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Holiday homework - you're kidding aren't you

We finally made it - holidays are upon us and we are free (at least for a little while anyway).

The notion of doing (or even receiving) holiday homework is particularly new for most Year 11 students and probably for some Year 12 students. I've heard the VCE holidays being called "study vacations", "school holiday", "study break" etc...but how do you go about actually tackling it and completing it with the minimum of fuss and stress.

I have written extensively about this topic because so many students struggle to deal effectively with the holiday period. See - VCE school holidays - don't drop the ball and the september school holiday conundrum

Let's face it, you need some R & R (rest and relaxation) particularly if you're like most students trying to do their best you will be quite tired after cramming in half a dozen sac's in the last week or so. What you also need to understand is that the entire VCE subject course simply doesn't fit into the school term alone, once you take into consideration all of the interruptions such as long weekends, incursions, excursions etc.

When I quizzed my Yr 12 students about the holiday homework most of them didn't have much of an idea what they were going to do and when. Can I tell you, if you wait for the mood to strike you to do your holiday homework, it simply will not happen! When presented with the option of study and spending time with friends (depending on how high you value your study) most students will typically choose friends over study.

Here are a handful of strategies that you can employ now to get on track for a productive holiday break whilst ensuring that you have more than enough time for R & R. Some strategies may appear to be conflicting - just find what works for you and get started.

1. Re-evaluate the goals and ATAR score you're aiming for and why?

I don't know you, your background and experience, your I.Q., your work ethic etc but what I do know is this (these categories below are based on discussions with VCE students from all walks of life about what they did and how it reflected in their results).

I think it's important to re-evaluate why you want to achieve that particular score; what will it get you into?, are you passionate about that area? etc. Knowing these reasons are important justifications as to why you should study. If you can't think of any - perhaps you should re-evaluate your goals!

2. Use the following guidelines for study...

If you are aiming for an ATAR score of 85+ : you should be completing around a normal school day (9-3) for homework and have nights and weekends off completely.

If you are aiming for an ATAR score of 65-85: you should be completing around 9-1pm each school day and have nights and weekends off.

If you are aiming for an ATAR score of less than 65: you should be completing around 9-11am each school day and have nights and weekends off.

(of course some students are highly effective in their study routines and can get more done in 1 hour than someone else, who regularly procrastinates, can in 3 hours). Use these guidelines as an idea of what others are doing and what you should perhaps be doing.

3. Routines, Routines, Routines.

You have them when you get out of bed, eat breakfast, brush teeth etc so why not formulate and use them to your advantage to study. Some students prefer using the routine of their school timetable: ie Day 1, Period 1 is English, and find it easier to stick to those guidelines and having a balance between all subjects.

This also means getting up a consistent time on weekdays - don't fall into the cycle of getting up late and going to bed late.

4. Work on your favourite subject first.

Some people disagree with me on this one and say that you should study your hardest subject first but I never could. I always had to start with my easiest subject to get my study hat on and get some study love happening.

5. Guestimate (your best guess as an estimate) the time required.

I had each of my students guestimate how long each subjects homework would take to complete and then multiply it by 1.5. (Most people, myself included at times, are poor predictors of time use so by multiplying out gives you a buffer to get the work done.)

One of their examples was as follows:

English:5 hours becomes 7.5 hours Methods: 4 hours becomes 6 hours PE: 5 hours becomes 7.5 hours Biology:3 hours becomes 4.5 hours Bus Man:4 hours becomes 6 hours

Total hours: 31.5 hours which could be broken down into...

1. 10 days (M-F) of no more than 3.5 hours (9-1 pm including breaks) - short and simple with lots of R & R 2. 5 days of about 6.5 hours of study (9-3 including lunch and recess break) - challenging but do-able 3. 3 days of 10.5 hours of study (nightmare)

** Chances are as well that the student in scenario 1 will also be able to more quickly complete homework due to smaller chunks which means more holiday time!!! **

Of course study planners and calendars can be found directly under the VCE resources page for more assistance with this.

6. Break up each subject task list into smaller task lists.

Just writing "english hw" on a study planner won't give you an crystal clear idea of what is required for that study session. No idea = fluffing about = procrastination in 30 seconds flat.

Be detailed with what is required such as:

Compile Unit 3 Outcome 1 summary notes
Complete end of chapter review questions
Pre-read next chapter topic
Summarise list of key quotations for XYZ
Make a list of questions for topics not understood and email teacher for assistance
Etc
7. Break up the subjects and alternate

Short sessions of 45-60 minutes are good but it is even better to alternate and mix up different subjects. Different subjects typically use different parts of the brain so get some variety into your study if you can.

8. Find your zone

One of the leading causes of stress for VCE students is family issues so if you can try and find a safe haven where you can study. That may be in the garage, the local library, at Nanna's place etc. Pick a place that is quiet and free from distractions to help you find your zone.

What do you think? What other ideas do you have for studying over the holidays?

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