One day a youngster captured the synthesis of his grandfather as he sat in his lap. Touching the lines on his grandfather’s face, the little one blurted out, “Gramps, your face looks like a road map.” In that one sentence, the youngster encapsulated the entire life’s journey of the man.

The skill of synthesizing, as positioned in the upper levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, often requires a conscious and deliberate mindfulness. Synthesizing is not merely summarizing. It is not retelling, and it is not creating a synopsis of disparate parts. Synthesizing raises the thinking bar to get to the core of the matter. A multinational corporation with positive brand recognition in every corner of the earth is synthesized in three words, “Just Do It!” The monumental effort to communicate the role each citizen plays in the worldwide environmental movement while at the same time empowering everyone everywhere to join the effort is synthesized as “Think Global, Act Local.”
Synthesizing is the thinking skill most necessary for creating and building new ideas, products, and performances. Synthesizing encompasses imagination, invention, innovation, and risk taking, which are essential to the creative process. Companies are always searching for a synthesizing term or phrase that will encapsulate the essence of their product or line.
This table provides examples of what problem synthesizing might look and sound like in the classroom.
Looks Like
Sounds Like
Students coming up with five words to summarize a story.

Students creating a symbol to represent a character.

Students drawing a four-panel cartoon depicting a key concept.

Students displaying specific artifacts for a field-trip report.
“My take on the essence of this is…”

“A creative blending…”

“My idea is a synthesis of…”

“Combining the ideas…”

“We need a blending, not a mosaic of…”

All problem solving and decision making, the macroskills of intelligent behavior, depend on a synthesis of the data, facts, and information. Without the ability to synthesize factors, to blend elements and fuse random thoughts, creativity shuts down.

Adapted from:

Bellanca, J. A., Fogarty, R. J., & Pete, B. M. (2012). How to teach thinking skills within the common core: 7 key proficiencies of the new national standards. (pp. 163-164). Bloomington, IN: Solution Tree Press.