”. Your grades shouldn’t slip because of confusion. It’s time to be proactive with your learning and use this summer to study well.
But don’t fear! You don’t need to lose all of your precious relaxing time to hours and hours at the library. I won’t ask you to beg your teacher for more holiday homework. There are fun ways to add some studying into your summer. It’s all about being proactive, efficient and realistic. If you make the most out of your summer holidays, next year will be so much easier for you. You won’t regret it!
Treat Your Summer Like the Holiday It Is
First of all, don’t treat your summer like it’s just more school time. That’s not going to cut it. The summer holidays exist for a reason. They’re not just there to give your teachers the time that they need to put together some good lesson plans (although that is a huge help). They exist for you.
Our brains work best when they have regular rest, so rest. Summer holidays give you a chance to try out a new skill or two, or to work on that YouTube channel you’ve always wanted to start. Plus, some time off is also great for your mental health! Summer is just so full of opportunities!
So, make sure that you make the most out of it. Go out in the sun. Sit in the park. Write stories in a coffee shop. Take the dog out for a few extra walks. Game, if that’s what makes you happy! Just enjoy yourself! After all, very few of us are going to get these long holidays once we’re adults.
When I talk about summer studies, I don’t mean that you need to ignore the holidays. Of course not! Just make sure that you don’t ignore your holiday homework, either. I know it’s sitting there, begging to be completed.
The key to utilising your summer properly is to strike the right balance. Have fun and study. Don’t forget: you do have at least 6 weeks to do it all!
There are two ways that you can do this. You can divide the time between catch-up exercises and the stuff you love. Or, you can find ways to make studying fun.
Personally, I recommend a bit of both. They work well together. I have plenty of tips to show you how, so keep reading!
If you want to do well with your studies this summer, the key is to be efficient.
Summer is a time of very little structure. No one is there to tell you what to study and when. You don’t have to wake up in the morning for school or follow a timetable. Most importantly, you don’t have a teacher with you to sit you down and make sure that you do the work. It’s completely in your hands.
Let’s face it, though: not many of us are going to put in loads of work under those circumstances. We might have bursts of motivation here and there where we decide to read the start of a book. Maybe we’ll do a maths question or two! When it comes down to it, though, self-discipline is hard. Trust me: I know!
So just don’t expect yourself to do loads of work! Set yourself efficient, realistic goals and stick to them. If you finish the work and then decide to do a little more, you’ll feel good about yourself! You won’t feel like you failed!
But how do you study efficiently? Well, it’s about prioritising the right things, being organised and thinking of creative ways to study. If you do those things, you can go far.
Make a Plan
Firstly, to be an efficient student, you need a plan. Plans are good. They can help you to put your summer studies into context.
You see, we tend to overestimate how much work we can do in our minds. You might think “I can read a book a week this summer” and then end up utterly disappointed once you actually try to do what you set out to do. That can rob you of your motivation, which might set your goals back.
Plans are a great way to split up your time properly. That way, your studies don’t take up too much of your summer. Or, if you’re anything like me, your fun time won’t last longer than they should and eat into your study time.
Plus, you can split up your workload into small, manageable chunks. You don’t need to think “I’ll read that whole book this week”. Instead, you can say “I’ll reach a chapter on Monday between 10 am and 12 am”. If you plan properly, this could do you a whole load of good. You’ll have that book done in no time! Without all of that stressing about how long it looks, too!
Just beware: although it is much easier to allocate your time with a good plan, you aren’t immune to thinking you can do way more than you can. If you’re someone who ends up overloaded with work, consider that! Give yourself less work than you originally thought you could do. That way, you can reward yourself if you go above and beyond!
Split Up Your Time
As I said before, our brains work best when we have regular breaks. It’s not a good idea to overload yourself with work on Monday and then kick back in front of your computer on Tuesday. You’ll end up feeling exhausted on the first day. Then, on the second, you’ve missed a whole day that you could spend recapping what you learnt on Monday. After all, one of the keys to good studying is consistency!
So, I highly recommend that you mix things up. Try splitting your day into one-hour or two-hour chunks. Alternate between relaxing, doing fun stuff and studying. That’s the real key to success.
I recommend studying for around 1-2 hours a day. Personally, I like to do one hour in the morning and one after lunch. However, you need to figure out what works best for you. Do you think best when you wake up in the morning? Or do you need some time to get over the fact that you had to wake up before you can think properly? Does a good study session make you feel hungry? Or do you like to work on a full stomach?
These things are completely personal to you. There is no right or wrong way to plan your day. There’s just a way that works for you and a way that doesn’t. As long as you’re taking your studies seriously, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re using your summer the wrong way!
Audible is a great tool. It is my personal key to efficient studying. I love it. It really works well for me.
The good thing about audiobooks is that they give you the tools that you need to learn hands-free! That means that you can listen to a book when you’re travelling, working out or doing your chores! It’s a great way to multi-task and make the most out of your time.
Or, as I mentioned in a blog post before, you can try out immersion reading. You don’t have to have dyslexia to benefit from it! You can use it if your attention span isn’t what you’d like it to be or you’d like to get back into reading. It stops your mind from wandering because your eyes and ears are focused on the same thing. Plus, you can learn how to say any new words that you might feel a little confused about.
If you know what text you’re going to be reading next year, why not try to listen to it on Audible before you start? That will give you a great boost in class. For the Shakespeare texts out there, you can find some great dramatic readings to help you to understand what it’s all about.
If you’re not sure about your English texts, there’s still a whole lot that you can do. You could listen to a history book or brush up on your Shakespeare. There is plenty that you could do with your time!
A subscription to Audible is a lot cheaper than buying audiobooks one by one. So, it works out great for you!
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Brush Up On Skills
There is no way that you can learn all of the facts in the world. It’s just not possible. Why would you need to, anyway? It’s the 21st century! You have knowledge at your fingertips!
We English teachers have two jobs. Of course, we need to prepare you for your exams. Most people know that about us already. Our second job is much more important. We need to prepare you for real life. If we can do that, we have succeeded.
In the real world, the skills you learn in English are usually much more useful than the facts. Of course, that will depend on your career choice to some extent. If you want to be a teacher or a tutor like me, you are going to need the facts, too. It also doesn’t apply to every subject. As a doctor, you’re going to need to know all of the facts you can about your medical field!
For most of us studying English, though, it’s the skills that we need to focus on.
Skills are interesting things. If you grow and use them the right way, they can be a shortcut to good grades. You will still need to know some facts and vocab for your exam, but you’ve got your whole school year to do that! On your holiday, you can focus on English abilities that you can work out like a muscle.
That also means that you don’t need to know exactly what your teacher plans to teach you next year. It doesn’t matter if you read Romeo and Juliet or An Inspector Calls. If you build your reading comprehension, that’s going to help you no matter what.
Here’s a guide to summer skills studies.
Think About Which Skills Help Multiple Subjects
First of all, you should think about which skills cross over into more than one subject. That’s a great place to start. I spoke a lot about efficient studying earlier. This is a great way to go about it. You kill two birds with one stone, as they say.
You don’t have a lot of time to study this summer. The time will fly before you know it. Even if you did have all the time in the world, I highly doubt you’d want to spend it all on working! So, you should find ways to study that will help you with more than one subject.
English has a lot in common with many subjects! You’ll see that a lot of the skills you grow in English will help you with history, geography, drama, media studies and much, much more! Here are some of the skills that apply to more than one subject:
- Reading comprehension (more on this later)
- Spelling, punctuation and grammar
- Writing essays
- Persuasive writing and speaking
And it’s not just the closely connected subjects that benefit from you building your English skills, either! Think about your maths paper. There are some word-based problems that would be much easier to answer if you improve your reading comprehension. Science books would be much easier to understand, too!
So, sit down and think about the skills that you can build this summer. Make a list! Skills are like muscles. If you don’t use them, they shrink. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep them nice and strong this summer!
Focus on Reading Comprehension
Reading comprehension is the most important skill that any secondary school student needs to improve. It affects every single one of the subjects you learn in school.
Reading comprehension is about how much you understand what you’ve just read. Most of us can read most words by the time we get to year 7. However, often, we read individual words rather than making sense of the whole sentence. Reading comprehension is the skill that you need to be able to understand how those words work together to mean something.
If you do one thing this summer, let it be brushing up on this skill. You can’t analyse a text if you don’t get what it’s saying. It won’t be easy to read any textbook if you miss out on your comprehension skills. It doesn’t matter the subject: science, history, religion, music or anything else! Do this one thing. You won’t regret it.
Comprehension is a bit like a video game. It has loads of different levels to it. First, you understand simple sentences. Then, the next level might add some commas! Dickens in particular loves to write long sentences with lots of commas. Have a look at this:
There being nobody by, however, but a pauper old woman, who was rendered rather misty by an unwonted allowance of beer; and a parish surgeon who did such matters by contract; Oliver and Nature fought out the point between them.Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
This sentence isn’t easy. Try to see if you can work up to understanding it. Break it into parts.
How do you improve this skill? Well, you read, of course! You start with easy texts and work your way up. That’s the best way. It’s pretty easy to do during your summer studies, too!
Understanding Words from Context
If I have to think of one skill that most students don’t get taught in school, it’s using context to guess the meaning of a word. Granted, this isn’t an easy skill. It’s also quite common for us to get the word wrong. However, it’s could help you a lot.
You see, there will be a time in your life when you can’t just look up a word you don’t understand in a dictionary or on your phone. This often happens in the middle of an exam.
Then what do you do? Do you just sit there and stress? No! You need to see if you can still understand the sentence even if the word is new to you. You remove the word and see if you can fill in the blank with any similar ones. Once you’ve done this, you can see if the word you chose fits the context of both the sentence and text.
Let’s take this example:
He was exuberant. His eyes were almost as wide as the huge smile that stretched from ear to ear. Unable to stay still, he seemed to buzz with anticipation.
What does the word “exuberant” mean here? Well, you can use the rest of the quote to guess! He’s smiling, his eyes are wide and he can’t stop moving. Perhaps you could replace “exuberant” with “excited” or “delighted” and it would still make sense? There you have it! A rough definition of the word that you can work with!
I’ve seen way too many students just give up when they come across a word they don’t understand. They say “miss I don’t understand anything. I don’t know what this word means”. You can’t do that in an exam. That’s why this skill is essential for your summer studies.
Make Summer Studies Fun
Studying in the summer doesn’t have to be a bore. You don’t have to pour over book after book if that makes you want to fall asleep. You can make studying fun if you know what you’re doing!
Since you’re free to study what you want, no one can tell you that a game or a YouTube video isn’t real work. Trust me when I say that it can be! You just need to actually pay attention to it!
In a previous blog post about lockdown learning, I made a whole list of the best resources for you to use. It includes both YouTube videos and books that I think are great. Check it out! Most of those resources combine learning with fun!
Now that we’re slowly returning to normal, though, I have plenty of other recommendations for you. You might want to check some of these out. They’re great!
Treat Your Local Area Like Your Classroom
Sightseeing is a great way to spend your summer holidays. It gets you out of the house, encourages you to walk about, allows you to spend time with friends and family and teaches you some things along the way. There’s really no wonder why parents like to take their kids to the zoo or a museum when summer starts and the hard studying is over. It feels like a break, but you can learn loads at the same time!
You don’t need an expensive holiday to go out and learn stuff. Most people live within an hour of some amazing, educational sights.
Make the most out of your local area. The tourism industry could use our support right now, so your choice to study can do some good for others, too!
Here is a small list of some good places to go:
- Ethical zoos and aquariums (ones that focus on conservation and education)
- Nature trails
- National parks
- Tours (walking, boat, car, coach, etc)
If you live in the London area like me, I highly recommend Hampton Court. It’s so interactive! They have actors who perform parts of Henry VIII’s life. They often have staff teaching you about how the kitchens worked. If you’re lucky, you might even be able to walk around in fancy dress! Plus, the gardens are just so gorgeous.
Try Some Typing Games
When it comes to improving your typing speed, I only realised how useful that would be very recently!
Since most of our learning has gone online, I’ve noticed how important it is for students to be able to type at a good speed. It can cut down your studying and homework time drastically throughout the year – and just by playing a few games over the summer! Faster typing means it will take you a lot less time to write the things you need to get down. That means more time doing what you like best.
There are plenty of great games and tools that you can use to improve your typing. Here are some of the good ones:
This is a skill that feels the most like a game. I know. It’s not as fun as something you might play on a PS5, but it can help you loads! Who doesn’t want school to feel less boring, eh?
Read Books that Appeal to You
You don’t have to read the classics over the summer holidays to help with your studies. In fact, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought that was boring. It took me a long time to enjoy Shakespeare, too! I didn’t enjoy him until I got over the rubbish idea that he’s high art and The Lord of the Rings isn’t. Who cares what some dusty old men in a palace somewhere think is worth reading in school? You don’t have to listen to them. Well, until you have to do your exams, of course.
Let’s face it: you’re not going to love reading unless you read something you love. Not all genres are going to appeal to you, and it’s fine if you haven’t found a book you like on the school syllabus yet. It took me a while and a trip down the gothic literature lane to get there. You’re not alone. Set texts in English often aren’t very diverse: in the genres or the cultures that the stories come from. You don’t need to be limited by that.
Exam boards do try their best to make the books they cover more diverse and interesting, but it;s going to take a while to get there. There’s still a bit of snobbery around the subject that you don’t need to buy into. Just read what you want to read!
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that I like all of those books, too!
Seriously, though. The best way to improve your reading skills is to read, right? And the best way to motivate yourself to read is to enjoy the books you choose. So go for it! Read what you want!
Get a Tutor
You’re not the only one who has a break this summer. Teachers and tutors like me are also off. Our busiest time of the year is the revision period and then it all just fizzles out over the summer. So, if you’d like to have a tutor help you, this is the best time to do so.
Tutors tend to have loads of availability for you at this time of year. That means that you can study at a time that suits you. Some do discounts over the summer to make studying more affordable. Others put together group programmes to help you. Whoever you choose to study with, your holidays are a great time to do it.
Why are tutors so good in the summer? Well, for a number of different reasons:
- You don’t have to worry about that self-discipline we were talking about. Instead, you can have a tutor sit down with you and keep you on track.
- You aren’t limited by the exam. Up until the summer, tutors help students to ace their exams. That means that some of their areas of improvement can get left behind because they take too long to work on! Time is of the essence during exams. You don’t have that problem over the summer.
- Tutoring is still much more flexible than school. You could do some Zoom sessions! So, you can still fit the tutor around your life.
- You don’t have to do the studying thing alone. It can feel like a bit of an uphill battle knowing how to start with summer studying. Your tutor can take care of that for you!
If you’re not sure if tutoring is for you, I have a blog post to help! Check it out!
Try a Summer School
There are loads of great summer schools out there. They are the perfect way to get up to scratch with your studies this summer, and they remove the need for you to plan for yourself.
It’s not as intense as school is during the rest of the year, though. Most summer schools split fun studies up with some sports, art, drama and other things. You can try a school in a different country if you would like to test your language. However, there are plenty in every area for you to check out!
Maybe your local religious group is running something. Perhaps it’s your local council. They might update you through Twitter or other social media. There are loads of online activities to try, too!
The government has invested a load of money into a summer school programme. They designed it to help students who lost out the most this year. If you need some help and finances are a struggle, make sure you check with your school to see if they are using this programme. It could be a big help for you!
Whatever you choose to do, make sure that you make the most of your summer. Have fun, relax and learn. Make the most out of it!
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