CompCON 2021: a comprehension conference for K-12 educators

Science of reading support

How CompCON supports the science of reading

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Educational research surrounding the science of reading has heightened the need for teaching phonics and specifically decoding. But, as we know from the research conducted by the National Reading Panel, effective reading instruction requires a combination of direct, explicit teaching of all five pillars of literacy: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

While each of these components is important and necessary, CompCON focuses specifically on the pillar of reading comprehension. CompCON attendees spend two days learning practical and engaging lessons to deliver explicit, standards-based comprehension instruction.

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Dr. Hollis Scarborough’s iconic Reading Rope reveals the essential strands for reading development. While many science of reading initiatives target the Word Recognition strand of Scarborough’s Reading Rope, CompCON addresses the Language Comprehension strand.

As important as it is that students learn how to decode words, they must simultaneously learn how to think about the words they are reading. This requires whole-class, teacher-led instruction on comprehension skills and strategies—and this is the focus of CompCON.

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According to the Simple View of Reading formula, both word recognition and language comprehension are necessary to create a proficient reader.

The Simple View of Reading provides an argument for teaching decoding and phonics with intentionality. Likewise, direct instruction on teaching language comprehension is imperative as well.

Consequently, K-12 educators need to have whole-class lessons that target grade-level comprehension instruction—and this is the focus of CompCON.

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What you will learn during CompCON


Teach whole-class comprehension skills with explicit instruction

Kristina Smekens will kick off CompCON by highlighting the similarities between teaching reading and coaching an athletic team. Just as an athletic coach breaks down a new play, classroom teachers must provide explicit, whole-class comprehension instruction. Taking on the attitude of a comprehension “coach,” the teacher begins to equip students with a lifelong playbook of reading skills.

Professional Development Focus

Armed with this big-picture understanding, the primary focus of this first morning will be to learn the process for planning and teaching a single comprehension skill across an entire week.

During the first day, Kristina Smekens will:

  • Identify a set of comprehension skills from retelling to synthesizing that honors college and career-ready standards, grade-level expectations, and best-practice instruction.
  • Detail the explicit instructional points that must be told, taught, and modeled for every week’s comprehension skill.
  • Model how to use The Playbook to craft a week-long series of comprehension mini-lessons that honor the gradual release of responsibility (i.e., I do, We do, You do).
  • Explain the process for selecting text excerpts to maximize teaching time in every whole-class comprehension lesson.

Collaboration & Guided Work Time

During guided work time, you’ll study the print and digital resources for your grade-specific set of yearlong comprehension skills. Then you’ll practice pairing your own texts with Playbook lessons. During this focused collaboration time, you will have access to Kristina and her team to ask questions, seek feedback, and troubleshoot concerns.

Supporting Teachers at CompCON Reading Comprehension Conference

Get hands-on support

Ever been to a workshop and wished you had time to process the content and plan out your instruction? At CompCON, that’s exactly what you’ll get. 

During the guided work times, we will lead you through the planning of your reading comprehension instruction. With the help of the Smekens team, there’s no need to wonder if you’re doing it right—you will leave with a clear plan, fully mapped out!


Map out a year of skills, texts, and writing

Knowing which comprehension skills to teach and how to teach them is the first step. The next hurdle is to determine when to teach these priority skills. The second day of CompCON will reveal how to use a week-by-week approach to introduce new grade-level comprehension skills while continuing to practice skills previously taught.

Professional Development Focus

Whether you follow the provided scope and sequence or a district-required one, day two of CompCON examines when individual comprehension skills are taught across the year.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Launch the first weeks of whole-class comprehension lessons from The Comprehension Playbook while growing reader stamina and establishing independent routines.
  • Analyze your daily schedule to fit “everything” into the reading block or class period.
  • Spiral yearlong comprehension instruction to gradually release from I-do lessons to You-do assignments and assessments.
  • Weave into reading instruction a weekly write-about-reading lesson that complements the broader writer’s workshop and prepares students for standardized test expectations.

Collaboration & Guided Work Time

With this deeper understanding, you’ll utilize guided work time to identify beginning-of-the-year texts to read and essential reading-response skills to teach. In addition, participants will determine their most important takeaways and prioritize their next steps. While working independently or with a group, Kristina and her team will again be available to answer questions, provide feedback, and troubleshoot concerns.