Synthesizing. Putting the Pieces Together. What Exactly Is Synthesizing?. “Synthesis is about organizing the different pieces to create a beautiful mosaic, a meaning, a beauty, greater than the sum of each shiny piece.” Ellin Keene.
Putting the Pieces Together
“Synthesis is about organizing the different pieces to create a beautiful mosaic, a meaning, a beauty, greater than the sum of each shiny piece.” Ellin Keene
“Synthesis is a matter of seeing how the details fit together to draw a conclusion, how the details solve a mystery, or how they bring characters (and readers) to a new understanding. Synthesis involves an “aha” moment,when, all of a sudden, everything becomes clear.” Nancy Boyles
“Synthesizing is like putting a puzzle together. You have to sort out your thinking and put it in the right place.” Clay
first there’s the splash, and then the water ripples out, making little waves that get bigger and bigger.”
“In order to construct any kind of meaning in our literacy learning and our life learning, we must find ways to cull and prune the details with which we are bombarded. We must reorganize and create our own explanations for what we are learning, our own definitions of our lives at any particular juncture.”Ellin Keene
Teaching synthesis is a challenge. It requires more think-aloud modeling on the teacher’s part, and more conferences focused on helping children think aloud than other comprehension strategies. Ellin Keene
2. Begin a study on synthesis by helping students to see how readers monitor overall meaning, important concepts, and themes as they read, understanding that their thinking evolves in the process.
3. As you read, model stopping now and then to consider what is important to remember. Distinguish between facts that are interesting and those that are important.
Tell what’s important
in a way that makes sense,
without telling too much.
Gradually release responsibility …
5. Have students create a simple summary. In fiction this might be meeting the characters, figuring out where the story took place, and determining the plot.
Don’t let students become victims of the “and then he…” syndrome!
Students need to understand that summarizing is a strategy that allows us to categorize and classify the information gathered as readers, sorting out significant ideas, events, and other pieces of information.
When reading a long piece, the reader needs to pause and regroup every so often, making notes as necessary.
“Summarizing is part of synthesis. You can’t synthesize if you don’t know how to summarize. Summarizing is the act of briefly presenting the main point. When teaching summary, teachers should encourage readers to retell information by including important ideas but not telling too much.” Stephanie Harvey
Clues Along the Way
Consider having students bring in a current article each week. Ask the them to read the article, tape it to a notebook page, and write a brief synthesis that includes their own take on the article.Stephanie Harvey, Nonfiction Matters
monitor the overall meaning, important concepts and themes in the text, and are aware of text elements.
are aware of text elements and patterns in fiction and nonfiction, helping them predict and understand the overall meanings or themes.
In just a few sentences, describe this text as if you are discussing it with someone who has never read it.
If you were explaining this story to a younger child, what would you say?
At what point did you say to yourself, “AHA, now I get it!”?
What strategies helped you to figure out the meaning of the text?
- Charting thinking records
- Post-it notes
- Double entry journals
- Letters to other readers and writers
- Quick write
- Four way share
- Book clubs
- Strategy study groups Keene, 2001
Beyond the literal interpretation question:
Through the process of synthesizing, their thinking deepens and their understanding grows.
You know that students have mastered synthesizing when,just as they manipulate hundreds of puzzle pieces to form a new picture, they can arrange fragments of information until they see a new pattern take shape. Stephanie Harvey
Booth, David and Larry Swartz. Literacy Techniques. Ontario, Canada:
Pembroke Publishers Limited, 2004
Boyles, Nancy N. Constructing Meaning Through Kid-Friendly
Comprehension Strategy Instruction. Gainesville, FL: Maupin
Harvey, Stephanie. Nonfiction Matters. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers,1998.
Harvey, Stephanie and Anne Goudvis. Strategies That Work:
Teaching Comprehension to Enhance Understanding. York, ME:Stenhouse Publishers,
2000.Guiding to Completion
Keene, Ellin and Susan Zimmerman. Mosaic of Thought: Teaching
Comprehension in a Reader’s Workshop. Portsmouth, NH: Heinmann,
Miller, Debbie. Reading with Meaning. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers,
Zimmerman, Susan and Chryse Hutchins. 7 Keys to Comprehension: How
to Help Your Kids Read It and Get It! New York, NY: Three Rivers