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

Phone: (613) 385-2084 


WordWorks Newsletters & Resources

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 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.

School-Wide Structured Word Inquiry Lesson Ideas/Resources

Click here for a document with resources to help your teachers and students get started!

Videos of Pete teaching full class lessons

Click here to see videos Dan Allen posted on his blog of my lessons with students in Grade 1 - 5 classrooms and with teachers during my visit to the Zurich International School.

Click here for a document with background on each video and related resources. To help you get started with my teacher resource book, see the first video in which I teach from the first lessons.

The screen shot at right is from my visit with Dan’s students!

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.


Upcoming 2019 Workshops

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. I also do on-line workshops & model lessons via video conference all the time.

Classroom-Embedded Workshops

Whenever possible, I like to include sessions in which participants can see instruction in action. See this WW Newsletter that addresses this topic, and this document on hosting public workshops which can include this model with your own teachers/students.

  1. BulletJanuary 17-19 Bangkok

  2. 3rd Annual Workshop with Fiona Hamilton (wordtorque) hosted by the NIST International School

  3. Registration and more details at HERE. Download a flyer HERE.

  4. Includes classroom-embedded sessions with Pete and Fiona teaching.

  5. BulletJanuary 23-25 Edmonton hosted by Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium

  6. Click HERE for a flyer with more details and link for registration. You can attend any combination (from 1-3 days).

  7. Includes classroom-embedded sessions.

  8. BulletFeb. 1, Montreal: 1-day SWI workshop hosted by The Montreal Fluency Centre

  9. Click HERE for a flyer with details and link for registration.

  10. BulletFeb 21 and/or 22, Maple Ridge (near Vancouver)

  11. Click HERE for a poster about this workshop hosted by the James Cameron School - a school for dyslexic students. This workshop is intended for teachers/tutors of children of all ages and abilities.

  12. Includes classroom-embedded sessions.

  13. BulletMarch 22-23, Palo Alto CA

  14. 1- or 2-day workshop with classroom embedded session hosted by Athena Academy. Click HERE for details.

  15. BulletMarch 29, April 1-3, Moscow

  16. On-site workshop at Anglo-American School of Moscow

  17. BulletFeb 28 - March 2:  1st annual SWI Conference in Chicago organized by Language Insights

  18. This is an exciting new SWI conference. More details to come soon -- but for now save the date!

  19. BulletJune 17- 21: San Francisco

  20. Annual SWI Nueva Institute!

  21. Details TBA. See info on last years session HERE.

  22. BulletJuly: Melbourne ALEA (Australian Literacy Educators Association)

  23. Pete is presenting a Keynote Address at the main annual literacy conference in Australia. (Details TBA)

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 the inaugural post for the new SWI based blog “Caught in the Spell of Words” by the new team of long-time orthographic experts Lyn Anderson and Ann Whiting. This is a brilliant post for both teachers new to SWI wondering about how to get started and teachers with much experience with SWI looking to refine their orthographic understanding and instructional practice. Glorious.
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

  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.

At right, see a short video of Pete Bowers discusses SWI at the 2015 Innovative Learning Conference at Nueva.

“SWI Investigations” resources on Real Spellers

THIS FORUM has videos and pdfs in which I retrace the trail of investigations that have grown out of lessons from any subject area and grade I’ve worked with.

Click HERE for a post on that forum with a Zoom video conference between Pete and Douglas Harper (Etymonline).


(Screen shot of video conference with Pete Bowers and Doug Harper.)


Structured Word Inquiry at

The Nueva School

Click HERE to see the new page on the Nueva School website describing how Structured Word Inquiry has transformed the instruction at this top US private school


Click HERE for a great new website by Scott Mills with interviews with a wide variety of language experts. The video below is an interview Scott conducted with me in which I describe my understanding of what structured word inquiry is and and its place in the research.

WordWorks Literacy Centre

Spelling it like it is!

Nothing motivates like understanding

Click HERE for a document with details and links to public SWI workshops and conferences coming up in 2019. Dates for Wolfe Island Summer Course Confirmed!