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Word Inquiry: It's a Structured Language Approach

Sandie Barrie-Blackley
posted this on October 13, 2011 11:11

Dyslexia typically disrupts reading and spelling at a word level. In contrast, language (listening) comprehension and critical thinking is typically not disrupted in dyslexia and may actually be a strength, so a method that uses structured conversation to understand words and word parts is particularly suited for dyslexic learners and to use with

The word inquiry method uses a Socratic, shared inquiry approach to explore the meaning and structure of individual words.  With a clear, procedural structure and a focus on meaning, word inquiry can be harmonized with structured language and the Orton-Gillingham (O-G) Approach.

Students can benefit from using the word inquiry method from the very beginning of reading and spelling instruction. The word inquiry method begins with selecting a word for study and creating a Word Sum for the word.

Online dictionaries and resources are used in the process of investigation to create a Word Sum. It is all about the process!  It may take a few days for students to investigate a single word using the Word Inquiry Method.   Here is a video by Pete Bowers modeling this process.

Since the word inquiry method is a shared inquiry method it generally requires minimum of two people who work together to arrive at data-supported answers to the following questions:

  1. Does the word have any prefixes? [If so, write the prefix(es) in the far left box of the Word Matrix and specify the meaning of each prefix.] 
  2. Does the word have any suffixes? [If so, write the suffix(es) in the far right box of the Word Matrix and specify the meaning of each suffix.]
  3. What are the word’s base(es)? Write the base(es) in the center section of the Word Matrix and specify the meaning of each.

In Lexercise's tele-therapy Structured Word Inquiry is the main vehicle for teaching about word parts (morphology) and doing word analysis. The most common prefixes and suffixes are introduced in the context of Structured Word Inquiry.   Word inquiry is a powerful vocabulary builder, as well, and it with vocabulary development routines, such as Descriptor.

Taught using the principles of the "scientific method", the Word Inquiry Approach can make word study feel more familiar and within the realm of possibility for students who otherwise would resist word study.  See the handout attached below:  NCSHLA - 2014-Using Scientific Word Inquiry to Hook Kids on Words


A Beginning Word Matrix

An Advanced Word Matrix


A fully developed example of an advanced word matrix

This is advanced example of a  Word Matrix of the bases <duct/duce> was created by Pete Bowers. For other examples, check out Pete Bowers' You Tube Chanel videos here.

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