The essential guide for teaching whole-class reading comprehension instruction

Are you teaching reading?

Many teachers confess to doing a lot of reading but not necessarily teaching reading. Pausing to ask questions during reading and guiding students to the text-based answers is an important facet of building readers. However, these are not lessons—these are read alouds.

Think of the reading teacher through the lens of an athletic coach. Whole-class comprehension lessons include the teacher (the coach) breaking down the steps to execute a single, new comprehension skill. In a lesson, the teacher (the coach) does the reading and the thinking; the students (the players) watch and listen.

This is the gradual-release model in action. A coach can’t expect his players to execute a play during a game unless he has broken it down himself, taught it explicitly, and given the players lots of opportunities to practice it. Similarly, a teacher can’t ask a comprehension question or assign a reading task (i.e., You do) until he has first broken down the skill explicitly (i.e., I do) and given the players several scrimmage opportunities (i.e., We do).

Why You Need a Playbook

Just as an athletic coach operates from a tried-and-true book of plays, teachers need their own playbook for leading successful whole-class reading comprehension instruction. Supporting a full year of lesson concepts, the Comprehension Playbook provides easy-to-follow guidance on which comprehension skills to teach per grade range. The compilation of “plays” teaches students to:

Ask & answer questions.

Retell/Summarize literature.
Retell/Summarize informational text.
Track ideas across a text.
See text organization.
Analyze author choices.
Compare texts and experiences.
Synthesize ideas across texts.

Available for Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7-12 as well as bundles for Grades K-5 and K-12.


What’s included?

The Comprehension Playbook

Your grade-specific comprehension plays:


A list of the College and Career-Ready Standards that support the skill


A vision for spiraling and layering instruction throughout the year


A detailed description of explicit points to make per instructional round


A suggested full-color anchor chart to build and grow throughout the year


Text considerations that support each lesson series

Lifetime access to digital resources:

Grade-specific anchor chart walk-throughs

Resources to help you implement each comprehension “play”

Related articles and videos to deepen your understanding
Customizable road maps for teaching reading comprehension

Ready-to-use Google Docs, PDFs, JPEGs, and more


Join Playbook Pro to get yearlong coaching and support as you implement the Comprehension Playbook.

Live Coaching

Monthly coaching sessions with Comprehension Playboook author Kristina Smekens.

Ongoing Training

Self-paced professional learning to help teachers deliver effective comprehension mini-lessons.

Personalized Support

Individual and small-group access to “Office Hours” with the Playbook Pro Remote Coach.


What educators say about The Comprehension Playbook

“The Playbook is great. This will change how teachers teach reading—it’s all there!”

Tina Stimpson

Lancaster Middle School – Lancaster, WI

“This is research-based and Kristina has put a great amount of thought, effort, and rigor behind building these resources.”

DaySha McKillop

Castle South Middle School – Newburgh, IN

“The number of ‘plays’ makes things seem easier to manage. It will definitely change how we pace out our year.”

Ryan Lowe

Parkview Elementary – Chippewa Falls, WI

“The Comprehension Playbook will help me ‘dial in’ my lessons to focus on pin-point, direct instruction.”

Stephanie Sharick

Meadowview Elementary – Shipshewana, IN

“I look forward to using the Comprehension Playbook to drive my literacy instruction from day one to the last day.”

Michel Mellady

Leo Elementary – Leo, IN

“The Playbook will have a huge impact on my reading instruction for next year.”

Sarah Kohlhoff

Huntertown Elementary – Huntertown, IN

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a comprehension “play” include?

What is a “round”?

How do I access the digital resources?


Where do I start?

What order should I teach the skills?

How does the Playbook fit with the Literacy eLessons?


Which standards does the Playbook address?

Can I use this if I don’t follow the Common Core?

When do I assess a skill?


When in my elementary reading block do I teach these lessons?

When in my MS/HS class period do I teach these lessons?

Does the Playbook replace my reading curriculum/reading series?


What texts do I use for the lessons?

How does the Playbook work with my reading series/basal?

Why should I use previously-read texts in my mini-lessons?


What do I do on the “write” days noted at the end of a round?

Why is “Readers Write” a fundamental?

Is there an order to the “Readers Write” lessons?


Kristina Smekens

Meet Kristina

A celebrated educator, author, and literacy consultant, Kristina Smekens has built a reputation for using enthusiasm, humor, and common sense to equip K-12 educators with simple and effective strategies for teaching reading and writing.

As president and lead consultant for Smekens Education, Kristina is constantly developing new strategies to help teachers meet the demands of today’s College and Career-Ready Standards. She shares those strategies with teachers across the United States and beyond through on-site professional development, seminars, and an always-growing pool of print, digital, and video resources.

Kristina has a gift for making the complex seem simple—for showing teachers how to meet the needs of readers and writers by bridging the gap between education research and classroom-tested strategies that work.

Bulk Discounts Available

Contact us to learn about special pricing available when you order Comprehension Playbooks for your entire school or district.