Daily Archives: September 24, 2014

Thank You Pete Bowers!

This past weekend, Pete Bowers took time out of his already busy world tour (workshops for schools in China, Dresden, and Lausanne) to make a relatively last-minute appearance at ZIS. And we’re glad he did! On Monday, we took advantage of Pete’s kindness, his passion, and most importantly, his knowledge of the English orthographic system, all captured in the videos below. (A big thanks to Mike Boulanger who taught me how to upload lengthy, “over the limit” videos!)

Pete’s first stop? Grade 1…

After reflecting with the Grade 1 teachers, Pete was quickly on to Grade 5, making it to three different classrooms for an hour each. It’s amazing to watch how he masterfully presents and inspires students to question and explore.

Mrs. Sikora’s class:

Miss Vinclair’s class:

Mr. Allen’s class:

After that final lesson, Pete welcomed 30 teachers and administrators to share the key principals of Structured Word Inquiry. Note: this workshop was not required…pretty good turn out!

I’ve known Pete for several years now, but this was the first time I actually saw him speak to a large group of educators. One thing he said that I hadn’t heard before was, “It’s a feature of English spelling, not a bug.” Let me explain…

Pete started the session by asking teachers to brainstorm “tricky” words, ones that don’t seem to make sense. As in most of his workshops, I’m sure, homophones came up. Several teachers offered there, their, and they’re, and to, too, and two, probably because these words are so frequently misspelled by students, or because we are misguided by the belief that English spelling is determined primarily by “sound” representation. Not true, which Pete masterfully proved by asking the teachers why those words are spelled differently. “Because they have different meanings.” Exactly!

This led to Pete’s explanation of the Homophone Principal and a celebration of the system’s versatility, a recognition of the difficulties that would be caused if we didn’t have a variety of ways to represent the same “sounds” (phonemes). “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature.” Brilliant, and one of many thought provoking statements from Pete.

Thanks Pete! You’ve been an inspiration for so many years to so many people, not the least of whom are the readers of this blog. Aren’t you glad you didn’t have to write one of your long blog comments (which I LOVE!) and could instead just talk to us all for a really long time?! I hope it won’t be the last time!