Synthesizing Activities for First and Second Grade

June 7, 2019

When we teach students to synthesize, we let them know that they are combining what they already know with new information they learn from the text. As we do this, our thinking changes and grows! It’s important to teach students not to just repeat back what they’re learning. Instead, we want our students to realize that they’re actually processing the new information through synthesis.

I wanted to share a few activities, book recommendations and ideas to help students practice synthesizing in first and second grade.


When first teaching students about synthesizing, I really emphasize that we base our thoughts off what we know at the time. As we learn more information and gain more personal experiences in life, our thinking grows and changes.

This introductory activity relates to the binoculars metaphor and has students thinking about what they see in each photo.

We start with a zoomed in portion of the photo and share what we think the photo is. What is the subject here? What is happening in this photo? Why do you think that? Then, I let students know this was only a small portion of the bigger picture. So we take a step back and ask ourselves: What do we think is going on in the photo now? Has our thinking changed at all since the last picture? Why or why not? Lastly, we repeat those questions with the third and final photo. What new perspective have we gained by learning more information and seeing more of the big picture?


Debbie Miller describes synthesis as ripples made by throwing a rock in a pond. The first circle is our initial thinking. As we read and learn more information, our thinking expands and grows bigger, like the ripples in a pond. Using this model, I like to model synthesizing a text using this type of interactive anchor chart. I simply stop throughout different portions of the text and write down my thoughts (and subsequent changing thoughts) on a sticky notes and model putting them in different areas of the ripple pond (or bullseye model). The innermost circle is reserved for my initial thoughts/predictions based on the beginning of the book. Throughout the middle of the story, I will stop and add more of my thoughts as they change or as I gain new information. At the end of the story I will clarify anything I’ve learned add that newly gained information to the last ring.

If you’re looking for some great books for synthesizing here are a few of my favorites (affiliate links):




When I practice synthesizing with my students, I really let them know that this is when we are putting everything we’ve learned together. We are making inferences, we are using our schema, visualizing, etc. to gain a better understanding of what is happening in our stories. As we continue to read and use our skills, we synthesize and make sense of the story. Our thoughts change as we read more.

You can use any of the books I previously mentioned, but I also wrote 4 short stories with stopping points for students to stop and synthesize what they’ve learned so far:


All of these passages, activities, and recording sheets (and much more) are included in my Comprehension Strategies that Stick unit below:


Pin to remember:

These ideas and activities are a great way to help students synthesize what they are reading! Synthesizing in first and second grade can be tricky so head over to the blog post to see some activities and book ideas to help with comprehension.

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  • I love this activity and will use this with my first graders this year. Love your blog! Thank you so much for your ideas!