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Into the Book: Synthesizing
This 15-minute instructional television program is meant for use in K-3 classrooms. The video clips and teaching suggestions in this interactive teacher guide can help you preview the program and plan your lessons.

Program Synopsis
Mrs. Pingel's students enjoy learning to synthesize while reading the back of a candy bar wrapper. During independent reading, the new strategy pulls Kamilah into the poem Casey at the Bat, where she develops a new perspective on the poem that she later demonstrates in a puppet show. She is also able to synthesize her knowledge of baseball and her town into a winning mascot for her local team.

Featured text:
Casey at the Bat, by Ernest L. Thayer. San Francisco Examiner, 1888.

Other texts mentioned:
The Gorilla, on Endangered Species chocolate bar wrapper.

The World According to Humphrey, by Betty G. Birney. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 2004.

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Think about how you want to use this program. How does it fit into your teaching plan?
    1. Use it to introduce synthesizing.
    2. As a follow-up or review.
    3. As an intervention to encourage students who seem to be reading fluently but not reading for meaning.

Before viewing:

  • Set a purpose for watching the video. Explain that students will be trying the strategy themselves after they watch the video.
  • Ask students to watch for something specific in the program, for example:
    (You may wish to write a question on the board in order to refer to it.)
    1. How does synthesizing help Kamilah, in class and in the contest?
    2. Watch the special effects; see if you can explain what is going on inside the students' heads when they are synthesizing.
    3. We say that synthesizing means "putting the pieces together." What are the pieces?

During viewing:

  • Pause the video during teachable moments. For example:
    1. After Mrs. Pingel writes 'Gorillas' on the chart.
      Ask your students to think about what they already know about gorillas, and record their prior knowledge on your own chart or the blackboard.
    2. When Mrs. Pingel asks "Who can explain synthesizing to us in your own words?"
      Ask students for their explanation, or examples, of synthesizing.
    3. After Kamilah's puppet show.
      Ask students how Kamilah's thinking about the poem, or about baseball, changed.

After viewing:

  • Discuss students' thoughts on focus questions you asked before watching the video.
  • Have students do the Synthesizing activity in the student area of the Web site.
  • Choose a non-fiction topic and one or more texts, and use the Synthesizing Graphic Organizer to do a similar activity with your students.
  • Using a fiction text students have read, give them an assignment that requires them to synthesize (such as writing a segment from a different point of view, making a comic strip based on the characters, "interviewing" the characters and inventing what they would say, putting themselves in the book and explaining how they would handle a situation, and so forth.)
  • Model synthesizing during your read-aloud time. Talk about how your thinking is changing based on what you are reading.
  • Try some of the lesson plans on this site.
  • Listen to the Synthesizing song.

Preview Clips

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Notice how Mrs. Pingel explains synthesizing, and then gives a concrete example. Synthesizing is a complex strategy, and may be hard for students to understand at first.
Try it yourself:
Remember that this will take weeks or months. Show this video episode, explain synthesizing in different ways, and give students many opportunities to practice. It is normal for students to struggle with synthesizing but don't give up — they will get it!

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Notice how the teacher is doing a comprehension mini-lesson using a candy bar wrapper!
Try it yourself:
Using everyday text in your classroom not only keeps students interested, it helps them learn different text structures and become strategic readers outside of school. Keep your eyes out for everyday text to use in your classroom: candy bar wrappers, cereal boxes, greeting cards, brochures, newspaper articles, game instructions, CD or DVD jackets, posters, menus, even telephone books.
Notice that you can teach these strategies using whatever text you are already working with in your class — it doesn't have to be something extra you do!

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Notice how the teacher has broken synthesizing into steps — activating prior knowledge, reading for new information, coming up with a new understanding — to make the strategy clear.
Try it yourself:
You can use the Synthesizing Graphic Organizer to do this activity with your students. It's a good activity to do with non-fiction topics you are studying, and a great way to integrate reading comprehension into your subject area lessons. Try this Synthesizing Graphic Organizer lesson plan.

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Notice how students in this classroom choose texts based on their interests.
Try it yourself:
Encourage students to look for reading materials that help them explore their own interests. Encourage them also to branch out to new topics and a variety of genres (try poetry, magazine or newspaper articles, how-to books, humorous text or cyber text.). Individual conferences are an excellent time to help students make connections and then synthesize as they read.

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Notice the interesting ways students have chosen to demonstrate their syntheses, such as a puppet show and a podcast.
Try it yourself:
ask students to create a product of their own that requires them to synthesize (an advertising poster for a book, a play with the same characters in a different situation, an interview with a character, an illustrated timeline, a comic strip...).

A production of Wisconsin Media Labs: wimedialab.org