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

Phone: (613) 385-2084 


WordWorks Newsletters & Resources

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.

Some past Newsletters / Special Publications...

Click HERE for this Newsletter sparked by a blog post by a pre-school teacher at the Nueva School that provides such a rich account of early SWI instruction. I add multiple stories of instruction of the interrelation of morphology, phonology and etymology in the early grades at Nueva and many other schools. I also address the research supporting this practice and invite researches who remain skeptical of this instruction to come and study with us!

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

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)

Upcoming Public Workshops & Conferences open for registration

Click HERE for the document below with links to info & registration

5-Session SWI Zoom Workshop with Pete between Feb 10 - 24 (Times set for 4pm Melbourne time - but may work for Africa, Asia and Europe too)

This format for studying orthography/SWI has been particularly inspiring. People are more likely to have a go applying new lessons directly to their own teaching/tutoring context when they know they can ask questions right after. Questions and discoveries from classroom/tutoring contexts then inform the learning in the sessions.

This course was initiated by educators in Melbourne who were unable to attend my courses set for North American time zones. This time  also makes it possible for more educators from Asia, Africa and Europe to attend.

  1. Click HERE for a flyer with info and a link to register for these  on-line sessions a 5-session Feb 10, 13, 17, 20, 24.

  2. Click HERE for a document I posted on Real Spellers that grew from a question after the 1st of my current 5-session course.


Annual SWI Workshop with Pete Bowers & Fiona Hamilton (WordTorque) in Bangkok March 5-9, 2020

have had the good fortune to learn and work with Fiona Hamilton (WordTorque) with SWI for well over a decade, but our annual co-led workshop has been a particularly rich collaboration which has inspired remarkable learning at schools in Bangkok and many schools in the region including Vietnam and Japan. With Fiona’s support, NIST has been doing great work with SWI and they are once again hosting our workshop. There are a variety of options for study within the March 5-9 dates, or people can attend the full set of workshops. Click HERE or information and to register. Visit Fiona’s WordTorque for more on her excellent work and many rich resources and videos.

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

Australian Public SWI Workshops Jan-Feb, 2020

Jan 22-23, Tasmania:

2-Day SWI Workshop hosted by ALEA

I’m very excited about this 2-day session in Tasmania.

Click HERE for details and registration.

Feb 1, Melbourne:

1-day workshop hosted by David Hornsby

I’m so honoured to have David Hornsby work so hard to help educators deepen their orthographic understanding to inform their literacy instruction

Click HERE for details and registration.


Feb 28-29, San Francisco: 2-Day or 1-Day SWI Workshop

Click HERE for the flyer with more information and to register.

Option #1: 2-Day Workshop with “Classroom-embedded” portion

  1. Friday: Pete will teach SWI lessons (younger and older classes) building on the on-going studies of the children.  Participants observe the lessons and then debrief with Pete, the host teachers and visiting participants.

Option #2: 1-Day SWI Workshop

  1. Saturday: Attendees from Friday’s classroom embedded sessions join other educators, researchers and parents for a standard SWI workshop. This session (and the first) are appropriate for educators brand new to SWI and those who have been studying for some time. Those who attended Friday will be able to bring that experience to the discussions and activities with people in the 1-day workshop.


Support Australia during this crisis, and the global climate movement

We are all horrified by the catastrophic climate fueled fires in Australia. Sus and I are conflicted about my flying there for these upcoming workshops and all the flying I do in general. Besides buying carbon off-sets for air miles, we are still unsure of how to deal with this part of our work.
In the meantime, we hope you consider donating to Australian relief organizations and/or which has been at the forefront of this global crisis for years. Consider clicking the links  provided here or choose your own.