Posted by: keeper26 | March 22, 2011

Getting to the “Gist of the Idea” within the Collaborative Strategic Reading Approach (CSR)



Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR) is an approach designed to assist students who struggle with reading comprehension.   The approach has been proven to be an effective tool to help students of varying ages who have specific learning disabilities comprehend text.  (Bremer, Vaughn, Clapper & Kim, 2002)   Mastropieri, Scruggs, & Graetz (2003) noted in their article, “Best practices in promoting reading comprehension in students with learning disabilities” that the act of reading as well as constructing and extracting meaning from written text are problematic for LD students. (Sencilbaugh,  2007) Dr. Sencilbaugh (2007) states. “Students with learning disabilities in reading comprehension have difficulty associating meaning with words (semantics), recognizing and recalling specific details, making inferences, drawing conclusions and predicting outcomes, which is often attributed to a lack of metacognitive skills.”


The CSR approach is a construct to assist students who lack the metacognitive skills with overall planning; self- instruction and self- monitoring take the written word and derive meaning from the text.  Developed by Klinger and Vaughn in 1996, the CSR approach combines two methods of instruction: modified reciprocal teaching and cooperative learning.   Students are encouraged to take turns with their teacher as well as their peers to focus on the following key features of the text: summarizing, questioning, clarifying and predicting.  This is accomplished by utilizing four proven strategies within cooperative learning groups before, during and after reading.  The four strategies used are: Preview (before reading); Click & Chunk (during reading); Get the Gist (during reading) and Wrap Up (after reading).


“Get the Gist” will be the strategy described in further detail.  Information about the other three strategies can be found by clicking “Collaborative Strategic Reading Approach”.


Now lets get to the GIST of the approach.  “GIST is a comprehension strategy that can be used during reading and after reading for expository and narrative text.”  (  The primary focus is on understanding the main ideas within individual sentences, paragraphs and the overall body of the text.  Students are first asked to predict what they think the story/text may be about by completing a walk through of the pages. Predictions are limited to 20 words or less.  This could be done in a small group setting or in a large group setting where students have an opportunity to share their views with others.  Possible questions the classroom teacher could pose prior to reading would be:

1. What do you think this text is going to be about?

 2. What makes you think so?

 3. What do you think it is going to tell us about our topic?

 4. What makes you think so? (Schuder, 1989)

After the students have read the piece, the following questions can be used to generate a group discussion:

 1. Did you find evidence to support your prediction?

 2. What was it?

 3. At this point, do you want to change your prediction?

 4. Why or why not? (Schuder, 1989)

Following the group discussion, the students are then asked if they would like to revise their prediction to make a more accurate GIST statement.  If the students would like to make changes, they are asked to state what type of changes and why.  Once revisions are made, students talk about what they had learned.

This strategy could be used after reading only a portion of the story or for the whole story.  Here is a youtube video demonstrating how the technique is used when breaking the story down into parts.


If students work in small groups or independently they can use a GIST template to help them organize their thoughts and generate a GIST statement.

The overall goal is to have the students internalize the questions before, during and after reading allowing them to predict, acquire knowledge and verify their understanding independently.
The GIST strategy effectively utilizes reciprocal teaching and cooperative learning while honing in on the main idea making it a valuable part of the Collaborative Strategic Reading approach.

1). Based on current research, working cooperatively within a group and sharing ideas has been proven to play an essential part in enhancing understanding of material read for students with learning disabilities.

2). Providing a framework for understanding through guided questions benefits students who lack the metacognitive skills related to organization self-monitoring and self-assessment.

3). Allowing students to bounce ideas off of each other often shows students who struggle that even the brightest students do not always have all the answers.



1).   Little emphasizes is placed on developing prior knowledge.

2).  During group activities where students are encouraged to share, students who lack the confidence in their abilities can often get lost in the shadows.

3).  When working with on-grade level material, students who read below grade level will need to be evaluated on their oral reading comprehension skills, unless there are leveled readers available emphasizing the same main points.


The GIST learning strategy is UDL compatible.  The GIST strategy works with trying to understand the big ideas and how they relate through a guided approach where students are required to map out their predictions, and recall information to support their predictions.  Using the reciprocal teaching approach and working in cooperative learning groups encourages physical responses and problem solving skills.   The questioning techniques used throughout the process establishes a framework for goal setting, information management and progress monitoring.


GIST is multi-intelligence friendly.  Cooperative learning and reciprocal teaching using the GIST strategy encourages self-expression, peer interactions, movement, knowledge of time and space, predictions and vocalization of opinions.  Students with strong intrapersonal, interpersonal, kinesthetic , spatial, logical mathematical and verbal linguistic skills may find this method of instruction enjoyable.


By now, I hope you have the GIST of this strategy and feel like it would be something that you would like to include in your tool box to help promote, enhance or strengthen student reading comprehension skills.





Bremer C., Vaughn S., Clapper A., Kim A., (2002). Collaborative Strategic

Reading (CSR): Improving Secondary Students’ Reading Comprehension

Skills. NCSET, 1, 1-6.


Schuyder, T., Clewell, S., & Jackson, N. (1989). “Getting the Gist of Expository

Text.” Children’s Comprehension of Text. In K.D. Muth, (Ed.), Newark,

Del.: International Reading association.


Sencbaugh, Jospeh M. (2007). Meta-Analysis of Reading Comprehension

Interventions For Students With Learning Disabilities: Strategies

And Implications. Reading Improvement, 44, 6-22.








  1. I enjoyed reading your blog because I am always looking for ways to support children with learning disabilities in reading comprehension. There seems to be a lot of programs to teach students how to decode words but as a new teacher I find it more challenging to teach them to comprehend what they are reading. I like how the GIST statements are brief enough for students with writing or reading deficits to succeed in completing the task. One challenge with small group/cooperative learning is making sure all students are participating and not just one person is doing all the work. I posted an article on my blog about wikis and collaborative learning. Through the “history” page of a wiki the teacher is able to track the comments made by the students. I’d like to combine the GIST strategy and a wiki or create an online graphic organizer while using the GIST strategy.

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