In my new book, I included a quote from Mackenzie, one of my former students: "I need to synthesize when I’m reading! I think synthesis is like cooking. You throw all the ingredients together, mix them together, and the end result is FOOD. In reading, you have all these thoughts and you combine them all together and you get one big new overall learning or thought." The perfect definition.
Last year, I borrowed the following idea from my friend Cheryl. To begin our study, I gave each student an 8 inch square piece of tag and six, two-inch strips of paper (each a different color). Every student started with the same thing. After showing them some pictures of mosaics, I simply asked them to create a mosaic using the paper I gave them and to write a sentence or two about their thinking. We all started with the same thing, but the results were much different...24 unique interpretations. We talked about how synthesis was just that, taking a piece of text and walking away with our own personal interpretation.
Here are two examples of their work and their thinking:
Our discussion led us to the idea that even though we all start with the same thing (e.g. a piece of text), what we do with it can look vastly different, across one text or across multiple texts. Our mosaics were the metaphor we latched onto as we continued our study of becoming wise synthesis thinkers throughout our study of this thinking strategy.