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Introduction to Structured Word Inquiry

Andrea Dalland, M.Ed, MLS
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If learning rules with tons of exceptions and rote memorization of words isn't working, it's time to try a new approach. This class will transform learners' understanding of words and how spelling works while also improving vocabulary.

Class experience

US Grade 2 - 5
Intermediate Level
12 lessons//12 Weeks
Β Week 1
Lesson 1
A History of English
This introductory lesson will teach learners about the fascinating history of the English language and how we have gotten to where we are today. We'll also discuss why having a consistent spelling system across the English-speaking world is so important, and we'll examine the idea that English spelling is more interested in communicating meaning than sounds.
Β Week 2
Lesson 2
Phonemes, Graphemes and Morphemes
Students will learn the definitions of phonemes, graphemes, and morphemes and how they work together to spell words. We will work on doing some phoneme-grapheme mapping and also work on starting to break words apart to look for their parts.
Β Week 3
Lesson 3
Word Families
Students will learn about Word Families, and see that words that are connected in meaning will also share connections in how they are spelled. We will also learn how to use a matrix to build words from a common word family.
Β Week 4
Lesson 4
Suffixing Conventions Part 1: Silent e
We’ll begin to start thinking like β€œword scientists” and will start to look at some of the rules of adding suffixes to bases, including when to drop the single, silent e at the end of a base word.
Β Week 5
Lesson 5
Suffixing Conventions Part 2: Doubling Final Consonants
We will continue to explore the rules of suffixing, focusing on the doubling of final consonants, and learn the difference between a vowel suffix and a consonant suffix, and begin to use flowcharts to help make decisions about spelling.
Β Week 6
Lesson 6
Suffixing Conventions Part 3: Changing y to i
This week will examine what happens when base words ending in y have a suffix added to them. Students will again think like "word scientists" to determine the rules for any spelling changes to a base that ends in y.
Β Week 7
Lesson 7
Different Types of Bases
In this lesson, we will learn the difference between a bound base and a free base and continue building words with a matrix to apply the suffixing rules we have learned.
Β Week 8
Lesson 8
Practicing Suffixing
We will spend this lesson practicing applying the three different suffixing rules by building words with both bound bases and free bases.
Β Week 9
Lesson 9
Four Questions
In this lesson, we will learn about four questions you can ask yourself when you are trying to figure out how to spell a word which may help you spell the word correctly and learn more about how to research a word's history to understand its spelling.
Β Week 10
Lesson 10
Content Words and Function Words
We'll learn that every word in English can be put into one of two groups, and how understanding these groups can help us understand why some words are spelled the way they are.
Β Week 11
Lesson 11
Etymological Markers
In this lesson we will continue to practice applying the Four Questions for understanding a spelling, and learn about the role of etymological markers in some commonly used words.
Β Week 12
Lesson 12
Summing it Up
In our final lesson of the class, we will continue to practice thinking like word scientists to ask questions about spelling. We'll continue to practice with the Four Questions and researching a word's history, and we will summarize and review all of our learning over the past 12 weeks.
  • At the end of this class, students will be able to: -break words apart into prefixes, bases, and suffixes -understand how to identify the graphemes, morphemes, and phonemes that create a word -understand that words that are connected in meaning will also be connected in spelling -understand how adding a suffix can change the spelling of a base word, for example by dropping a silent -e or doubling a final consonant -use provided flow charts and matrices to make decisions about spelling when adding a suffix to a base word -approach spelling problems by "thinking like a scientist," making a hypothesis about a word, testing their hypothesis, and seeing the results
I have had extensive professional development in the ideas presented in this class, including working directly with Peter Bowers and WordWorksKingston to learn the principles of Structured Word Inquiry, and I have seven years of experience teaching this content in a classroom setting. I have also been involved in the creation of resources for colleagues to use in their teaching as they implemented SWI in their own classrooms. 
Homework Offered
We will plan to complete practice work together during the class time, however there may be some weeks when we run out of time to finish the work together, and students may need to finish some of the work on their own. It should take students no longer than 10-15 minutes to complete.
Assessments Offered
Grades Offered
This class is excellent for learning differences like dyslexia which may make traditional spelling methods difficult. Not much intensive reading or writing is required so it is very suitable for learners who may be working below grade level
Learners should have basic knowledge of vowels and suffixes and be aware of prefixes and suffixes. Learners should understand letter-sound correspondences and may have had teaching in phonics-based programs in the past. 
Students will need paper or a notebook for taking notes, practicing some of the skills and spellings we learn in the class, and for doing some of the assignments.  It's very helpful to have a printer to print some of the assignments and flow charts. 
Parents, be aware that this class could turn your child into a logophile (not sure what this word means? Check a dictionary, think about the parts that make up this word and see if you can think of words that are related in meaning and spelling. Now you're on your way to becoming a logophile yourself!) and will make them notice and ask questions about words and the spellings of words all day. You have been warned! 
The content of this class is based off the work of Melvyn Ramsden, Peter Bowers, Sue Scabetta Hegland, Fiona Hamilton and many others. Some of the resources used were created by Peter Bowers and used with his permission. More about his work with the WordWorks Literacy Centre can be found at:  https://wordworkskingston.com/WordWorks/Home.html

During the class, we will use online resources including dictionary.com, thesaurus.com, and etymonline.com. Students will not need to access these sites directly, I will share these via screen share. 
Joined July, 2022
Teacher expertise and credentials
Master's Degree
Master's Degree in Education
Bachelor's Degree in Education
NorthCarolina Teaching Certificate - Elementary Education
I love being a teacher and have wanted to be one for as long as I can remember! 

I have 22 years of experience teaching elementary school and I hold two Master's degrees; one in Literacy, Curriculum and Instruction, and one in Information and...Β 
Group Class


for 12 classes
1x per week, 12 weeks
45 min

Completed by 23 learners
Live video meetings
Ages: 8-12
4-8 learners per class

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