This collection of resources is designed to help you work with your students on the close reading skill of synthesizing informational text.
Synthesizing occurs when readers change their thinking as they read. They use their background knowledge along with what they are reading and learning to form new thoughts, opinions and conclusions.
You will find the complete download for the resources listed below at the bottom of the post. Simply click on the BOLD HIGHLIGHTED words: Synthesizing Resources.
Introduction: One idea to use as an introduction to synthesizing is for you to bring in the ingredients and supplies to make homemade cookies or muffins. Have your students look at all that you brought (both tools and ingredients) and make predictions about what you might be getting ready to do based on what they see in front of them. Use the class prediction chart to record their thoughts.
As your class works together to follow the recipe, talk about how all of the pieces are combining to make something new. Perhaps stop after certain ingredients change the batter in a significant way and discuss the details of the change. Compare the activity to reading informational texts by telling them they will continuously combine their past knowledge, their new knowledge and what they are reading to form new thoughts and opinions about a topic. Our thinking changes as we read and learn, much the same as the batter changes as it moves towards becoming cookies.
What is Synthesizing? – Synthesizing can be difficult to teach because it involves so many pieces. To begin with, be sure your students have a grasp of what synthesizing actually is. They need to understand the term so that when you discuss synthesizing their reading, they know what you mean by that. We have provided an anchor chart for display and discussion. Be sure to refer to the chart as you are teaching your students about synthesizing – pointing out exactly what you are doing from the chart as you are reading with them.
We think it is important to immerse your students in many good examples so that they begin to feel more and more comfortable with the process. You can do this by reading aloud and modeling your own thinking for the students and then give them the opportunity to practice with partners and small groups using post-it notes. The more the students see good examples, the easier the process will become.
Guided Practice – One text that might be of high interest to your students and provide a good example of how thinking can change while reading is the book It’s Disgusting and We Ate It by James Solheim. This book is great for thinking about how schema plays a role in synthesizing as we read.
To start the activity, have all of your students answer one of the eight questions we have provided on sentence strips. (Pick one in advance that you feel your students would enjoy!) Have them record their answers on Post-Its and place them on the board for discussion. Next, read the indicated page aloud from the book. If the students’ thinking changed as a result of what you read, have them remove their Post-It from the board and share with the class what about the reading changed their opinion r thoughts. Then focus on those whose answers didn’t necessarily change, but whose thinking was impacted in some way by what you read aloud. Do this with a few more of the questions to help them understand how their background knowledge and new learning play a pivotal role in how their thinking changes.
Additional Practice – Another engaging text you might use for synthesizing practice is Guess What is Growing Inside This Egg by Mia Posada. With this book, students read just the clues and look at the accompanying picture before completing the organizer. They can then confirm their ideas by reading the next page. This activity comes with a Synthesizing Practice graphic organizer. (One has been titled with this book and we have provided one without so it can be used with other texts.) If you prefer, this book could simply be a read aloud and discussion instead of a writing activity.
Focus on Central Ideas – For more practice and modeling, we have created a poster and organizer where students record their background knowledge about a text you will read and then add main ideas that the author shares. For your class discussion pose a question such as “How does my background knowledge help me understand the main ideas or the topic?”
Classroom Modeling Posters/Organizers – We have provided three additional posters/organizers you can use to continue to model synthesizing in different ways. There is a “What I read …What I thought…” version, a “Before, During and After Reading” option and an “I CAN synthesize as I read” choice. You might think about using each with different kinds of informational texts to provide your students with more opportunities to “see” synthesizing in action.
Think, Pair & Share – Once you feel like your students are beginning to understand and internalize how to synthesize as they read, you can start moving towards some deeper synthesizing involving discussions of texts. Our “Think, Pair & Share Your Synthesizing” organizer encourages confidence with this strategy and also shows students how talking with others about their reading can influence their thoughts and opinions about texts as well.
Organizing My Thinking – One final organizer we have created puts all of the pieces of synthesizing in one spot, including connections students have made while reading.
You will find all of the resources described above in one download here: