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Putting Zing. S Y N E C T I C S. S Y N E C T I C S. a key to. into student writing. Presented by:. Roger Cramer. Tim Johnson. Sonja Bertolucci. Mike Troiano. Semester Project Synectics Action Research

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Putting Zing



a key to

into student writing

Presented by:

Roger Cramer

Tim Johnson

Sonja Bertolucci

Mike Troiano

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Semester Project

Synectics Action Research

The main focus of this project is to determine if teaching using a Synectics activity will help students to better understand their topic of study, and enable them to use descriptive prose in their writing to clearly express information and ideas about the topic.

Synectics activities are supported by the use of Advance Organizers, Concept Mapping, Constructivist Learning, and technology.

Our project, presents an example of a class activity, and provides resource and research references.

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… is a teaching approach using metaphors and analogies as tools to help students gain new insights and perspectives for use in the writing process

“the basic tools of learning are analogies that serve as connectors between the new and the familiar”… “good teaching traditionally makes ingenious use of analogies and metaphors to help student visualize content” (Wm. J.J. Gordon)

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Synectics, from the Greek word synectikos, means “bringing forth together” or “bringing different things into unified connection”

How long has


been around?

Take a guess?

40 Years

Wm. J.J. Gordon, 1961

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… “provides an approach to creative thinking that depends on looking at what appears on the surface as unrelated phenomenon and draws relevant connections…It helps users break existing mind sets and internalize abstract concepts” (Gordon, 1961)

… “it can be used with all ages and works well with those who withdraw from traditional methods” (Couch 1993)

Synectics is well-supported by research, and is easily integrated with technology.

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The Teacher’s Challenge

How can we get students to think creatively?

Synectics opens the door

to creative


through metaphors

and analogies.

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Creative Thinking

Creative problem solving, breaking set, and thinking outside the box...these are all necessary skills in today’s academic environment and global business economy.

Synectics was developed by Wm. J.J. Gordon for use in business and industry.

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Putting Zing

into student writing

Problem Statement

Students do not use adequate descriptive prose in their writing.

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A c t i o n R e s e a r c h P r o b l e m

Will prior use of a Synecticsactivity, facilitate higher order and creative thinking, thus enabling students to use descriptive prose in their writing?

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Action Research G o a l

To integrate Synectics with technology to teach students a process that will help them develop:

concept clarity


descriptive writing skills

resulting in a measurable use of descriptive prose

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Assess Students’ Technology Skills

Students in the research project are skilled in:

  • using a word processor

  • using a spreadsheet

  • using PowerPoint

  • using the Internet

  • A few students are skills in the basics of :

    • Photoshop

    • Inspiration

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    Identify Student Knowledge

    Students participating in this Synectics lesson are in an English class.

    Prior to the lesson, students have read the play Julius Caesar, watched a video of the play, and engaged in a discussion about the play.

    Students understand the terms metaphor, analogy, simile, figure of speech, and theme.

    Students have previously written an essay on the topic of Julius Caesar, as a baseline for comparison for the post-synectics writing assignment.

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    Advance Organizer

    As an Advance Organizer, the teacher describes and defines Synectics, and then uses a simple example to model the steps in the Synectics lesson.

    • During this model activity, students take turns using the computer to enter group responses into a word processing table as another student writes the group responses into the category template on the board. (A spreadsheet template may also be used for this activity.)

    • The Synectics activity process is then applied to the topic (the play Julius Caesar) the students have been studying.

    • After the Synectics activity, students write a poem about the topic.

    • Finally, students are assigned to write an essay on one of the themes of the play Julius Caesar.

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    Model Synectics Activity

    • When I say____Teacher____ what do you think about?

    • _____Teacher______is like what plant or animal?

    • Describe (word from #2) and become that animal or plant. How do you feel? What do you think? i.e. I am….

    • Looking at the words in column #2 and column # 3, find two words that are opposites (fight each other).

    • What else can be (analogy from #4)?

      • Teacher picks one of the examples and students describe

      • that example in more detail.

  • Tell me something about (word from #5).

  • Now, look at everything on the board and see if there is anything else we can say about (#1). Create a analogy that connects the original topic to one of the new words, i. e. Teachers are like…

  • Using the words on this chart or any additional descriptive words, write a poem about #1.

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    The Synectics Lesson


    Our model lesson using Synectics

    to stimulate the synapses.

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    Let’s apply the Synectics process to analyze the concepts presented in

    Shakespeare’s play

    Julius Caesar

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    PRESENT SITUATION presented in

    Thinking about the play…


    When I say Julius Caesar, what words come to your mind?






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    DIRECT presented inANALOGY


    The play Julius Caesar is like what plant

    or animal?


    poison ivy


    What canyouthink of ?

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    PERSONAL ANALOGY presented in


    Describe a word

    (from II. Direct Analogy) and become a (same word as above).

    How do you feel?

    What do you think?












    What canyouthink of ?

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    CONFLICT presented in

    • IV.

      • Looking at Direct Analogy (II) and the Personal Analogy (III), find two words that seem to fight each other. (Conflict)

    Direct Analogy

    Personal Analogy












    What canyouthink of ?

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    DIRECT ANALOGY – Part 1 presented in


    What else can be an afraid snake?

    What canyouthink of ?

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    DIRECT ANALOGY – Part 2 presented in

    • VI.

      • Tell me something more aboutan afraid snake (from #V, Direct Analogy). Apply more attributes to conflicting words. Start your statement with…

      • I am……..








    Adaptive Old



    What canyouthink of ?

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    RETURN TO THE presented in


    • VII.

      • Now look at everything on the board and see if there is anything else we can say about the play Julius Caesar (# I).

    The play Julius Caesar is like…

    What canyouthink of ?

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    First PORTFOLIO PRODUCT presented in

    • VIII.

    • Using information from this chart or any additional information you know, write a poem about:

    Julius Caesar

    Students print a copy of the finished list from the Synectics activity as a reference for writing their poem.

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    Further integrating technology… presented in

    Application Activity

    Students will write and format their poem and add graphics using a word processing program.

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    Class Discussion presented in

    Students evaluate and reflect on the Synectics activity and how it contributed to their understanding of the major themes in Julius Caesar.

    “A good metaphor

    is enriching and

    says more than a

    logical explanation.”

    (deMink 1995)

    Students use Internet resources to locate further information about Julius Caesar.

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    S presented inynectics

    Graphic Organizers

    such as




    supporting the

    Writing Process

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    Pre-writing Activity presented in

    Students explore, in depth, the attributes of the themes

    in Julius Caesar.

    Students work in small, cooperative groups using Inspiration or Word to create a Julius Caesar “themes” graphic organizer.

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    Example outcomes of: presented in

    Student-centered constructivist activity

    (Hilda Taba)

    Social Order

    Chaos results when the prescribed social order is broken.

    Power of


    Stable Rule



    Julius Caesar

    Language is a powerful weapon in the hands of a skilled orator.

    Is dictatorship

    preferable to social chaos?




    Violence and bloodshed can never have morally good results.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely?

    What is the price of democracy?

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    Integrating presented in

    Synectics Ideas

    Concept Mapping

    and Technology




    Student paragraph development guide using Inspiration.

    Haynes, Charles & Mcmurdo, Kathleen "Using Inspiration Software to Teach Paragraph Development“

    Iste publications 


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    Integrating presented in

    Synectics Ideas

    Concept Mapping

    and Technology




    Student essay development guide using Inspiration.

    Haynes, Charles & Mcmurdo, Kathleen "Using Inspiration Software to Teach Paragraph Development" Iste publications.  http://www.iste.org

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    Second PORTFOLIO PRODUCT presented in


    • Students develop a photo essay using …

      • PowerPoint

      • word processing

      • web authoring software

      • Internet resources

    • Students draft, edit, revise and publish

    • their Julius Caesar theme essay.

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    Concept Mapping presented in

    Research Review Excerpts

    “Concept maps provide teachers with an avenue

    for developing insight into student understanding.”

    (Edmundson 2000)

    “…effects of cognitive mapping on science content

    comprehension of low-achieving seventh grade students from an urban parochial school. Improvement of reading performance of students; efficacy of the concept maps; use of cognitive maps for spatial configurations” (Guastello 2000)  

    “Advanced organizers are the primary means of strengthening

    cognitive structure… the most effective organizers are those

    that use concepts, terms, and propositions that are already

    familiar to the learners…” (Joyce & Weil p.253)

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    California Language Arts Standards addressed in this Synectics lesson and subsequent assignment:

    • 1.0 Word Analysis, Fluency, and Systematic Vocabulary Development

      • 1.2. Distinguish between the denotative and connotative meanings of words and interpret the connotative power of words.

    • 2.0 Reading Comprehension (Focus on Informational Materials)

      • 2.6 Demonstrate use of sophisticated learning tools by following technical directions (e.g., those found with graphic calculators and specialized software programs and in access guides to World Wide Web sites on the Internet).

    • 3.0 Literary Response and Analysis

      • 3.12 Analyze the way in which a workof literature is related to the themes and issues of its historical period.

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    • California Language Arts Standards continued… Synectics lesson and subsequent assignment:

    • 1.0 Writing Strategies

      • 1.1 Establish a controlling impression or coherent thesis that conveys a clear and distinctive perspective on the subject and maintain a consistent tone and focus throughout the piece of writing.1.2 Use precise language, action verbs, sensory details, appropriate modifiers, and the active rather than the passive voice.

      • 1.6 Integrate quotations and citations into a written text while maintaining the flow of ideas.

      • 1.8 Design and publish documents by using advanced publishing software and graphic programs.

    • 2.0 Writing Applications

      • 2.2 Write responses to literature: a. Demonstrate a comprehensive grasp of the significant ideas of literary works.

      • 2.3 Write expository compositions, including analytical essays and research reports:

      • d. Include visual aids by employing appropriate technology to organize and record information on charts, maps, and graphs.

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    • California Language Arts Standards continued… Synectics lesson and subsequent assignment:

    • 1.0 Written and Oral English Language Conventions

      • Students write and speak with a command of standard English conventions. (ALL 1.1 – 1.5)

    • 1.0 Listening and Speaking Strategies

      • 1.1 Formulate judgments about the ideas under discussion and support those judgments with convincing evidence.1.7 Use props, visual aids, graphs, and electronic media to enhance the appeal and accuracy of presentations.

    • 2.0 Speaking Applications

      • 2.4 Deliver oral responses to literature:

      • a. Advance a judgment demonstrating a comprehensive grasp of the significant ideas of works or passages (i.e., make and support warranted assertions about the text).b. Support important ideas and viewpoints through accurate and detailed references to the text or to other works.

    • http://www.cde.ca.gov/standards/reading/grade910.htm

    • l

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    • Action Research Measurement: Synectics lesson and subsequent assignment:

    • Post-Synectics Activity Writing Assignment

    • Quantitative:

      • Metaphor Count

      • Adjective Count

    • Qualitative:

      • Students’ demonstrate use of advanced concepts in their writing, relative to their own understanding

      • Students’ use of technology as a learning tool and presentation and/or publishing tool

      • Questionnaire related to students perception of activity

      • Observation of student engagement in all activities

      • Student demonstration of creativethinking through class discussion

      • Students’ self-evaluation/reflection on products

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    • Sample Survey Questions: (Likert) Synectics lesson and subsequent assignment:

    • Post-Synectics Activity Writing Assignment

    • What do you do before a writing assignment?

    • Have you used technology for writing before? Explain.

    • Have you ever participated in a Synectics activity before? Explain.

    • Did you feel more prepared to write your essay after having participated in the Synectics activity? Explain.

    • Explain how the concept mapping activity assisted you in your writing.

    • Would you use any of these strategies when presented with a writing assignment in the future? Explain.

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    Synectics + Concept Mapping + Technology Synectics lesson and subsequent assignment:

    add up to

    Meaningful learning

    that facilitates students’ understanding, creative thinking and the ability to use descriptive prose

    Synectics allows one to think creatively…

    and then stimulates active processing of information

    Concept mapping allows one to analyze, evaluate…

    and make meaningful connection among and between concepts

    Technology allows one to synthesize and apply knowledge and skills

    The ability to think creatively, to analyze, synthesize, apply and evaluate information are the skills needed both for today and even more so for the future.

    (Morrison 1996)

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    Reflections Synectics lesson and subsequent assignment:



    Students’ Reflections and Feedback:

    Students were very enthusiastic about using Synectics and had a great time writing their poem. Students also expressed how much they benefited from the concept mapping activities. Students had fun and were motivated to write their poems and essay because they felt they had a rich information base from which to draw. The Julius Caesar theme essay hasn’t been turned in yet.

    Project Group Reflections: It was a window of opportunity for us to experience Synectics as we worked to develop this project. We worked collaboratively and pooled our varied skills. When used in staff development it allowed for cognitive shifts in the participants, through the use of metaphor.

    iMET3 Feedback: What do you think?

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    • This is your feedback page, iMET3: Synectics lesson and subsequent assignment:

    • Is there any curriculum that this would not work with?

    • When you do get the essays, and you see the use of

    • methphors… how will you take that data to do the

    • second intergration? Where would you go with it next?

    • How do you approach modification of the product? Is it

    • qualitative for use in the classroom?

    • Why do you need to collect data?At theend of the year, SAT 9 Scores, consistently did well, but didn’t know what specifically to attribute this to.

    • Include a video of before and after.

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    When we say Synectics what do YOU think of ? Synectics lesson and subsequent assignment:

    • In what ways can you use a synectics activity to guide your students to greater concept clarity and descriptive writing?

      • Short story writing

      • Expository writing across the curriculum

      • Student created books (Young Authors)

    • Where else can you envision Synectics may be applied, and how could you determine the usefulness of synectics in your classroom?

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    Research Synectics lesson and subsequent assignment:

    Apple K-12 Effectiveness Reports. http://www.apple.com/education/k12/leadership/effect5.html

    Couch, Richard (1993) “Synectics and Imagery: Developing Thinking Through Images.” In: Art, Science & Visual Literacy: Selected Readings from the Annual Conference of the International Visual Literacy Association (24th, Pittsburgh, PA, Sept. 30-Oct. 4, 1992). ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 363 330)

    deMink, Frank. “Metaphors as keys to creative thinking. European Journal for High Ability.” Vol 6(2), (1995).(pp. 176-180). US: Hogrefe & Huber Publishers. www.hhpub.com/catalogue/order.html

    Edmondson, Katherine M.; “Assessing science understanding through concept maps.”

    Affiliation: Cornell U, School of Veterinary Medicine, Ithaca, NY, US

    Source: Mintzes, Joel J. (Ed), Wandersee, James H. (Ed), et al.(2000). Assessing science

    understanding: A human constructivist view.Educational psychology press. (pp. 15-40).

    San Diego, CA, US: Academic Press, Inc. xxii, 386 pp

    Gordon, W. J. J. (1961) Synectics. New York: Harper & Row

    Guastello, E. Francine “Concept Mapping Effects on Science Content Comprehension ofLow-Achieving Inner-City Seventh Graders.”Remedial & Special Education, Nov/Dec2000, Vol. 21 Issue 6,p356, 9p, 1 chart, 1 diagram.

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    Research Synectics lesson and subsequent assignment:

    Joyce, Bruce; Weil, Marsha. Models of Teaching, Sixth Edition. Allyn and Bacon, 2000.

    Merkley, Donna M.; Jeffries, Debra. Guidelines for Implementing a Graphic Organizer. Reading Teacher Vol. 54, N4, p. 350-57 Dec 2000- Jan 2001

    Prakarnkaeo, Pornthip. The Use of Synectics as an Aid to Thinking for Creative Writing

    of Mathayo Suksa 3 Students.


    Thomas, Gregory P.; McRobbie, Campbell J. “Using a metaphor for learning to

    improve students’ metacognition in the chemistry classroom” Journal of Research in

    Science Teaching.” Vol. 38(2), Feb. 2001 US: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

    Wolfe, Edward W.; Bolton, Sandra; Feltovich, Brian; Bangert, Art W.

    “A Study of word processing experience and its effects on student essay writing.”

    Journal of Education Computing Research. US: Baywood Publishing Co. Inc

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    Synectics is like finding a treasure chest of words and new ideas.

    Concept maps are like a pair of hands reaching out to guide you along an unfamiliar path.

    Technology is like a magic wand…