Contact: Peter Bowers  PO Box 295 Wolfe Island, ON, Canada  K0H 2Y0

Phone: (613) 385-2084 


WordWorks Newsletters & Resources

WW Newsletter #99: SWI in context -- Greta Thunberg & Climate Crisis


Click HERE for this Newsletter.

This Newsletter was inspired by my trip to Australia that happened to occur in the midst of their catastrophic climate crisis fueled fires. I use a speech by teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as the context for a large archive of possible orthographic inquiries. Teachers can use those resources to investigate the words I highlight in the context of this speech, or in any context they choose. My hope is that this Newsletter provides a rich example of how SWI can be used as leverage for studying and understanding about any subject area.

As another example of SWI as leverage for content learning, see this post on The Language of Math: Using SWI to teach math vocabulary by Nancy Martin. She is the Reading Department Chair at Eagle Hill School - a school for  dyslexic students and a recent alumni of my summer courses who has been studying hard for a couple of years now with her colleagues.

Click HERE for this Newsletter. The main resource it points to is a new video addressing the deeply misunderstood topic of the explicit instruction of grapheme-phoneme correspondences from the very beginning in structured word inquiry. Also see the Newsletter for a number of orthographic investigations and updates on SWI workshops around the world.

Click HERE for an inspiring story from a tutor that illustrates the fact that far from inhibiting the learning of grapheme-phoneme correspondences, studying these conventions within the context of morphology is a necessary condition for making sense of how grapheme-phoneme correspondences work.

Revised <sign> Lesson in “Teaching How the Written Word Works”

I have posted a pdf at this link on Real Spellers with a revised <sign> lesson after learning that what I had presented as an <-ify> suffix can be analyzed further. That pdf shares the evidence that convinced me to make this change. I also use this learning experience to share a key feature about matrices and word sums.

Books printed after May 2013 already include the revised lesson. You know you have the revised version if you see on <ify> suffix on the <sign> lesson on page 8. Even if you have the revised version, I recommend you download this pdf to gain from the explanation that helped me understand why this revision was needed.

Copyright Susan and Peter Bowers 2008

Structured Word Inquiry:

(Scientific Word Investigation)

“Word Scientists” look for the deepest word structures that make sense of the greatest number of words.

Click HERE for background on SWI.

Marcia Henry on WordWorks:

“Pete & Sus Bowers are great ‘wordsters’ who provide teachers with an in-depth understanding of the English language.  Teachers can gain so much practical knowledge  from their teacher resource book, "Teaching How the Written Word Works" and their impressive and informative online WordWorks newsletter.  I'd love to attend one of their workshops!  Observing classrooms of teachers who have worked closely with WordWorks was a highlight of my visit to Kingston. Students were so involved and fascinated by investigating words. How fortunate they are to have wordsmiths like Sean Lonergan and Skot Caldwell as their teachers!”

Marcia Henry is past president of The International Dyslexia Association

and former director of the Center for Educational Research on Dyslexia at San Jose State University


sign + al → signal

re + sign → resign

de + sign + ate → designate

sign + ate/ + ure → signature

do + es → does

do + ne → done

do + ing → doing

go + es → goes

go + ne → gone

go + ing → going

Making sense of how words work by investigating morphology, etymology and phonology.

English base <sign> from Latin root signum

"mark, token, indication, symbol”

Applying the Principle of Backwards Design from UbD to Structured Word Inquiry

Click here for a WordWorks article on developing

enduring understandings of how the written word works.

"This article by Pete Bowers makes some interesting connections between UbD, Real Spelling and the development of critical thinking skills in students."

Bill and Ochan Powell - Education Across Frontiers


Resources for Spelling-Out and Writing-Out Word Structure with Word Sums

REVISED (May 25, 2018)

  1. BulletA free WW resource: “Spelling-Out Word Structure”

  2. Click here for information on spelling-out word sums including a free pdf guide for teachers who want to use this process for learning, instruction and assessment.

  3. BulletSpelling-Out Word Structure: Targeting Central Concepts, Assessment & Instruction

See a new article and video addressing these ideas all building on a practical lesson growing from a Grade 1 student’s question, “Why is their an <h> in school? You don’t hear it.”

Click here for a video of an on-line Skype session addressing this topic with Grade 2 teachers and an article addressing how this topic links to the UbD.


Must See Links

  1. BulletA New Hub for Research Related to SWI: Jeff Bowers’ Blog

Click HERE to go to a new blog by my brother Jeff Bowers, a cognitive scientist from the University of Bristol. We have written a number of recent articles related to SWI. You can find that work in this blog (and at the bottom of my About WordWorks page).

More importantly, Jeff does a great job of explaining the context of this research in his blog posts. I highly recommend exploring this page often, and adding your comments to the discussion!

  1. Bullet Scientific Word Investigations in the Classroom & Beyond

Click here for a video on the crucial place of explicit instruction about grapheme-phoneme correspondences in structured word inquiry. This is a topic that is widely misunderstood and mischaracterized, especially by people who hear about SWI second hand. I have a series of videos on this topic planned, but this one I hope provides a useful over view.

Click here for a video of Nueva pre-school teacher Carolee Fucigna as they create a morphological web on the base <rain>. See how straight froward it is to investigate morphological families with readers and non-readers. 

How can I start?

Click here for a post from Rebecca Loveless on “Word Bag Excitement” that offers teachers a sense of this excellent activity for studying word families modeled on Lyn Anderson’s work. This is a great reference for jumping in. Rebecca’s site has many more posts to explore too.

Click here for Mary Beth Steven’s brilliant recent post “Outer Beauty Attracts, but Inner Beauty Captivates.” This is a wonderful way to compare studying real “word families” compared to words that simply rhyme. Explore her whole blog!

Click here for an inspiring post, “Comprehending Spelling” from Sue Hegland’s excellent blog, “Learning About Spelling”. This is a short, accessible and eloquent case for why we should do the obvious -- teach our written word works.


Tools for making matrices

Free trial versions of matrix making software for morphological analysis available for download

Word Microscope: Tutorial Video & User’s Guide

Click here for a “User’s Guide” for working with this computer tool including links to tutorial films, complementary resources and links to related research. 

Video introducing the new “Mini Matrix Maker”

Watch this video to see how teachers and students can easily create matrices from word sums on Mac or PC computers with Neil Ramsden’s “Mini Matrix Maker”.


About WordWorks

See an introduction to WordWorks and Structured Word Inquiry

(including videos) here

Key Links

  1. BulletRelated Websites

  2. Real Spelling Spellinars

  3. Real Spellers

  4. Beyond the Word     (Lyn Anderson, AUS)

  5. LEX (Gina Cooke)

  6. Rebecca Loveless

  7. Mary Beth Stevens

  8. Language Innerviews (Scott Mills)

  9. Language Insights

  10. Word Torque (Fiona Hamilton, Bangkok)

  11. Learning About Spelling (Sue Hegland)

  12. Sound Literacy

  13. WW on YouTube

<s> /s/

E.g., sign, signal, assign

<s> /z/

E.g., design, resign,

does, goes

Explore Lyn Anderson’s excellent blog with illustrations and resources about structured word inquiry for all ages at this link .

Lyn has been developing her understanding and practice in this area for over a decade.  Her lessons and ideas  for morphological instruction from the start are just exceptional.

Structured Word Inquiry at

The Nueva School

Click HERE to see the page on the Nueva School website describing how Structured Word Inquiry has transformed the instruction at this top US private school. It includes a video illustrating how this work is integrated across the grades.

WordWorks Literacy Centre

Spelling it like it is!

Nothing motivates like understanding

Summer Workshops & Conferences (Hoping they will continue, but we’ll see)

Free, weekly open-ended on-line SWI sessions with Pete

(Mondays North America; Tuesday Mornings Australia)

With so many teachers, tutors, parents and kids stuck at home, I have decided to offer a weekly time people can enter a video conference “Zoom Room” to ask questions, follow others questions and just discuss orthographic investigations people may be interested in.

There is no sign up, just a regular date and time to join. I tried to pick a time that works for as wide a range of locations as possible.

Adults are welcome to have their kids join the sessions as well.

Click THIS LINK for more details. Note that the times given apply every week, the date is just for the first class.

Click THIIS LINK for a document (screen shot below) reflecting on learning from the first session that is filled with links to free resources to build understanding of scientific word investigation.

May 18  Session!

I will use this next Monday to look at the first lessons in my book Teaching How The Written Word Works to help people see ways the lessons from this book can be used in classroom/tutoring contexts.

Email me <> to inquire about on-line workshops


13th Annual Wolfe Island Summer Course

July 7 - 10, 2020

7th Annual Nueva SWI Institute June 22-26

Click HERE for details and to register.

This course includes the following options:

  1. Two-day intro (Mon-Tues)

  2. Three-day advanced (Wed-Thurs)

  3. Five-day full course for novice or experienced teachers and/or parents.

This course has the huge advantage of time and presentations by Nueva teachers from pre-school to middle school. This includes Rebecca Loveless, the current SWI coach at Nueva who is there for the full five days. She presents on a few topics and provides context from learning throughout the institute.

Click HERE for details and to register.

In many ways this 4-day course is the richest of the year the limited space (15-17 people), the setting and joining together over Sus’ meals makes this a unique study/learning opportunity. This on is filling up before I’ve even advertised properly!

As one example of the generative nature of this course, see this post on The Language of Math: Using SWI to teach math vocabulary by Nancy Martin, a recent alumni of these summer courses.

Recent publications related to SWI

Click HERE for the document (at right) with information and links about these three recent publications related SWI and the research.

  1. BulletWashington Post article (Bowers & Bowers, 2019)

  2. BulletA chapter in the latest publication by the Primary English Teaching association of Australia (PETAA)  (Anderson, Whiting, Bowers & Venable, 2019)

  3. BulletAn article in the prestigious psychology journal Current Directions in Psychological Science (Bowers & Bowers, 2018)

Host a workshop?

See this document on possible models for hosting a WW workshop.  Also see this WW Newsletter for more on this topic.

Note: If you see that I am giving a workshop at a location near you, feel free to contact me to see if I can add a visit to your school on the same trip.  Also consider on-line workshops,  model lessons tutoring or specialized sessions via video conference.  Email Pete or call 613 385 2084

On-line, real-time (not recorded) SWI courses

with Pete Bowers

Click HERE for detailed descriptions of the on-line courses I offer.

Three single session SWI on-line courses

Click HERE for details about each of courses listed below.

Click the link in parentheses to register via email.

  1. 1.Working with Teaching How the Written Word Works (Click HERE to register.)

  2. 2.Constructing Morphological Matrices and Working with the 4 questions of SWI and Etymonline (Click HERE to register.)

  3. 3.Practicing spelling-out-loud, writing-out-loud and tapping out word structure & Cognitive Load Theory (Click HERE to register.)

If you have questions and/or if the links above do not work, email Pete at <>

See table below for cost, time/date and length of course.


5-Session Courses

Next one starting soon!

  1. May 26 (North America)

  2. May 27 (Australia)

Click HERE for detailed information about these courses, and to register for the next course starting soon!

See screenshot at right.