Mona Voelkel

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SWI Class and Coronation

Just finished taking another amazing 5-session Structured Word Inquiry class via Zoom- this time with Dr. Pete Bowers!  I learned so much more about Structured Word Investigations (SWI), especially deepening my understanding of etymological resources, associated bases and “spelling out loud.”  Dr. Bowers, or Pete, as everyone calls him, developed Structured Word Inquiry (2010, with Kirby) and I highly recommend his online course.  He so generously shares his knowledge, resources and practical classroom applications.  You can email Pete Bowers at for information about his online classes.  His website is a constant source of inspiration, as well!

One of the guiding principles of SWI is to “start where you are.”  That means that I am always going to just try to do my best when investigating words with my current understandings and encourage others to do the same.  So, yesterday, I met a good friend and she was curious about the word <coronation>.  We investigated this word using the 4 questions.  When we explored the historical relatives, we learned that the etymological root of the word <coronation> is related to the Greek korōnē  meaning “curved.”  

How interesting to connect this historical root to the related Latin corona meaning “wreath, garland” and our understanding of not only <coronation> but etymologically related words like <crown>, <coronary>, <corollary>, <crow-bar> and <raven>!  (Source: Etymology Online by Doug Harper)


Update:  There is a mistake in the matrix suffixing above!  Can you find it?

Update 2:  The base must be <corone>. Do you know why?

Thanks to Pete Bowers for his continuing guidance and scholarship!  See the link at the bottom where I use the mistakes to deepen my knowledge of SWI.  After rethinking my suffixing and then my understanding of the base and suffixing rules, here is the updated matrix.  “Writing out loud” while referring to the suffixing flow chart was key and I will make sure to implement this practice going forward.

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Update:  I realized that I left <corona> off the matrix above!  Below is the updated matrix!

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I could understand that <coronary> comes from the fact that the heart looks like a curved wreath and perhaps <coroner> comes from the doctor who investigates a heart-stopping death but I wasn’t really understanding the connection to <corollary>- an adjacent circle of thought, maybe?  Imagine my delight when I remembered that I have Word Stems: A Dictionary by John Kennedy on my shelf and found this lovely entry for <coron>:

Coron-crown; cornnation (a crowning), coronal (a crown-like top), cornet(a little crown worn by a duke), corner( a crown officer who inquires after the cause of sudden or violent death), cornice (the crowning part of an entablature, or architectural ornament), cor(on)olli (the little flower crown), cor(or)ollary ( gratuitous statement, thrown in like a garland or crown. L. corona

I am so happy that I had the time to puzzle over the connections before remembering about this resource.  I love Structured Word Inquiries because there is such a sense of joy when something new is learned!  Finally, I am able to show my students that written language makes perfect sense!  I am able to invite them to join me on this learning voyage. I love Howard Rosen’s quote, “”Every child has a story to tell.  The question is will they tell it to you?”  Perhaps we can paraphrase that a bit:  “Every word has a story to tell.  The question is will it tell it to you?”  Looking forward to finding the story behind so many words together!

Here is my complete investigation into <coronation>, including some suggested classroom activities.  I am working on a HyperDoc SWI template and would love feedback!  Let me know if there are words that you would like to investigate!




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