Synthesizing in the Elementary Classroom

Synthesizing…if you're like me, the first time that you heard about this strategy was when you started teaching. For whatever reason, not one of my teachers throughout my many years of education asked me to synthesize my reading, so this one took me awhile to get my head around. However, I've finally come to understand what synthesizing is all about and am now much better equipped to teach this important strategy. I do find this to be one of the more challenging strategies that I teach, so I do wait until I'm sure that my students are really secure in their understandings of the other strategies before we do any synthesizing. This actually makes it really easy to teach, because students are naturally synthesizing all the time, and when you make them aware of it, you'll probably get a lot of "oh yeahs" from your students.

So how do I introduce synthesizing? I start by telling students what synthesizing is, using this poster. Click on the images to print your own copy for free.

Then I take out my Nesting Dolls (I found mine at World Market) to help me model synthesizing. They are the perfect way to model since synthesizing is about peeling back the layers to dig deeper in your understanding. You could use an onion, but that just wouldn't provide a very nice aroma! 

My favorite book to use for synthesizing is Zen Shorts. As you can see from our chart, most students think "shorts" is referring to the shorts that the panda is wearing on the cover. Then as we begin to read, the students realize that the book is actually about a panda who share tales of Zen with three children, each with a different lesson to be learned. The chart that we created really enabled students to see and understand the process of synthesizing. 

You'll notice that I have adorable nesting dolls along the sides of my chart. I found this wonderful resource from One Extra Degree. You can click on the picture below to see this resource in her store. I laminated a number of sets so that students can use them with their reading during independent practice as well. The set also includes think cards (as seen on the right hand side of my chart) and graphic organizers. I use this resource ALL the time! 
One Extra Degree

After I've modeled synthesizing with Zen Shorts, we then do a guided practice with the wonderful story  Emma Kate by Patricia Polacco. If you do not have this book in your collection, add it to your shopping list because it lends itself beautifully to a number of different skills and strategies and students LOVE it! For notes and a graphic organizer, I use The First Grade Parade's Synthesis Superhero charts, which are free on her blog. We take a long time to discuss the story, page by page, and when we finish, we talk about how are thinking changed. Many students think that Emma Kate is a little girl with an imaginary elephant friend, but there's a twist at the end of the story! It's a great way to discuss how their thinking changed. 

Click the picture below to be taken to the link that includes the free Synthesis Superhero resources from 
The First Grade Parade

Now, of course, I teach fifth so these are simply introductory lessons. Students learn about synthesizing in these first few days, and then we carry it in to guided reading rotations for a week with an on-level chapter book. After a week or two of practice in guided reading, it becomes a part of their independent reading rotation. Students complete independent reading logs that are focused on synthesizing. These logs are a part of my Independent Reading Logs. To see them in my store, you can click on the picture below. 

I hope this post helped to make teaching synthesizing a little less overwhelming!



  1. Great post!! Thank you so much! So many ideas for me to try out.
    Curious firsties

  2. I love the posters you made. Teaching the kiddos to ask themselves those types of questions is so tricky! Can we talk about how much I LOVE your reading logs?! They are totally on my wishlist now. Do you give one page per night or a certain number per week??

    Caffeine and Lesson Plans

  3. Thank you for suggesting these awesome reads. I'm pinning your pics and ideas! Thank you!

    The Whimsical Teacher


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