It’s not uncommon that many students are stuck at their reading level because of low comprehension, especially in third grade or above. Here is a free gist lesson that explicitly teaches students ways to get the gist of a text. Besides, this free gist lesson can be used repeatedly with almost any text. But before we move on, let’s make some concepts clear.
Is gist the same as the main idea of a text?
Many people have a hard time distinguishing the “main idea” from the “gist,” including me. That’s not surprising as they are similar to each other. After doing some research online, I have concluded that there are two major differences between them. First, the “main idea” of a text is what a text is mostly about, whereas the “gist” is the main point of a text. Second, the “gist” of a text is usually shorter than the “main idea” of a text. The “gist” is usually around 20 words.
In this post, I am going to share a simple but effective and free gist lesson. This lesson explicitly introduces and models one way to find the gist of a text. You can get this FREE gist lesson by clicking here or the picture below.
Teach the Gist Lesson
The gist lesson first introduces the definition of gist and a way to find the gist of a text. It basically asks students to close read a text, and then find the “Who”, “Did what”, and “Why” in the text. After that, students can connect the three parts to get the gist of the text. There is also a slide of clear directions.
Here is one text I used to model how to find the gist using the table above. After reading the text, I asked my students “Who is the most important character here?” One student quickly replied, “The most important character in the text is the officer.”
Then I asked the class, “What did he do?” My students were able to come up with two things the young officer did in the text: 1. He wanted to call his mom. 2. He looked for help.
Next, we talked about the question “Why did he do that?” “He wanted to call his mom because he wanted to tell her the train time. He wanted to ask for help because he didn’t have money.” Most of my students had no problem answering this question. I also color-coded the text to help my struggling readers.
At this point, my students were ready to talk about the gist of this text because they already identified the most important information from the text with the help of this table. Now, they just needed to add some transitional words to connect the three parts. So here is the gist they got: An officer wanted to call his mom (to tell her the train time), but he didn’t have money, so he looked for help.” This gist has 23 words. You may want to eliminate the part in the parenthesis to make it more concise (17 words).
I was so happy and excited when most of my students could tell me the gist quickly after we filled out the table above. Even my most struggling readers could do it this time!!!
Follow-Up the Lesson
After the lesson, I asked my students to think about “Who”, “Did what”, and “Why” every time they finish reading a text so that they can get the gist of it. If they can’t answer these three questions, they need to go back and reread the book. So this is also like a self-comprehension check.
These three worksheets help students at different levels to find the gist of a text using different ways. So they are differentiated to meet all students’ needs.
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