Sunday, October 20, 2013

Synthesis and Smoothies

I love smoothies as they are the greatest for life-on-the-run. In the morning the blender gets filled with kale, walnuts, soy milk, bananas, blueberries and flax seed for a breakfast shake that rivals the mulch-pile. These seemingly unrelated ingredients get pulverized--synthesized--into a high-powered drink that sticks with me. That is what we long to see in our students -- Synthesis of seemingly unrelated ingredients (information) into a smooth conclusion supported by evidence.  

Two years ago when we ventured down our Repackaging Research campaign, we had stickers printed that say, "I SYNTHESIZE." These are coveted in our libraries and distributed and worn as a badge of honor when students conclude, or make sense of, information they have found. Even high school students prize the recognition, says Jan Tunison of Scotia-Glenville High. Yesterday a colleague posted on a listserv that she was looking for tips on Synthesis and it compelled me to share a few thoughts to encourage synthesis: 

  • Research should be packaged as a question in need of an answer 
  • If a student only has to find facts and spit them out, they will not get to the synthesis stage 
  • Synthesis comes when they have to answer a question, based upon the facts  
  • When they synthesize their facts, they usually draw a conclusion based on evidence (facts) and that becomes their hypothesis about which they write.   

Students have trouble synthesizing because they have spent years merely "fetching facts."    
(See my fetching facts post here..x.

In our upcoming book, Rx for the Common Core, we have a few pages on synthesis and a number of graphic aids to help teachers and librarians foster synthesis in their research reports.  

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