See below for session descriptions. All sessions are subject to change.



What is Structured Word Inquiry?

Structured Word Inquiry deepens our understanding of reading, spelling, vocabulary while building critical thinking in all learners.

In this keynote, Dr. Bowers will provide a broad overview of principles and practices of Structured Word Inquiry (Bowers & Kirby, 2010). He will help participants understand the conventions of  English orthography through illustrations of this literacy instruction going on with students of all ages and abilities from around the world. Bowers will also address the place of SWI in current debates in the research.



What is Etymology?

You can't teach without words. Every subject you can teach has its own language component. Etymology is the history of words. Every word has a history, from "the" to "antidisestablishmentarianism." With words as with people, you don't really know them until you know where they've been. Etymology is the third dimension to language, the one that opens up insights, depths, and connections otherwise invisible. The discovery of the interconnectedness of languages is itself one of the great intellectual achievements of modern times.



Where Phonology Fits

For more than fifty years, phonology has been at the forefront of pedagogical literacy research. Phonics-based frameworks put phonology first and treat morphology almost as an afterthought -- as something “advanced” to be targeted only once the phonology has been “mastered.” Actual linguistic research, however, highlights the importance of morphology for understanding how English works for reading and writing. Understanding morphology and phonology is not an either-or proposition, and phonology cannot be properly understood when it’s put first. Morphology is the organizing, delineating, and defining concept of written English, so phonology can only be properly understood within morphological structure and boundaries, and etymological governances. 


This keynote rethinks phonology, and makes sense of words that have phonics enthusiasts stumped.


All sessions are subject to change

FEBRUARY 28, 2019

Pre-Conference Session

This special presentation for veterans of SWI-Structured Word Inquiry offers participants time for a deep dive into orthography. We will test hypotheses about the spelling-meaning relationship between words while exploring the English spelling conventions.

MARCH 1, 2019 - 10:30-12:00

Session A: Administrator's Panel Discussion

This session is designed for school and district leaders who are interested in knowing more in implementing an orthography based approach to studying reading, writing and spelling. This sessions will focus on pragmatic issues and share various implementation approaches used in schools and districts already engaged in this work.

MARCH 1, 2019 - 10:30-12:00

Session B: Using Structured word inquiry in the primary classroom. (Focus on grades K-2)

How to use Structured Word Inquiry to teach reading and spelling to students K-2.  These workshops will dive deeper into word exploration using a structured approach.  Participants will work with word webs, matrices, word sums and online resources.

MARCH 1, 2019 - 10:30-12:00

Session C: Using Structured Word Inquiry in Upper Elementary - Junior High School classrooms. (Focus on grades 3-8)

How to use Structured Word Inquiry to teach reading and spelling to students 3 and up.  These workshops will dive deeper into word exploration using a structured approach. Participants will work with word webs, matrices, word sums and online resources.

MARCH 1, 2019 - 2:15-3:45

Session A: Peter Bower, Research

This breakout session will go into detail about SWI research. Dr. Bowers  will present clear evidence from instructional research that shows literacy instruction should include morphology from the beginning and for struggling students. He will explore difference between “phonics instruction” and the instruction of orthographic phonology inherent in SWI., Bowers will address various theories regarding learning to read and learning in general that should motivate teachers to experiment with instruction about how the written word works from the beginning of formal instruction. This is in direct contrast to a common position in the research which Bowers and Bowers (2018) describe as the “phonology first hypothesis.” (See article here: www.10.31234/

MARCH 1, 2019 - 2:15-3:45

Session B: Douglas Harper, Dictionary Talk

The Online Etymology Dictionary has become the most-used etymology resource online. Though not written with students or the classroom in mind, teachers around the world have found diverse and creative ways to incorporate it into their lessons. Learn to get the most out of this website. A brief discussion of its origins and development.

MARCH 2, 2019 - 10:15-11:45

Session A: Douglas Harper, In Depth Study on Vocabulary

Vocabulary is necessarily part of studying a novel or poem. Etymology can be the spark that makes it come alive. Good authors and true poets choose their words with deliberate care, and every work of literature in the last two centuries has been written against the background of known etymology. Looking at words from a text can lead to such discussions as why Mary Shelley chose to call Frankenstein's creation a "creature" and a "monster," and why she chose to leave him nameless. Attendees can bring words to investigate, or we can choose a few from such books at "To Kill a Mockingbird" and other novels.

MARCH 2, 2019 - 10:15-11:45

Session B: Classroom Poster Sessions

A hands-on look at the evolution of structured word inquiry in classrooms.  
Teachers will showcase student work in structured word inquiry from posters, notebooks, quizlet,  video presentations and more. This session will be interactive. Expand your knowledge of what SWI looks like in the classroom.

MARCH 2, 2019 10:15-11:45

Session C: Gina Cooke, InSights Into Sight Words

Commonly referred to as “sight words,” “red words,” “learned words,” “outlaw words,” “oddball words,” “rule-breakers” and many other pointless names, these words are usually slated for memorization rather than investigation. In this session, Gina Cooke offers an inquiry-based understanding of words that most literacy instruction cannot explain. This study is structured to reveal and reinforce the nature of the writing system scientifically, one insight at a time.

MARCH 2, 2019 - 12:30-2:00

Session A: Gina Cooke, Listening to 'Silent' Letters

‘Silent’ letters are stories waiting to be told, and not all so-called ‘silent’ letters are silent in the same way. This study of ‘silent’ letters investigates and exposes our orthographic phonology — our graphemes and the phonemes they can spell — more deeply and more clearly. The session’s objective is to build an accurate understanding of what letters are — and are not — telling us in a written word.

MARCH 2, 2019 - 12:30-2:00

Session B: Peter Bowers, Diving Deeper into Etymology & Morphology

Are you stuck in phonology? morphology? Take the leap into etymology to build stronger vocabulary, spelling and critical thinking skills. The interrelationship of phonology, morphology and etymology will be explored.

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