Using Paraphrasing and Text Structure Instruction to Support Main Idea Generation


Determining the main idea of informational texts is challenging for students with reading disabilities because they have difficulty monitoring for meaning, remembering what they have read, and identifying the most important information. This affects students’ summarization because students need to be able to identify main ideas to integrate those ideas across longer sections of text.

Teaching students to paraphrase using Get the Gist provides a process to follow, breaking the skill into manageable steps (i.e., first, identify the main topic; next, identify the most important information about that topic; last, combine the information to write a gist). When students encounter difficulty with the process, using fix-up practices, such as rereading and checking the headings, supports students with Steps 1 and 2 of Get the Gist. Text structure awareness can also be used as a fix-up practice, particularly to support students with determining the most important information (Step 2).

Educators can promote reading comprehension for students with reading disabilities through instruction aimed at generating high-quality main idea statements. Using guidelines from this article, teachers may have improved confidence teaching students to write main idea statements using paraphrasing (Get the Gist) and text structure knowledge. Integrating Get the Gist with text structure establishes a strong, evidence-based approach for improving students’ reading comprehension.


Stevens, E. A. & Vaughn, S. (2020). Using paraphrasing and text structure instruction to support main idea generation. Teaching Exceptional Children. Advance online publication.