The Science of Spelling with Pete Bowers, PhD (The Exceptional Educator, Ep. 3)
Have you ever heard a teacher say, “Just sound out the word,” to a struggling young speller? Or maybe you’ve said those words to a student yourself? This simple strategy frequently backfires, especially for kids with dyslexia. Why do students end up spelling words like “jumpt,” or “advenchur”? In this episode, Dr. Pete Bowers reveals why “sounding it out” isn’t enough. He demonstrates how sound-symbol correspondence is a key principle in literacy instruction, but often we miss crucial components of our writing system: orthography and morphology. What’s more, research shows that this type of instruction is most powerful for struggling learners. Using Pete’s methods, teachers can revolutionize spelling instruction into a dynamic opportunity to foster logical thinking, vocabulary development, and deepen literacy skills. Dr. Pete Bowers Pete Bowers is the founder of the WordWorks Literacy Center in Ontario, Canada. In his career, he’s worked as an elementary classroom teacher, researcher, writer, and worldwide presenter. He’s a sought-after speaker in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. This summer, I had the pleasure of attending a conference Pete presented here in California, and it transformed my understanding of spelling and inspired my teaching. I know you guys are gonna love this one! Listen to this episode, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher, or stream the episode below: Your browser does not support the audio element. You can right-click here to download an mp3 of the show. In This Episode, Pete and I Discuss: How neither whole word nor phonics instruction addresses the whole picture. Why meaning-representation is the primary function of spelling in the English language. We discuss orthography and why should we care about our writing system. What to say to struggling readers instead of “Just sound it out.” The age when teachers can begin teaching morphology. When sounding out words fails e.g. “react” vs. “reeked.” Why avoiding morphology instruction could be hindering students with dyslexia. How to introduce morphological concepts in a Pre-K or Kindergarten classroom. The benefits of pairing spelling instruction with scientific inquiry. Empowering students with the tools to shed their false spelling hypotheses. Links and Resources Mentioned in This Podcast: Beginning To Read – by Marilyn Jager Adams. Adams makes a terrific argument for sound-letter correspondence. She also asserts that teaching morphology could be a mistake for younger kids, but this premise isn’t supported by research. The Word Matrix allows students to see the base morpheme and affixes. This reduces the working memory load and helps kids make connections between related words they might otherwise miss. Beyond The Word – A fabulous blog by classroom teacher, Lyn Anderson. Anderson shares the journey of her inquiry into English orthography. Mary Beth Steven’s 5th Grade Class Video on Orthography – You’ll love this video! Mini Matrix Maker – A web-based tool for creating work matrices. Word Microscope – Computer software for breaking up a word into its individual parts. PC only. Word Microscope Tutorial – This video Pete created, shows you how to use Word Microscope. Real Spellers Website – A community of spellers deepening their understanding of orthography. Using Word Sums, students generate words by combing prefixes, bases, and suffixes. A powerful tool for improving spelling and decoding skills. WordWorks Newsletter #76 – A great resource for teachers just getting started with morphology in the classroom. Teaching How The Written Word Works by Peter Bowers. Pete’s book provides lessons for educators who want to include morphology in their teaching. Pete’s Website – The WordWorks Literacy Center is Pete’s main website. Explore the site for more instructional videos and links to Structured Word Inquiry blogs. Thanks For Tuning In! If you’d like to know when new episodes of the Exceptional Educator are published, you can subscribe to the show on iTunes or Stitcher to get automatic updates. My students love discovering the etymology of words, finding connections based on morphological patterns, and becoming critical thinkers. I hope your student find this literacy approach equally engaging. Help us spread the message about Structured Word Inquiry. If you enjoyed this show, please share with a friend or leave us a review in iTunes. Not sure how to leave a review? Here’s a quick video we made for you.