Expository Texts, GIST, and No Irish Need Apply

By understanding expository texts, students can overcome misinformation such as the campaign to rewrite the anti-Irish history of the US and their No Irish Need Apply signs.

This 30 minute lesson is intended to introduce students to expository texts, the GIST model, and the fact that understanding expository texts can equip them to make a difference in the world.
(Estimated Running Time: 30 Minutes)


Students will be able to use the GIST model to summarize an expository text.


Required materials are normal text, recommended but not required materials are italicized

Essential Question(s):

How does understanding expository texts equip us to think critically?

  • Understanding how to read an expository text allows us to critique the information imparted.
  • Expository texts provide factual information.
  • Expository texts sometimes pick and choose the information they offer for a reason.
  • Being able to compare multiple sources gives us a better understanding of the information.

Inquiry Exercise:

(3 Minutes)
What is an expository text? How does it work? What things do you usually see in expository texts? Why?

Introduction to New Material:

(3 Minutes)
As we’ve discussed, expository texts come in multiple forms and have specific features that help us know how to read them. Because of our limited time, I’m going to walk you through one of them: Summarizing, using the GIST methodology.

GIST stands for “generating interactions through schemata with text.” Being an acronym is really just a way to keep all the letters capitalized. By breaking the text into parts, perhaps a paragraph at a time or a few paragraphs at a time, we can summarize the text part by part to create a better sense of the whole. Students who attempt to summarize after reading a full text, especially a dense one, will often forget parts, facts, or become confused before they get to summing up. By breaking it up and summarizing as we move along the text, we will lose less information and build a better understanding of the text. The important things to remember with the GIST model is to limit each summary sentence to no more than 20 words, and to keep the chunks of text roughly even.

Guided Practice:

(5-8 Minutes)
Hand out the GIST bookmarks or guide. If you have a dot projector, it’s a good idea to annotate and work along with the class on that so everyone can see and/or copy. Make sure if you do so that you check for understanding on the annotations and that your students can reproduce or explain the annotations you make together. I highly recommend doing the first paragraph together and then letting students take the reigns for the remainder.

Let’s look at this article from the Smithsonian about Rebecca Fried, an eighth grader who published a scholarly paper and made a fool out of a renowned history professor. It’s seven paragraphs long. We’ll read through it together breaking it up into two paragraph chunks for each summary sentence. Every chunk, we’ll pause and formulate a summary sentence in the worksheet. When we finish, we’ll combine the sentences into a summary paragraph and see how we feel about it as a summation.

Individual Practice:

(10-12 Minutes)

This article is a longer, more involved piece from the Daily Beast, a more entertainment-angled online publication. I want you to try doing this on your own for this article. This article is 6 pages long. Do a summary sentence for several paragraphs instead of every two paragraphs. Get as far as you can in the next 10 minutes; it’s ok if you don’t finish.

Try to have no less than five summary sentences and no more than eight. Remember to limit sentences to no more than 20 words. In addition, as you’re reading through, I want you to consider the differences in tone, information, depth, and purpose in this article from the last.

Give students time to work. Remind them of their time constraints. Check in with individuals on their progress and offer help if needed.

Partner up with someone else and compare your summaries.

While they’re comparing their summaries, here are some questions you can ask the students as they chat, especially if their comparison stalls.

  • What did you miss that they got? What did they miss that you got?
  • How successful do you think the GIST model was?
  • What were the biggest differences between the two articles?
  • When you read on your own, especially non-fiction, do you find yourself pausing, contemplating and summarizing in your head if not on paper?
  • When you run into expository texts from non-scholarly publications, how do they differ?
  • How do you think a variety of texts on the same or similar subject can help teach critical thinking about the nature of sources and the accuracy of information imparted by authority figures?


(5 Minutes)
Kindly hand in your summaries. As we move forward, consider how you might need to adjust the GIST model for fictional texts. How could you compare an expository text to a fictional one? Remember that Rebecca Fried was able to take down a professor who was pushing a racist agenda simply because she knew how to read and analyze expository texts. As the X-Files says, the truth is out there. If you keep at it, you can find the truth and expose it.

If you can I assign readings, you might ask them to do the same task for a variety of different texts and share their summaries the following day. This encourages learning new information rather than remaining stagnant. In partners, they could also analyze how well they thought their classmate summarized their text by reading the summary, then the article and discussing it.

Given that this is a routine to be used over and over, it would be something we’d need to come back to regularly in a classroom. Ideally, I’d want to present this strategy over a week or two, and then several others in their own segments, and finally allow them to choose their strategy individually on a more independent project after they’ve tried a variety (the dartboard method of teaching technique, as I like to call it).