Instructional Routines & Practices Instructional Routines & Practices

Annotation & Notetaking



Provide students with sticky notes, highlighter tape, bookmarks, highlighter pen (for consumable texts), and ask them to annotate something as they read.   Example While they read, have students use highlighting tape to identify details that support the inferences they draw. To vary methods, increase engagement, and get potentially restless students moving, offer or direct students to use the following ways to annotate and note-take. Students can use these methods to answer Text-Dependent Questions (TDQs) and for evidence collection of any kind. Students should:
  • Place sticky flags where they find evidence for the answer.
  • Write responses on sticky notes and post on a large shared chart.


(Formerly Reading For Gist) There are many, many ways to teach reading for gist. They can be very explicit or can release primary responsibility to students. Use the progression below as a guide, removing the scaffolding as soon as students are able. At lower grades, it’s helpful to elicit student input and then build the gist for students as a model. Once students know how to read for gist at their grade level, expect them to do so independently. At each new grade level, elevate the complexity expected by reinforcing reading for gist early in the year and then again releasing responsibility for independent practice to students.

Check for Gist Table

Suggestions for Grades K–2

  1. Use guiding yes/no, either/or, and one-word answer questions/prompts to elicit gists from students, such as Is this book mostly about dogs? Is this mostly a happy book or a sad book? What is one thing that happens in this book? Tell me one word about this book. Now tell me another.

  2. Use sentence completion frames or questions to elicit gist, providing support as needed, such as This book is mostly about ________/Who or what is this book mostly about? Is it dogs? What happens to <dogs, etc> in this book? Tell me X words about this book.

  3. Start to teach gist explicitly, leading to:

    • Who or what is the text about?

    • What are the important events?

    • Answer When?, Where?, Why?, How?

    • Write a summary of X words

Suggestions for Grades 3–5

  1. Use these steps to teach reading for gist explicitly:

    1. Reread for important events. Ask yourself: Does this event change what happens next?

    2. Find the two or three events that impact the story the most. Ask yourself: Is this the part the reader can’t miss?

    3. Write a gist statement in fewer than 25 of your own words. Ask yourself: Does this statement take a snapshot of the whole chapter?

  1. Use these steps to teach reading for gist explicitly. Adapt the answers and questions, provided for The Crossover, with information for any text:

    1. Say: When you first read a text, you should read to determine the gist of the text, or what the text is all about. To determine the gist, you can ask and answer who, what, where, why, and how questions. Let’s try it.

      • Who is the text about? (Josh, his twin brother, and his parents) Where does the story take place? (Josh’s home, the basketball court)

      • What is Josh like? (He is a great basketball player. He is confident in his abilities. He thinks he is better than his brother and all the other players on the court).

      • What happens to Josh in “Dribbling”? (He makes a basket against the opposing team.

    1. Say: I can use these answers to write a gist statement: Josh is an incredible basketball player who makes a basket against the opposing team.

    2. Invite students to share their gists and record responses on a Gist Anchor Chart, handout, or other classroom recording location.
      The gists:

      • “Josh Bell” (pp. 4–5): Josh’s father tries to get Josh to respect past basketball stars, but Josh’s mom and Josh think that he is a great player.

      • “How I Got My Nickname” (pp. 6–7): Josh got his nickname from a jazz song.

      • “At first” (pp. 8–9): Josh didn’t like his nickname at first, but he likes that his dad cheers him on with it.

      • “Filthy McNasty” (p. 10): Josh thinks of himself as a great basketball player when he is Filthy McNasty.

Suggestions for Grades 6–8

Have students answer the five W and H questions about the text (who, what, when, where, why, how). Ask questions to help students determine gist, especially with poetry. Use this example for the poem “Chicago” as a guide to create your own guiding questions:

  • Who or what is this poem about? (The city of Chicago)

  • What is the city of Chicago like? (It is a strong city. The people do a lot of important jobs. There is a lot of crime.)

  • How does the description of Chicago change over the course of the poem? (At first, the speaker described the city as dark and filled with crime. At the end, the speaker describes the city as strong, resilient, and growing.)

Reading for Gist in Unusual Texts

Option A  

For poetry, have students write a brief gist statement in response to “What is the poem mostly about? Write down the gist of the poem.” Then ask a follow-up question, such as “How does the title relate to the gist?”


Option B  

Use a graphic organizer to support students in finding the gist of poems.



Reading For Gist in Unusual Texts Table

Title of Poem

My Dragon Wasn’t Feeling Good

Who is the narrator?A person who has a dragon
Describe the dragon.The dragon is sick.
List events or what the poem is mainly about.

  1. The dragon isn’t feeling well.

  2. The narrator takes the dragon to the doctor.

  3. The doctor gives turpentine, phosphorus, and gasoline.

  4. The dragon feels better.

Option C  

Have students read poems with these steps, prior to stating the gist.

  1. Read the poem straight through.
  2. Identify the topic of the poem overall and then reread stanza by stanza. Paraphrase each stanza at least generally (“This stanza is mostly about…”)
  3. Skim over parts of the poem you don’t understand and then go back to them later.

Read and Check for Gist in Engaging Ways

These routines are particularly useful for the first lesson of a text, especially at Grades K-2 and especially with the indicated standards. However, other grades can use these routines, and students may find them useful with other standards, to increase engagement. When these routines emphasize student work after an oral reading, you can use them as part of Check the Gist. (Also see Engaging with Texts>First Lesson for ways to use these routines in Step 1 of Gist and Joy reading to support student work before or during teacher reading.) When embedding these routines in CHECK FOR GIST, Wheatley lessons may omit the routine name and include the step before the required Gist question (What is the text mostly about?).


Example: Have partners read and react by telling each other something that surprised them about the text.

Read and Check for Gist

Informational texts about processes particularly useful for “show.”

  • Read and React


  • Read and Retell


  • Read and Show

(Pick one of the bulleted choices to complete the routine name.)

After teacher reads the text/section, students

  • Read and React: reference the text as they share reactions with a partner. (Most interesting, most surprising, what I want to know more about, etc.)

  • Read and Retell: reference the text as they take turns retelling to a partner. (gist, favorite part, specified part, etc.)

  • Read and Show: dramatize/demonstrate the text with a partner or with their hands while seated.

RL1, RI1

RL2, RI2

RL2, RI2

Read and React: Write one reaction

Read and Retell: Draw & label retelling

Read and Show: Teacher observation

AnyNotice and wonder

Partners preview the text before an oral read to notice details that interest them or they wonder about. They record on sticky notes.

After a read aloud, students read the text and find a new detail to notice or wonder about beyond what has been read, using sticky notes.


(could work with RL1 as well)

Before: Write one notice and/or wonder
After: Write one interesting detail

When Rereading Portions of a Text

If students have read the entire text in a previous lesson, adapt Reading for Gist in subsequent lessons in one of these ways, reducing the amount of time you spend on the gist routine: Option A Modify the steps to reinforce gists for a smaller chunk of the book
  • Refer students to Handout X: Gist Anchor Chart and the displayed copy. Ask a volunteer to reread the gist, or that part of it that relates to today’s reading. Another approach is to ask students if they would add anything to their gists after reading the text another time.
  • Monitor students’ progress by eliciting questions about today’s text.
  • Support literal understanding before proceeding to deeper reading of today’s text.
Option B Modify the first bullet to frame the gist routine through a different skill or depth lens. You might examine a few pages at greater depth or you might look at a different aspect of the content through the lens of the lesson’s priority reading standard. In all cases, ask yourself What should students extract or notice in this particular part of the book?


Provide students with a graphic organizer on paper (e.g. on a handout), on the board, or on a classroom anchor chart. Have students use the organizer to record specific information from the text. Example While they read, have students complete the inferences chart to identify details that support the inferences they draw.


Prompt students to use words or images to make notes about something specific in the text. Example During or after reading, have students quick-write or quick-draw to help them remember details that support the inferences they draw.

Variation: ‘Jot the Gist”

Have students jot the gist as they read, rather than marking the text with gist symbols.


Use this routine in reading to help students determine gist or express their understanding of an unfamiliar word’s meaning. Use it during writing lessons to help students paraphrase evidence. Have students read a chunk of text, then cover it with a hand or piece of paper, and resay what the text means in their own words.


Have students independently pause in reading or discussion to quickly respond in writing to a designated question or prompt. This activity is not complex writing, just quick jotting.