Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Synthesizing Mind

This week’s reading about the synthesizing mind came at the perfect time for me. For the past two weeks, I have been mentally planning a project for my 7th grade students for the beginning of the school year.  I had been rolling ideas around in my mind trying to finesse this project, and Gardner’s chapter gave me  some good direction and more of a focus for the project.

As Gardner says, “The ability to knit together information from disparate sources into a coherent whole is vital today” (Gardner, pg 44).  I agree that synthesizing is a skill that needs to be developed in our students at an early age.  The project that I am planning has students synthesizing information from various sources in order to teach their classmates a topic.

My 7th grade students are in French IB.  At my school, French I is split up over 6th and 7th grade into French IA and French IB.  When students come back in 7th grade, I always face the issue that they have forgotten so much of what they learned in 6th grade.  Since languages build so much on previous topics, it is vital that they review and, in many cases, re-learn what was taught in 6th grade.  I usually spend the first month of school doing this review.  I find it difficult to come up with engaging lessons to re-teach what I taught the year before.  So I decided that, this year, I would have the students do the teaching.  I will assign students to small groups, and assign each group a topic that was taught in 6th grade.  Each group will then be responsible for creating either  a Prezi or a Glog that teaches their classmates about their assigned topic.  Their Prezi or Glog will have to include information from the textbook, internet resources, a video that they create, connections to other subject areas, and more (again, I’m still developing this project).  Once students create their project, we will spend a few days in the computer lab having students view each other’s projects.  I think this assignment will be engaging for my students, and also help them to practice synthesizing information from a variety of sources.

When Gardner outlined the “Components of Synthesis” (pg. 48), I was immediately reminded of the IB-MYP Design Cycle.  Gardner’s components are:

·         A goal

·         A starting point

·         Selection of strategy, method, and approach

·         Drafts and Feedback

In my school, we use the IB-MYP Design Cycle when  students do larger projects.  The steps of the Design Cycle are:

·         Investigate

·         Design

·         Plan

·         Create

·         Evaluate

Both of these provide a similar framework for creating an effectively synthesized product. 

One of the components of the project is to have students relate their topic to another subject area.  My school focuses heavily on cross-curricular education, and I always enjoy seeing students make connections from one subject to another.  They often surprise me with the connections they make! “Interdisciplinary synthesis” is not always easy to achieve, but it is necessary for our students to look at a topic from a multitude of contexts (Gardner pg 50).  Our students need to take their lessons, and “transport at least part of those lessons across the hallway” (Gardner, pg 59).  I think including an interdisciplinary piece to the review project will help my students relate French to other topics.

I am excited to try this project out with my students next year.  I think that I now have a better idea as to what the final product should include, thanks to reading Gardner’s chapter on synthesis.  Being able to synthesize information is a vital skill, and I hope that I can do my part to develop it in my students.


Gardner, H. (2007). Five Minds for the Future. Harvard Business School Press: Boston, MA.

IBO. (2005-2012). Middle years programme curriculum. Retrieved from

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