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Virtual Fall Conference October 24, 2020

October 24, 2020 @ 8:30 am - 3:30 pm

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Pete Bowers and Douglas Harper

Structured Word Inquiry: Literacy instruction that makes sense of our surprisingly ordered Spelling system

This full-day on-line practical workshop is for novices as well as those who have worked extensively with structured word inquiry (SWI). The phrase “structured word inquiry” – first used to describe the instruction in a vocabulary teaching study (Bowers & Kirby, 2010) – attempts to capture how this literacy instruction uses an approach of scientific inquiry to study how present day English orthography marks connections between words linked by morphological structure and history (etymology) — and how those influences make sense of grapheme-phoneme correspondences. In less than a decade, SWI has gained significant interest within the research community. However, the decades old “whole language vs. phonics” debate has made it difficult for many to understand that SWI is not a response to either phonics or whole language. Instead, it is rooted in the proposition that literacy instruction should accurately reflect our best understanding of how our writing system works and draws on what we know about learning and instruction in any domain. This talk will use classroom/tutoring examples of SWI instruction to make sense of spellings neither phonics nor whole language explain. Dr. Bowers will describe where SWI fits within the theory and research on literacy instruction, and how this frame gives us a way to move beyond the artificial boundaries of the whole language vs. phonics debates.

Co-presenter Douglas Harper is the author of the on-line etymological dictionary etymonline(www.etymonline.com).  This free reference is an essential resource for teachers and students working with SWI. While awareness of the importance of morphology in literacy instruction has grown over the last decade, far less attention has been given to the crucial role of etymology. We will show that reliable morphological study is not possible without understanding the relationship between morphology and etymology. Without understanding morphology and etymology, teachers can teach what are common grapheme-phoneme correspondences, but they cannot help a learner understand why one grapheme is used in given word. Douglas will address etymology in general, and how to make full use of his dictionary. Pete will model investigations making use of Doug’s dictionary and we will all gain by having its author there to expand on his entries and how to employ them while investigating the spelling-meaning structure of related words.


This is an online event.


Register Early!
Cost is $50 but will increase
 to $75 after Oct 8, 2020


Cost of registration increases after October 8, 2020
Online Registration will close at 7 p.m. on October 21, 2020
No refunds will be possible after October 21, 2020



October 24, 2020
8:30 am - 3:30 pm


Maria Aielli