Synthesis Essay (Draft #2)

Synthesis Essay (Draft #2)

Synthesis Essay (Draft #2)

Childhood Obesity

Lesson created by Tracy Winstead (Warren High School, NISD) and Julie Schweers (NISD)

Note: Some ideas and wording taken from the draft of the Expository Reading and Writing Course assignment template developed by The California State University Task Force on Expository Reading and Writing

Assignment Description: Students will be provided with six nonfiction reference pieces including essays, journal articles, magazine articles and newspaper articles. Students will be asked to read and analyze each reference piece. After analyzing each piece, students will be asked to synthesize the information and write a coherent and focused essay that conveys a well-defined perspective and tightly reasoned argument.

Prereading activities

  • Students will be asked to respond to a given question. For this lesson, students will be asked to respond to child obesity. Students will be asked to consider the following questions: What do you know about this topic? What you think about it? Do you have any personal experience with this topic. After a quick write, students will be asked to share their writing. (II Reading A 1)
  • Introduce key concepts such as defining, discussing its denotation/connotation, comparing/contrasting. (II Reading B 1, 2 and 3)
  • Students will participate in a role play activity to generate ideas about the text. (Create scenarios about obesity based on articles and have students create a skit and perform for the class.) After performances, students will discuss opinions and biases about child obesity. (II Reading A 3, 4, 6 7; III Speaking B 1, 2, 3; IV Listening A 1, B 1)
  • Students will participate in Harvey Daniels “peer letter writing.” (II Reading A 1, 2; IV Listening B 2)
  • Students will peruse the titles of each reference piece and survey the text. When surveying the text, students will be asked to look at titles and subheadings. They will be asked to look at the length of the reading, discover when and where the text was first published, and not the topics and main ideas. Based on this perusal, students will make predictions and ask questions: What do you think this text is going to be about? What do you think is the purpose of this text? Who do you think is the intended audience for this piece? How do you know this? Based on the title and other features of the text, what information/ideas might this essay present? (II Reading A 1, 2)
  • Students will be provided with a list of vocabulary words they need to know to understand each reference piece. Have students work in pairs to define and discuss words. (II Reading B 1, 2 and 3)


  • Students will read reference pieces for the first time (Attachment A). Students will do a journal write addressing the following questions: Which of your predictions turned out to be true? What surprised you? (II Reading A 1-11, B 1-3, C 2)
  • Students will read reference pieces for the second time. Students will complete I.M.O.H.O. (Attachment B) This activity will help students evaluate each reference piece and also serve as prewriting for the synthesis essay. This activity is lengthy and requires students not only to evaluate the credibility of each source, but it encourages students to look at key vocabulary and how it’s used in the pieces, and it asks students to consider the structure of the text. (II Reading A 1-11, B 1-3, C2; I Writing A 1-3)


  • Students will move from a literal to an analytical understanding of the reference pieces by asking questions about logos, ethos and pathos.(II Reading A 1-11, B 1-3)
  • Students will quick write about what they discovered during the I.M.O.H.O. process. Students will be asked to share. (I Writing 1-2)

Before writing the essay

·  Students will be asked to review some samples of synthesis essays. Students will quick write about the common features of each essay. (II Reading A 1-11, B 1-3)

  • Students will be asked to review MLA format. Students will complete a MLA format exercise. (I A Writing 5)


  • Students will be asked to revisit the I.M.O.H.O. organizer and begin drafting a working thesis statement. (I A Writing 1-3)
  • Students will be taught a mini-lesson on thesis statements. (I Writing 3)


  • Students will have a mini-lesson on organization (Kenneth Bruffee). (I Writing 4)
  • Students will have a mini-lesson on introductions. (I A Writing 4)
  • Students will have a mini-lesson on paragraphing. (I A Writing 4)
  • Students will begin writing draft/developing content. (I A Writing 4)


  • Peer response letter (Attachment C) (II Reading A 1-11; I A Writing 2)
  • Students will do group/peer activity to evaluate claims and warrants in text. (II Reading A 1-11; I A Writing 2)
  • Students will participate in ratiocination (“to be” verbs, claims/warrants, documentation) (II Reading A 1-11; I A Writing 2)


  • Students will participate in peer editing. (II Reading A-11; I A Writing 5)
  • Students will participate in clocking or “down and dirty” editing. (II Reading A-11; I A Writing 5)


  • Students will share final drafts. (III Speaking 2; IV Listening B 1 and 3)

Attachment A

Suggested Bibliography

Anderson, Patricia M., and Kristin F. Butcher. "Childhood Obesity: Trends and Potential Causes." The Future of Children 16.1 (2006): 19+. Questia. 17 July 2008 <>.

Blasi, Mary Jane. "A Burger and Fries: The Increasing Dilemma of Childhood Obesity." Childhood Education 79.5 (2003): 321+. Questia. 17 July 2008 <>.

"Childhood Obesity." Ebony Apr. 2006: 67. Questia. 17 July 2008 <>.

"Health Claims Are Junk, Say Fast Food Firms." The Birmingham Post (England) 27 Jan. 2007: 24. Questia. 17 July 2008 <>.

Lindsay, Ana C., Katarina M. Sussner, Juhee Kim, and Steven Gortmaker. "The Role of Parents in Preventing Childhood Obesity." The Future of Children 16.1 (2006): 169+. Questia. 17 July 2008 <>.

Mckissack, Fred. "Unhappy Meal." The Progressive Aug. 2004: 42. Questia. 17 July 2008 <>.

Orliwenstein, Lori. “Weighty Issues for Parents.” Time. 12 June 2008. <,9171,1813953,00.html>

Ornish, Dean. “A Plan for Overweight Kids.” Newsweek. 27 May 2008. <>.

"Overweight? Not My Kid!." FDA Consumer Sept. 2000: 4. Questia. 17 July 2008 <>.

Ramsey, William A. "Rethinking Regulation of Advertising Aimed at Children." Federal Communications Law Journal 58.2 (2006): 361+. Questia. 17 July 2008 <>.

"Summertime Can Be Rough for Overweight Children." USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education) July 1994: 9. Questia. 17 July 2008 <>.

Walsh, Bryan. “It’s Not Just Genetics.” Time. 12 July 2008. <,9171,1813984,00.html>/

Wingart, Pat and Barbara Kantrowitz. “Double Trouble.” Newsweek. 28 May 2008. <http”//>.

Attachment B

In My Own Humble Opinion (I.M.O.H.O.)

Graphic Organizers for the Synthesis Essay

Adapted from Kim Carlton, Richardson ISD


Students will work to find their own “humble” opinion on a complex issue and formulate a strong statement for the central argument.

Students will work with a variety of sources to support their opinion and create an organized, coherent piece of writing.


(1) sheet of colored paper and white paper

Glue sticks and scissors

The Organizer:

Holding the sheet of colored paper landscape, have students fold each side 2/3 of the way across creating a column in the middle about 1” wide.

Glue this center section down the paper leaving the two sides or flaps free.

Make two cuts in each side of the paper to create three flaps on each side.

Label each of the six flaps A-F. Label the center section I.M.O.H.O..

Students begin by creating their own “humble opinion” on the issue and why they feel this way. They will write this on the center section that is glued down. This works with the analogy of your opinion being the glue that holds your paper together. This space allows them to explore what they feel and why the feel that way. (Thesis statement)

After reading the passages, students will make a quick note on the front of each flap about each reference pieces’ main topic and how it fits into their own opinion. Does it agree? Disagree? Why?

Under each flap (on the white paper), student will write two-three facts/quotes that are most pertinent to the argument. (Textual Support)

Under each flap (on the colored paper) students will explain in their own words how the facts agree/disagree/qualify their opinion. (Commentary, analysis, evaluation)

Students can then use the back of the organizer to shore up their thesis statement and/or to outline their argument choosing which textual support to use, explaining how that support contributes to the thesis statement.

Attachment C

Synthesis Essay Peer Response Letter

Directions: I am going to ask you to switch drafts of your synthesis essay with a partner. (Please give out the copy that I made for you.) You are going to take your peer’s essay home with you, read it (more than once or twice), review it and then write a response letter offering constructive feedback. Below I have included a list of questions you may use as a guide. Please do not just answer the questions and think this will suffice. You must construct a letter and offer your suggestions/feedback as if you were conversing with your peer. The following is an excerpt from an acceptable response letter:

Dear Terry,

I think your essay was well-written and easy to follow. It is clear that you have thought long and hard about childhood obesity. I was definitely hooked by your opening about the little boy at McDonald’s. It was a great anecdote and definitely set the stage for your claim that the fast food industry is largely to blame for the rise in overweight children in this country. I’m wondering, though, if it might be better to state your position more specifically in the opening paragraph. The story is great and definitely appeals to the emotions, but it seems like you miss the opportunity to lead right into a strong statement of your claim, rather than burying it in your second paragraph. Know what I mean?

Guide questions:

1.  Does the writer grab your attention immediately in the introduction? If so, how? From the beginning, do you understand the focus of the paper? Is the claim clearly stated? If the writer has done a great job of introducing the paper, compliment the writer. If not, offer suggestions for a possible attention-grabbing opening.

2.  Does the writer have enough support to prove the claim? Does the warrant interpret the data effectively in supporting the claim? If so, let your partner know it was convincing. If not, offer suggestions on how the sources may be used more effectively.

3.  Does the writer seem knowledgeable and respectful of the alternate view expressed in the paper? Does the writer address the counterargument and eventually make a strong rebuttal? If so, let your partner know it was convincing. If not, suggest ways to better use the articles when considering the alternate view.

4.  Does the writer come across as sympathetic and empathetic? Does the writer understand the audience and make good use of emotional appeal?

5.  Does the ending have a sense of closure, yet make you want to read it again? If yes, explain why.

6.  What is one thing about the paper that really appeals to you? Explain why this appeals to you.

7.  What other suggestions do you have to help the writer improve his/her paper?

This letter is due at the beginning of class on ______. Please be prepared to conference with your partner. Obviously you will have a letter prepared, but you may want to make notes of items you would like to discuss with your partner, but not necessarily include in your letter.

It is IMPERATIVE that you do this assignment as somebody else is depending on you.

Happy Reading! J