At the end of each unit, students complete the Synthesis Discussion & Synthesis Project. The Synthesis Discussion & Project are designed to help students deepen their learning through academic discussions and a differentiated group project.
The objectives of the Synthesis Discussion & Project are for students to:
- Individually articulate and defend a response to the Focus Question for the unit.
- As a group, use academic discourse to collaboratively discuss and negotiate a shared
response to the Focus Question for the unit.
- As a group, plan, develop, and present a project to communicate a shared response to the
Focus Question for the unit.
At the end of each unit, Teachers lead a Synthesis Discussion centered around the unit discussion questions. You should print the Unit Discussion Questions and the Student Synthesis Discussion & Project Checklist for your students to use during the class discussion.
The Synthesis Discussion provides opportunities for students to engage in academic discourse. In each discussion, students learn techniques for academic communication, such as clarifying, elaborating, identifying common ground, and respecting differences of opinion. As students practice sharing and supporting their ideas, they transfer these strategies to independent conversations with peers or small groups.
Some key elements of effective discussions are:
- Disagreeing and challenging
- Requesting justification
- Building off another’s point
- Conceding a point
- Synthesizing and problem-solving
Teachers should help their students learn specific academic discourse routines, followed by a gradual release to independence with continued monitoring. Help students develop the ability to explain what opinions, background experiences, and evidence from the text combine to inform their particular point of view. Not all students are comfortable sharing their ideas and opinions, so be aware of and sensitive to students’ comfort levels, personality types, and cultural backgrounds. Encourage and support students, and use scaffolding to provide a safe entry point into the group conversation. Promote confidence by helping students find evidence for their opinions before explaining or defending them to their peers. Encourage students to follow discussion rules and create a supportive learning environment free of antagonism where students can think critically and argue effectively and respectfully.
The Synthesis Project provides an opportunity for students to plan, develop, and present a project that effectively communicates the group’s shared response to the Focus Question. This type of project allows students to creatively apply the knowledge that they have learned to a real-world application. Synthesis Projects should include adequate explanations, examples, or evidence to logically defend their group’s shared response.
The Synthesis Project can be adapted to the instructional environment, individual students’ needs and skills, and Teacher discretion. Students should be provided with materials, resources, or scaffolding to help students from a variety of backgrounds actively participate in the project.
Teachers should help students choose a project that conveys an appropriately complex group response to the Focus Question. The project scope should also be appropriate to the number of students in the group and the time allotted. Teachers should be active facilitators in helping students select an appropriate project type so that all students have a voice, but make sure that students feel ownership in their choice of project. Here are some example Synthesis Project ideas:
|Example Project Ideas|
|Poster presentation||Written report|
|Written dramatic script||Creative expression: song or rap|
|Digital slide presentation||Creative expression: visual art|
|Written narrative||Creative expression: expressive dance|
|Video: commercial||Creative expression: instrumental music|
|Video: commercial||Audio podcast|
|Vlog-style video||Written poetry|
If you want, you can limit the project types available until your students are familiar with the collaboration, discussion, planning, and development steps.