Charles: Focusing on Literacy Skills [Synthesizing]

Having read your TEXT, you will create a MIND MAP exploring different connections between the story and the world around you.  Next, they will research THREE of the connections before choosing one PROJECT-BASED FORMAT.  Finally, you will use that format to create a SYNTHESIS of both the STORY and your RESEARCH in order to fully express the impact the story had on you.  A short written piece is required to explain your choices.

Charles: A Focus on Literacy Skills

Charles is a short story written by Shirley Jackson in 1948.  A full copy of the text can be READ HERE.  This SERIES will focus on all TEN KEY LITERACY SKILLS.  The lessons are arranged in SEQUENTIAL ORDER which builds a strong foundation before moving on to the next skill.

This series is an excellent way to BEGIN your class’s semester, ensuring everyone has a strong understanding of BASIC LITERACY SKILLS before you gradually release responsibility, asking them to put those skills into practice.

Explore other SHORT STORY LITERACY SKILLS ASSIGNMENTS for more ways to instruct your students.






Readers can COMBINE ideas from the TEXT, with ideas from ADDITIONAL TEXTS, as well as with their own prior knowledge.  Through this process they develop a new, fuller understanding of a topic.  Synthesizing combines knowledge from varied sources, creating new insights into a topic.


This task is broken into a number of stages.  Ensure you read, and fully understand each stage before you begin.

Mind Mapping

Write the NAME of your story in the CENTRE BUBBLE.  Next, fill the other EIGHT bubbles with ONE WORD EACH.  Each word should be some the story made you THINK about.  FINALLY think of something most of the bubbles have in common.  This will be the THEME of your synthesis piece.

mind map



Once you have completed your mind map, select THREE of the concepts that best fit your THEME. For each concept, research ONE article (of any type) and take brief POINT FORM notes about them in the space provided.

Research Piece Number One





Research Piece Number Two





Research Piece Number Three





Project-Based Synthesis

Now that you have finished your RESEARCH choose and create ONE of the following forms to create a GESTALT SYNTHESIS that demonstrates those concepts to the best of your ability. (A GESTALT is something that when combined is more valuable than the sum of its individual parts).

Remember, your SYNTHESIS must include aspects from both the ASSIGNED TEXT and your RESEARCH PIECES.

Synthesis Forms

  • A short story (600 – 1000 words in length)
  • A collection of poetry (400 – 600 words in length)
  • A short essay (500 – 800 words in length)
  • A visual art piece (8.5 x 11 minimum)
  • A song (1.5 – 3.5 minutes in length)
  • A short live-action video (1.5 – 2.5 minutes in length)
  • A short animated video (30 – 60 seconds)
  • A photo essay (7 – 10 pictures in length)
  • OTHER – Confirm with your teacher before proceeding


You are required to WRITE a short (200 – 400) word piece explaining HOW  your finished piece was INFORMED by both the STORY and your THREE RESEARCHED ARTICLES.


Finished PROJECT shows strong connection between the text, and three researched concepts. Selected form is used to FULLY and CREATIVELY explore the all aspects of the PROJECT. All pieces are of HIGH QUALITY and show strong evidence of EDITING and REVISION. Self-Reflection shows strong METACOGNITIVE skills, thoroughly exploring all aspects of your creation.

What’s Next

You’ve reached the end of your LITERACY SKILL journey with CHARLES;  However, this is but one journey.  For each story, there is another path to be explored.  Feel free to VIEW ADDITIONAL STORIES or apply these skills and lessons to a personal favourite of your own.



Charles – WhatBinderDotCom Literacy Skills – Synthesizing.PDF





Charles: Literacy Skills Series

Charles: Annotating

Charles: Determining Importance

Charles: Summarizing

Charles: Visualizing

Charles: Inferring

Charles: Questioning

Charles: Connecting

Charles: Comparing

Charles: Predicting

Charles: Synthesizing

Teaching Literacy Skills through Assignment Creation

The best way to demonstrate that you understand something is to explain it to someone else.  Allow students the opportunity to demonstrate that they understand a concept by flipping expectations and allow them to create assignments rather than complete them.



This lesson focuses on having students READ A SHORT STORY and then break into small groups (I suggest four as a manageable number).  Each group will be assigned one of the TEN KEY LITERACY SKILLS and work to create an assignment that will allow other students to demonstrate their mastery of that skill.

Required Foundation

Students must have already been introduced to the ten literacy skills.  I recommend using a one or two page short story before spending two days quickly running through each of the ten skills.  For more information on teaching the skills please refer to the LITERACY SKILLS – AN INTRODUCTION series.

Students will need to have read a SHORT STORY and be prepared to apply their Literacy Skill knowledge to the piece.

Required Materials

At least one student per group will require access to a device capable of using GOOGLE DOCs or MICROSOFT WORD.  While Microsoft Word is an effective tool, it is more beneficial if students use Google Docs.  That way they can SHARE their working assignment with each other, using multiple devices to co-author their piece at the same time.


Girl Reading - PIXABAY.jpg


Assignment Creation Assignment:

Lesson Plan

This lesson plan will reinforce student knowledge of the ten key literacy skills, while also strengthening their knowledge of their group’s assigned skill.  By creating an assignment they will learn how to use digital HEADINGS to format and chunk their work, creating a framework of expectations for assignments their teachers create for them.  Students will also engage in METACOGNITIVE reflection, exploring why their choices were most effective.



Desks must be arranged into groups of four.  A copy of Ten Key Literacy Skills.PDF  must be printed out and cut into ten slips (one per literacy skill).


Minds On

Desks will be prepared in groups of four when students walk into the classroom.  Each desk group will have one Literacy Skill slip (see preparation) on it.  One of the following images will be made available for students to see.


Students will be tasked with applying their specific skill to the image.  Each group should write a brief P.E.E. PARAGRAPH that supports their use of the group’s skill.

Students should then present their paragraph to the class, while explaining the importance of their assigned literacy skill.



Once students have a strong understanding of their specific skill, and have applied it to a visual image, they will be ready to begin the focus of this lesson.

This lesson can be run completely in the computer lab, or it can be split into two days – the first day for IDEATION and the second day for typing up and formatting their assignment.

Students will be instructed to take out their SHORT STORY from a previous class and consider how they could apply their Literacy Skill to that story.  They will have five minutes to plan and take brief notes as a group.

After some time has been given to consider the application of their skills, students will be handed a copy of Assignment Creation Assignment – Literacy Skills (No Example).PDF

Using that handout, students will see that rather than answering questions, and creating a traditional assignment, as they are used to, they will – instead – be the ones responsible for creating the assignment.

The various sections of a strong assignment are laid out of the sheet, and the specific headings that each title needs to be typed in are recorded.

Students will notice that they are creating an assignment in the same style and format as the one they have been handed.  The assignment itself is an exemplar.

Should you wish to offer an additional exemplar, student can be given the Strength through Synthesis – Working Through the Short Story.PDF assignment.

At this point, students are free to work on their creation.



Just before the end of class, each group will be asked to write down ONE question, concern, or problem that is hindering them in the completion of their assignment.  This will be handed to the teacher before they leave the classroom.

The teacher will then read through those slips, noting any difficulties students are having with this new style of task, and work to create resources or instructions for tomorrow’s class that will help students find success.


What’s Next?

Continue to learn about the best ways to TEACH THE KEY LITERACY SKILLS, or choose to focus on one of the following: Summarizing, Determining Importance, Inferring, Predicting, Connecting, Visualizing, Comparing, Questioning, Annotating, or Synthesizing.



Ten Key Literacy Skills.PDF

Assignment Creation Assignment – Literacy Skills (No Example).PDF

Strength through Synthesis – Working Through the Short Story.PDF