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Teaching How the Written Word Works    $25

This book gives background for lessons that walk the teacher/tutor through investigations of the conventions for the three suffixing conventions, working with the matrix and word sum, working with the interrelation between morphology, etymology and phonology. The goal is that teachers can use this book to act as scientists to make sense of the ordered meaning-based structure of English orthography as they teacher their students.

These lessons are based on those in the Gr. 4/5 intervention study (Bowers & Kirby, 2010) that introduced the term “structured word inquiry” to describe the use of scientific inquiry of the written word as a means of literacy instruction.

I encourage teachers of any grade to treat the book as their own personal “textbook” for studying English spelling first. Do the investigations yourself and then choose when and how to bring into your classroom.


Watch this video to get a quick look inside our WordWorks Teacher Resource Book. While this shows the original Pre-Release version, these lessons are in the new, revised edition also.

Another way to bring this book to life in the classroom!

In this clip, Sharon Reichstein, who was introduced to WordWorks in our Summer course, talks with Pete about how she integrates ideas from our book, Real Spelling, and her own lessons in her classroom instruction. After you see this, find out more about Sharon’s classroom here.

Copyright Susan and Peter Bowers 2008

Our Teacher Resource Book

Teaching How the Written Word Works offers an introduction to the core concepts of how the ordered way English spelling works. It  uses a series of lessons designed to help teachers, tutors and parents make sense of English spelling along with their young co-learners. The lessons focus on morphological analysis with the matrix and word sum.

Research Tested

These tools are central not only to understanding how morphological families of words are structured, but also how morphology interrelate.

The main series of lessons in this book were the lessons I used in my Grade 4/5 intervention (Bowers & Kirby, 2010) that showed generative vocabulary learning.

The lessons take teachers and students through all the morphological suffixing patterns and much more including... 

  1. BulletGuidance morphological problem-solving so that you can use these lessons as a jumping off point to investigate any words that grab your interest or that of your students;

  2. BulletLinks to other on-line resources;

  3. BulletLinks to related Real Spelling resources.

When students and teachers work with word sums and morphological matrices for a little while, these are the kinds of questions that grab the attention of a class.

Integrating morphological analysis into shared and guided reading lessons

As well as explicit lessons taking teachers through “teacher-led inquiries” of words, this books models ways teachers can integrate word structure instruction into reading and writing in any content area by using morphological problem-solving as a tool for shared and guided reading.

By practicing spelling investigations with lessons in the book, you will be prepared when students ask you spelling questions that you are not able to explain right away. You will have practices the process of investigaging spelling, so now you can move into “inquiry-led teaching” by applying the problem solving skills you learn through these lessons.

See a class work with the first lessons of the book

In September 2014, I was invited to works with teachers and students at the International School of Zurich. Teacher Dan Allen, who has done amazing work with structured word inquiry captured lessons I taught to students in grades 1 and 5 and an hour session with teachers. Click here to see all of those videos -- and explore Dan’s amazing blog as well.

In one of the Grade 5 classes, I used the first lessons of this book to help the teachers get started. I went quite quickly through the material as a way to help teachers get as much of a background as I could in my limited time at the school. There is no need to go as fast as I do, but as you will see in the video Dan captured (below) they did very well!

Perhaps seeing this lesson that happened to be caught on tape by Dan will offer some ideas of one way  structured word inquiry with the lessons in this book can look like. (The lesson really starts at about the 2 minute mark.)

Below this video, see another teacher share how she’s integrated these lessons into her classroom.