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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sherry H. at Jay High School - GIST in High School Science - February 9, 2010

     Today, Sherry is doing what most good teachers do - backing up to reteach based on student performance.  Earlier in the unit she introduced the GIST in order to improve her students' comprehension of the biology text they use. 
     The form she introduced to them comes from the IRA/NCTE site.  Students read the article and then fill out the 5 W's = Who, What, Where, When, Why and 1 H=How.  Taking that information, students then write a 20 word GIST.   Previously, the students used this strategy in groups and did a good job.  However, their independent work demonstrated their need for further practice.
     Explaining her rationale to the class, she begins to debrief with them about the process.  The positives she noticed include: 1. student's ability to be flexible and creative in being able to identify the 5 W's and 1 H (they are studying cells), and 2. student's ability to write the GIST statement.  However, when the sections of text became longer and students worked independently, she noticed: 1.
students are sometimes confused by the text structure (references to previous learning) and identify these as one of the main ideas, 2.
 choosing sentence fragments that "sound" right, but are incorrect, and 3. prioritizing the overwhelming amount of information in the text.  After discussion with the group about the process, Sherry and the students decide to work on one more article to refine their use of the strategy.  The article is titled:  Giant snakes invading North America and comes from Science News for Kids.  Sherry often uses this site because the articles are well written, giving the students the information they need in the text.  She read the article to the students and directs them to think about what is the who and what did the who do as they listen. Students then break up into groups and begin the GIST process.  Sherry circulates around the room and offers support as needed.
     As I watch this process, I think how lucky these students are.  High school texts are such a leap for all students.  No matter how proficient the reader, it takes time for students to fully comprehend text structure and content.  A GIST on a novel or in math or in science is different for the student.  The concept load is so high and the text structure so different, they feel like they are on overload.  To have a guide like Sherry who takes the time to help them access this process is invaluable for students and will serve them well as they move through the grades.
     Following is a questionnaire Sherry created to allow the students input regarding the process and help guide her teaching.  She has given me permission to post it here in case any of you find it useful.

 Her students' responses showed important trends.

Typical responses:
1.  That it made me focus on the main points and not to add extra  
  That I am smarter than I thought and need to work harder.
  You discover what happens by the way the book describes it. I can 
  take my time and understand it my way...

The level of meta-cognition was solid as students zeroed in on their thinking process.

2.Trying to summarize in a certain number of words - Unanimous.    
Understanding the concept and writing about it in their own words, challenged them and boosted 
    their comprehension.

3. It helped me expand on what I know by demanding more interaction 
   with the text.
   Forces me to understand terms - no guessing!
   It makes the reading more clear and makes me think about what I 
   read rather than just reading it.

The majority of students - regardless of reading level - agreed the process helped them comprehend the concept presented in the text.
4.No. Usually I just take notes, and it is more organized for me 
  that way.

About a third of the students said they would not use it because they already had an effective system in place - in this same third, some said they might under certain conditions.
Yes because it helped me understand the reading.

About two thirds of the students said they would use it because it improved their understanding of what they read.
 These responses are representative of the classrooms I visit where teachers are working with their students to develop meta-cognitive strategies.  We sometimes forget that meta-cognition also includes helping students develop a plan for how they will achieve their goals.


Thank you Sherry.  You make a difference!

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