These days when teachers teach concepts and facts and skills they do so in the service of required learning standards. One of the standards particularly important to the subject of Literacy (English Language Arts) is synthesis.
According to dictionary.com, the definition of synthesis is:
the combining of the constituent elements of separate material or abstract entities into a single or unified entity
The photo above might be said to demonstrate synthesis in its artful (subtle, nuanced, clever, careful, cohesive) union of the literal (the eyes) and the abstract (the blotches).
In my classroom students synthesize by, for example, writing a narrative that demonstrates an understanding and combination of several previously taught elements (such as exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution; such as the Six Traits of ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions). Or they might research a controversial issue, take notes and synthesize by demonstrating their command of the material (combining all that they’ve learned into a cohesive whole) in a debate.
Bloom’s Taxonomy, which ranks learning objectives from simplest to most complex, ranks the objective of Synthesis as the second most complex in the cognitive domain. The objective of Evaluation edges out Synthesis in the battle for complexity. (If there were a Bloom’s yearbook, Evaluation would win the coveted Most Likely to Be Complex award. Synthesis would simply sulk.) I am partial to Synthesis. It usually requires creation to demonstrate learning. Evaluation: not necessarily.
So hooray for Synthesis!
The smiles on these girls’ faces convey the “so what.” These are seven of the nine students involved in last year’s iteration of the Synthesis Project. Its success depends in part upon the fact that its focus is synthesis (hence the name). In the group students all read and discuss one Young Adult novel that they have collectively chosen (majority rules; it’s a democracy; voting decides most matters). They use this exemplar book to help them write their own book. They read about writing in order to do the writing they want to do. One chapter per week, usually, the students realize their vision of how they have agreed their story should go, writing their own chapter drafts, each of which is posted to a group blog. They read each other’s chapter drafts and vote on their favorites. The writer of the winning draft takes the next week to revise the chapter by including pieces of everyone’s different version of that chapter. The process inspires them for their next drafts. It builds in a snowball effect of writing frenzy.
This is the nature of synthesis. Students write with their reading in mind, they read with their writing in mind, they feed off of each other’s enthusiasm, they learn from each other and in the end it all comes together in a unified whole.
(Photos by: AForestFrolic, Enokson)
Writer, reader, runner, teacher, father, infp, huffleclaw.