A Summarizing Strategy For Any Content Area

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GIST Strategy

The word gist is defined as "the main or essential part of a matter." The GIST strategy (Cunningham, 1982) helps students read text to get the main idea and it is one approach to summarizing a text. When using GIST, students create summaries that are 20 words or less for increasingly large amounts of text.

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How to Implement the Strategy


1. Select a short piece of text that is related to the unit of study that can be divided into four or five sections.

2. Read the text and divide it into sections that are logical spots for students to stop and summarize what they have read.

3. Mark the end of each section with the word STOP.

4. Introduce and distribute the text by connecting it with students’ prior knowledge.

5. Identify key vocabulary words the students need to know in order to understand the text.


6. Explain the GIST strategy by modeling it for the students.

  • Read the first portion of the text selection aloud and stop at the appropriate spot while they follow along.
  • Engage the students in a class discussion and have them identify key ideas in the text selection.
  • Record their ideas on chart paper or the white board.
  • Use the words and key ideas shared by the students to craft a GIST statement.
  • Have the students record the summarizing statement in their notebooks.
  • 7. Have students read the remaining passages and write a GIST statement for each section.

    8. Have the students combine the GIST statements for each section of the text selection into a concise summary of the material

    9. Can be done in small groups too.


1. Read the text selection and highlight key words or phrases that are important.

2. Write a maximum of twenty keywords from the text selection that you highlighted.

3. Create a GIST summarizing statement for the text selection using the twenty key words you highlighted.

In a small group:

4. Share your GIST statement with your table group.

5. Listen while your group members take turns sharing their GIST statements.

6. Identify the twenty keywords your group agrees are the most important.

7. Use the group list to create a GIST summarizing statement for the text selection

8. Share with the class.