Fiona leads the Professional Development branch of ELC International Schools, Bangkok, training educators in Word Inquiry. Prior to this she was the Elementary Principal and is very passionate about the positive impact Word Inquiry has on the critical thinking skills of children. She has been using this approach as a teacher and administrator for nearly 15 years and her particular interest is in the pedagogy of application. Schools are busy places and teachers seem to have more and more on their plate. Word Inquiry supports many strands of Language Arts at once and strengthens understanding across disciplines.
Fiona has worked internationally for 24 years after beginning her career in Australia. In addition to 12 years of administrative experience, she has also had the opportunity to teach Grade 1 through Grade 5, write some children’s books, be a learning support specialist, and coach teachers in literacy strategies. Fiona holds an MEd (administration) and an MEd (literacy) as well as Literacy Coaching certification. She has studied with Real Spelling and Pete Bowers of WordWorks.
Her broad experience in a number of roles allows her the perspective of the classroom teacher, support specialist and administrator when collaborating to make decisions about the best approaches to assist all students to be successful.
ELC International Schools
The ELC City School, for 3 - 11 year olds, offers an inquiry-based, project-approach to learning across all year levels and consequently our children are always ‘wondering why’ and creating their own hypotheses. Word Inquiry is the perfect match and is implemented in every classroom.
Our logo captures the essence of our professional development: we are a place for words, a place where like-minded educators can enjoy developing their understanding of the structure of English words. Tracing words back to their roots allows us to tap into their history and find out much that explains how other words are related to them and why they are spelled the way they are.
Is Word Inquiry a program?
Instruction that focuses on learning about the structure of words through inquiry seems to me to be aptly and succinctly named Word Inquiry. Others will refer to this area of study as Orthography, just as we might say the study of Mathematics or Reading or Chemistry.
The study of English orthography is not a program and as such cannot be labeled as if it were. Michel Rameau, my mentor, refers to the materials he has created to support linguistic inquiries as Real Spelling materials, while my colleague Pete Bowers calls investigations into the logic of English word structure, Structured Word Inquiry.
Why are there different names? Michel and Pete prefer to emphasize different elements. In the title Real Spelling, Michel focuses on developing an accurate understanding of English orthography. In Structured Word Inquiry, often referred to as SWI, Pete is instead highlighting the structured nature of the inquiry process used to uncover the structure of words. Not being a fan of acronyms, I prefer the shortened form of Word Inquiry as this ensures the students hold front and centre what they are studying and the process by which they are studying.
Certainly, my colleagues and I all advocate using a structured inquiry process, not open, unguided inquiry, to develop a deep and comprehensive understanding of our spelling system. It is the common goal of teaching students about the logic of the English spelling system by following scientific process, aided by specific tools, that binds our community together.
Although there will be times in the week teachers dedicate to the discipline of Word Inquiry, it is, by nature, transdisciplinary and once core concepts are established and tools grasped, you’ll find yourself exploring the meaning and structure of words in Mathematics, Science and Social Studies. In fact, you and your students will barely be able to utter a word without beginning to analyze it! Such analysis leads to deeper comprehension, stronger spelling skills and enriched vocabulary.