The year is almost at an end, summer is on its way and the Christmas holidays stretch out welcomingly in front of us. It’s the perfect time for students to kick back, relax, unwind and let their brains unravel, right?
Not exactly. Especially not for year 11 students.
Though the summer holidays are an important time for students to see friends, catch up on sleep, get copious amounts of fresh air and give their minds a well-needed break, for year 11 students it is also a very important time for preparing for the busy year ahead. Students who hibernate through the summer, who ignore their textbooks and forget all of the skills they have learned throughout the year are in for a nasty shock come February. Year 12 starts suddenly, and students are expected to be on the top of their game from day 1. Though I certainly don’t recommend students work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week throughout the holidays, I do believe that all year 11 students should set some goals for the holidays. These goals will put them in a good position to approach the final year of their high school education feeling prepared and confident. So here are my 5 suggested goals that every year 11 student should set for summer.
1. Read Your English Texts
This is an absolute no-brainer. When year 12 starts, English classes will be moving through texts at a rapid pace. If your child has not read their text at least once before the year begins, they will be playing catch-up. A strong understanding of what happens in the text, the ideas that it raises and the style of the writing is invaluable. Summer is a great time to read texts for the first time, because it’s a low-pressure environment. In the summer, your child can actually try to read the book for pleasure, to engage with the characters and become involved in the action, as opposed to rushing through it to meet a deadline. If possible, your child should read their text twice throughout the summer: once to enjoy the story and figure out what’s going on, and once to think about what ideas are being raised, what some of the significant quotes might be, and how they could talk about the text in their English classes.
2. Brush Up On Your Mathematics Fundamentals
When it comes to maths, no year is a blank slate. Come February, year 12 students will be expected to already have a vast array of skills. In particular, fundamental skills of factorisation, expansion, algebra, simplification of fractions, index laws, log laws and differentiation are, to a large extent, assumed knowledge. It is my experience that students who haven’t mastered these basic skills will always be on the back foot when it comes to learning new concepts. The summer holidays are a great time for your child to take a step back and revise some of the basic skills that they have been developing throughout high school. Going over the chapter recap sections at the end of each chapter in the year 11 textbooks is a good way of doing this. Even just an hour each week of revision can make a big difference.
3. Get Engaged In Issues
There is one magic device that most people have in their homes right now, that nearly all students ignore, a device that can dramatically increase the extent to which your child is able to engage in their English and Humanities classes. What is it? A newspaper. VCE students are expected to be engaged in local and global issues, have a basic understanding of important political and cultural figures and have the ability to interpret and analyse a variety of articles, opinion pieces and editorial cartoons. Reading the newspaper and watching the news on a regular basis is one of the easiest ways to develop these skills. And it’s something that your child can easily do over breakfast, or on the bus, every day.
4. Get Organised
The most valuable gift that a year 11 student can give themselves this Christmas is a fool-proof system of organisation for the year ahead. By this I mean that by the start of the school year, your child should be able to answer “yes” to the following questions.
Do I have a dedicated study space for the year ahead?
Do I have all the resources I need for all of my classes?
Do I have a system for organising my notes?
Do I have all available information about assessments for my subjects?
Do I have a study schedule organised?
Have I set myself goals for the coming term?
It is important to ask these questions early, because by the time February rolls around, it may just be too late.
5. Don’t Forget How To Write
People often forget that VCE exams do not just test the mind; they also test the hand. Students are required to write non-stop for hours at a time. Unfortunately, the more reliant we become on using computers for communication, research, organisation and assignment writing, the less likely it is that our hands will have the strength and stamina to write legibly and efficiently for this time. This may sound silly, but I have met many students in the past who have excellent ideas but simply aren’t able to adequately express them within a given time frame due to their inexperience with handwriting. The brain was capable, but the hand was not. It is important that your child does not forget how to write over the summer. It doesn’t matter what they write: letters to Grandma, short stories, lists, love letters, notes to self, holiday journals or letters to Santa. The important thing is that they keep their writing hand in good shape for the year ahead.
The summer holidays should be about relaxing. This is certainly true. But most students know that there are two types of relaxation. There is the blind relaxation of the student in denial, who closes their eyes and refuses to think about the stressful times ahead. On the other hand, there is the relaxation of the student that thinks ahead, does a little bit of work each week, and is free to enjoy their summer, confident that they have done everything they can to prepare for the year ahead. It is this kind of relaxation that will ultimately lead to success.
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