Category Archives: Synthesizing

A study of character

In English we are looking at analyzing characters.  A reader is required to infer in order to understand the charcters (and people in real life) using evidence from the character’s behaviour and the reader’s own schema (background experience).


Our inquiry has involved looking a photographs of people and making inferences about them.  Since photos are static in time, we can’t use clues such as behavioiur and actions, language (what they say), thoughts (like in a narrative), or how they relate to others.  That leaves very few clues to any inividual characteristics yet we makes inference just the same based on physical characteristics and perhaps some action that we can see.  We decided that we use clues about group traits and individual traits to analyze and evaluate people and characters in texts.


Group Traits might include:

Race, sex, class, stereotypes (jock, goth, etc.), profession, age, etc.

Individual traits include:

Courageous, intelligent, kind, rational, proung, arrogant, loyal, etc.


We talked about how we infer these traits based on clues in the text and our schema.  We make assumptions about people and characters based on these inferences.  We read short passages about a variety of characters and watched some episodes of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (the show has exaggerated characters).  The students recorded their observations and inferences about the characters in their thinking books and then we had a class discussion about each of the characters.  It’s pretty interesting that we all came to very similar conclusions based on the evidence and our background knowledge.  Perhaps culture plays a role here?


Our next step was to look at an open answer / short answer type question about a character and analyze it using the Ontario Achiement Chart.  That will be the topic of a future post.


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We Walk 4 Water – Water Campaign Launch

After a lot of fun and a lot of work we are ready to launch our water campaign.  

The grade 5/6 students have been working with Mme Moar’s class to create a campaign to raise awareness about the water crisis.  The students learned together about how difficult it is to access clean water in some developing countries.  We also learned about how buying disposable water bottles here at home has many negative impacts on the environment.  Even in Canada, the land of water, we need to conserve. 

On Thursday, May 16th we will be walking to the Lake to collect water.  We will carry large jugs to fill up and carry back to emulate the conditions for women and girls in developing countries.  Except our walk is shorter and our load will be lighter.  We are hoping the radio will play our ad and the local paper will turn up.  Our walk is on the same day that Spencer West’s walk ends.  He has been walking from Edmonton to Calgary to raise money for Free the Children’s campaign for clean water.  His walk is called We Walk 4 Water and can be found here.  Spencer is very inspiring and our classes watched his talk from We Day last year. 

For the next few days I will be posting the students work.  Some photos of poster, some videos, a radio ad, GLOGS and stop-motion animation.


Reading – Synthesizing, Note Taking a Research Project & Measurement

We are working on a new reading strategy – Synthesizing.  This is one of the most difficult strategies to explain and understand. 


When we read we are constantly connecting the new information to our schema (background knowledge).  As we learn more and more our thinking shifts and we begin to synthesize and evaluate what we are learning.  We gain new insights and ideas.  I really like this anchor chart that I found online.  We will be recreating it for our Reading Strategies bulletin board in class. 


I am modeling synthesizing through note taking.  Together we have been reading an article about the Maya which was published in Kids Discover magazine.   We use a T-chart to take our notes.  On the left we have Facts/Notes which we have paraphrased from the text.  We discuss what are the most important details and how we need to write in our own words.  On the right we have a thinking chart.  Here we write questions we have, connections we make and other thoughts we have as we read.  This really slows the reading process down in a productive way.  The students need to stop, absorb what they have read, and think about the text.   Here are some samples from the Maya note-taking practice. 

student notes

student notes2

We will be continuing with this method of note taking as we begin the research for our report writing.  The reports will be in both French and English.  The grade 5s have chosen an ancient civilization and the grade 6s have chosen a Canadian First Nation for their report. 


We have started another unit on measurement and we have been measuring mass, length, and capacity.  For the past few days the students have been rotating through stations where they practice these skills.  Watch for our Water Campaing launch where we will be using our math skills for a really meaningful project.

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Posted by on May 6, 2013 in Synthesizing


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