Gist Statements

UDL 3.2 UDL 6.2

A Gist Statement is a reading comprehension strategy where students convey the main idea of a text in 20 words or less. After reading a text, students, independently or in pairs, answer the "Five W's and One H" about the content (i.e., who, what, when, where, why, how), and condense the information into one sentence. Teachers can have students write down their Gists or share them verbally. In contrast to other summarizing strategies, Gist differs in that it challenges students to convey their knowledge precisely by using a specific number of words, helping students recognize the difference between a main idea and a summary.

Implementation Tips

Model a Gist Statement from start to finish by having students answer the "Five Ws and One H" after a shared reading of a text. Think aloud how to select details to include in the Gist Statement and how to phrase the sentence to be 20 words or less (e.g. "Hmm, I counted my statement and it’s 30 words. I need another way to say this to make my sentence shorter.”).
Graphic Organizer
Use a graphic organizer like this [[|Gist Template]] to help students record their responses to the "Five Ws and One H" and compose their statements. Any graphic organizer used should have 20 short, spaced lines to help students keep track of the number of words used.
High Interest Texts
Select age appropriate periodicals to make content relatable and encourage more active reading. For free high interest articles, check out [[|National Geographic Kids]], [[|Scholastic News]], and [[|Newsela]].
Small Group/Partner Work
Allow student groups or partners to provide feedback on one another’s Gist Statements and make revisions. Give each group or partnership resources to help support their critiques and to guide their reviews (e.g., Read Write Think's [[| "Peer Edit with Perfection"]] or EngageNY's [[| "Descriptive Feedback Starter Stems"]].
Pre-teach key vocabulary to students who may need additional support in understanding the text prior to assigning the reading and provide a word bank for students (individually or whole group) to support the Gist Statement writing process.
Assess student learning by using a Gist as an "exit ticket" at the end of a lesson (e.g., "Write a Gist of today's lesson that includes these keywords.") Use this activity as an opportunity to identify students that demonstrated difficulty with the task or with the content, and pull them into a small group at a later time to re-teach.


Group Research Jig Saw
As part of science unit, students in small groups are asked to present case studies using modern-day evidence that supports the theory of evolution. The teacher presents a variety of articles and asks students which article they would like to read. Next, the teacher forms small groups based on the articles students chose and provides each group with multiple copies of the text to analyze. Students work together to read and compose a Gist. The teacher culminates the activity by inviting each group to read their Gist statements and share any new insights about the theory of evolution.
Small Group Work
When launching Book Clubs, a teacher asks groups to create Gist statements at the end of every chapter, and to save their Gists in a notebook or folder. The teacher periodically checks the statements and provides written feedback (e.g., "Remember to state how this happened to the character.") At the end of the book, the teacher has students complete a book report using each chapter’s Gist as a page in the report. To highlight the "big idea" for each Gist, students also include a hand-drawn picture or computer image on the corresponding pages of the book report.

Related Strategies