Using Visual Synthesizing to Improve Students’ Reading Comprehension Skills

So what does it mean to synthesize when we’re discussing reading? It’s best to think of synthesizing as an ongoing, multi-step process. We want learners to stop multiple times during reading to assess what they know or think they know about some element of the text. Elements like the subject, the characters, the problem, etc. Each time learners stop reading, they reflect, combine their previous thoughts with new info, and form new ideas.

Are you trying to find some go-to activities that can be used to help your students learn to visually synthesize?  If so, we have some creative, low-prep ideas guaranteed to turn your learners into expert synthesizers.

Construct Synthesis Fold-a-Fans

Demonstrate how to fold a sheet of paper, accordion-style, so that it has 4–5 sections and constructs a fan.  Provide each learner with a sheet of paper, inviting them to create their fold-a-fan.  Explain that you will be utilizing the fans to track how a reader’s thinking can change from the start of a story to the conclusion.

Start reading. After reading the start of a story, work with learners to write their thoughts about a character, the plot, or another subject from the text in the fan’s first section. Stop periodically to fill in the fan with new thoughts or info. At the end of the lesson, tell your students to use the fan’s final section to write down how their thoughts changed by the end.

The Book Review Method

Start by telling your learners that you will ask them to review a book at the start, in the middle, and at the conclusion. Tell your students that their thoughts about the book will likely change over time, which happens to readers who think while reading!

Pause at the start, middle, and conclusion of the story and let learners jot down what they predict about the book and why. Here are some sentence frames to support their writing:

  • Upon reading the first few pages, I beleive this book is __________ because ___________.
  • I’m starting to believe this book is __________ because ___________.
  • In the end, this book was __________ because ___________.

Try a Brain Squeeze

This idea is an exciting way to teach learners to synthesize.  It works optimally with nonfiction or informational text.

For this activity, you’ll need 3 pieces of paper, each with a big thought bubble. Each thought bubble must be labeled 1, 2, and 3.

Begin by previewing the text. Identify the subject. Then ask learners to “squeeze” their brains to let out each the info they know or think they know about the subject. Record each their info inside of the first bubble.

Read the text.  When you have read half of the text, tell the learners it’s time to “squeeze” their brains again.  Write the new info inside of the second thought bubble.

Last, finish reading the book.  Then invite learners to “squeeze” their brains one final time.  Record the info inside of the third thought bubble.

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