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

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.



Two single-session SWI on-line courses

  1. 1)The homophone principle plus function and lexical (content) words (2-hour workshop $50 USD)

  1. June 18:   7 pm - 9 pm (EST)

  2. June 19:   9 am - 11 am (Melbourne)

  3. These orthographic concepts are crucial to understanding English spelling in general. But they are particularly valuable for understanding so many high frequency words in early years typically (and wrongly) described as “irregular” or “sight words”. Participants in my 5-session courses requested a specific course on these concepts. At the end of this session, participants will not only have specific lessons they can teach, but understanding of key orthographic concepts to guide their on-going learning/instruction.

  4. Click HERE to email Pete to inquire and/or register.

  5. 2)Spelling-out-loud, writing-out-loud and tapping out word structure and the relationship to SWI & Cognitive Load Theory (3-hour workshop $60 USD)

  1. July 14:   8:15 pm - 11:15 pm New York City

  2. July 15:  10:15 pm - 1:15 pm Melbourne

  3. Click HERE for a document describing my on-line courses including this one.

  4. Click HERE or the page on my website with information, resources and videos on this topic.

  5. Click HERE to email Pete to inquire and/or register.

5-Session SWI Course

  1. July 1, 8, 15, 22, 29 (North America)

  2. July 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 (Australia)

Click HERE for detailed information about this courses, and to register.

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

with Pete Bowers

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

7th Annual Nueva SWI Institute June 22-26

Zooms On-Line

Click HERE for more details and to register for the 3-day or 5-day course

I’m very pleased to announce that we are moving this annual course on-line. While there are obvious disadvantages compared to working together in person, we have found ways to take advantage of this on-line forum. While I lead the bulk of the sessions, Rebecca Loveless, the SWI coach at The Nueva School for years now will be co-presenting during the week including leading many of her own sessions on Real Script and other topics. We will have other Nueva teachers presenting as usual.

Join from any time zone!

We have arranged for these sessions to be recorded and available for review for a limited time. This way people who cannot attend the full day due to time zones, can join for the parts that they can, and then they can review video of parts they miss. Any participant will be able to view the videos during the course and up to a week after to help them process the content.

Special Guests

Given the on-line format, we get to have special guest speakers from far away.

Carolee Fucigna, long-time pre-school teacher and SWI expert at Nueva (now retired in NYC) will zoom in to join us. (See Carolee in SWI action here.)

Douglas Harper, author of Etymonline, has now been confirmed to present on Thursday, June 25 in for the “Advanced Course” or full 5-session course. We couldn’t be more excited to get to learn with Doug! (See this discussion on Zoom with Pete and Doug to get an idea of the richness Doug will bring to this workshop.)

Beyond these special presenters, other Nueva teachers will be presenting short sessions during the week to share their learning and activities with SWI across the grades.

Time for break-out groups and investigations

While I’ve been delighted with the on-line courses I’ve been teaching, this 3- or 5-day course is the only SWI workshop I currently have booked where there is sufficient time for participants to really dive into investigations during the workshop. Just like the in-person workshops, throughout this course we will present participants with orthographic investigations like those we use with children across the grades. Some will be in the large group, but we will also use the “break-out” function of Zoom so that participants can work through investigations as if they are at a table with their colleagues.

New structure for introductory, advanced course.

This course includes the following options:

  1. Three-day intro (Mon-Wed) For novices (parents/teachers/tutors) or those wanting to revisit

  2. Three-day advanced (Wed-Thurs) For those ready to dive into investigations analyzing words with word sums, construct matrices, and to work with Etymonline and grapheme-phoneme charts.

  3. Five-day full course (Mon-Fri) For novice or experienced parents/teachers/tutors.

Rebecca and I have long wanted to try this model where Wednesday is the last class of the introductory course and the first day of the advanced course. The first days have lots of hands on work, but is more directed by us to build participants capacity to do this work independently. We are dubbing Wednesday “Investigation Day” as we will jump right in with larger investigations. These will build on the learning of days 1 & 2. The Advanced group can dive right in without the need for the first 2 days. The learning for the intro group will be so much richer with this extra time to revisit learning from the first days in this practical context.

Click HERE for more details and to register




5-Session SWI Course: Focus on SWI in Early Literacy

Co-hosted by Pete Bowers and Carolee Fucigna

I have worked with Carolee for over 8 years of my time collaborating with teachers and students at the Nueva School. While she initially did not think SWI was appropriate for young children, she was willing to experiment and try. She has become a world expert in early SWI instruction. She presents on SWI in the early years and has participated in each of our Nueva Institutes. Since retiring and moving to NYC we have stayed in contact and are excited to offer this first collaborative course.

We will both present and share our understanding about this work for early literacy.

Dates and times:

  1. June 30, July 7, 14, 21, 28: North America (7:30 pm - 9:00pm EST)

  2. July 1, 8, 15, 22, 29: Australia (9:30 am - 11:00 am Melbourne time)

My normal fee for a 5-session course is $200 USD. Since we are splitting the responsibility and fees for this course, we are charging more, but for this first attempt we are charging $250 USD

Click HERE to email Pete to register.