Course Description

UPDATED version

open for registrations until October 15th 2021 

Learning to spell conventionally is not something that comes naturally. It requires teaching. But sometimes this teaching is not clear or explicit...or engaging for the learner.

As a class-based teacher, I was often frustrated and confused about the teaching of spelling. I confidently embraced an inquiry approach to learning. I believed (and still do!) that we learn more when we actively construct our own understandings. I revelled in creating playful contexts for learning to be literate, where children were active and engaged in meaningful learning experiences, not merely 'activities' or busy-work tasks. But the way I taught spelling didn't feel right for a long time.

Early in my career, I tried many different approaches to the teaching of spelling. Most didn't fit well with my philosophy and were soon abandoned when I couldn't reconcile the rote-learning of words or phonics-drills with my vision for learning. Others began with grand ideas and a clearer connection to my beliefs, but were so time-consuming and complex that I failed to keep up the momentum for more than a month or so.

Then I discovered the philosophy of socio-constructivism and the pedagogy of inquiry! This is what I had been looking for! All I needed to do was figure out how to bring an inquiry stance into the way I taught spelling.

The Spelling Investigations eCourse is the culmination of many years of reading, thinking, talking, experimenting, tweaking and experimenting again. It's not 'everything about spelling' and it's not perfect. (BTW - Nothing is perfect - time we all accepted that!) The eCourse seeks to offer some clarity over all the competing messages about spelling and draws on the inspiring work of educators and researchers such as Misty Adoniou, Tessa Daffern, Diane Snowball and Faye Bolton.

Spelling Investigations will give you a path into exploring spelling in ways that respect the learning potential of every child to research, make connections, see patterns and construct theories. This needs to start before the first Spelling Investigation, of course, when you mindfully create a culture of curiosity with the young writers you work with.

It's time to become 'WORD NERDS'! 

Will you join me? 

Early Bird closes 10 September 2021

use the code: earlyspeller

"Lisa’s Spelling Investigations eCourse was, as always, very informative, engaging and practical. 

Her eCourse format allowed you to work at your own pace and give you the time to reflect upon and try new concepts explored. 

Lisa provides all the background research and information required and then extends this with contemporary ideas and strategies for you to implement in the classroom. 

I loved how easy these were to apply into my own class! Thank you Lisa for another amazing professional development opportunity!"

Courtney, Foundation (K) Teacher

Commonly Asked Questions

I’ve never done an online course before – what is it like?

I personally talk you though a series of slides that you’ll follow at your own pace on the screen. You have control over how slowly or quickly you work through each Module. The downloadable Reflection Guide supports your thinking with key points from each Module and guide questions and prompts so you can make connections along the way. In between Modules there are suggested reflection questions to guide your journalling and/or conversation with colleagues.

How long does each Module take?

It is difficult to know this exactly, because everyone learns at their own pace and will take different amounts of time to journal and/or discuss with colleagues. However, a rough estimate is that each Module will take approximately 30 - 60 minutes.

Do I need to do the Modules in order?

Yes. The Modules are designed to build on each other and need to be followed in order. However, you can always return to a previous Module if you want to review anything.

How long will the whole eCourse take?

Again, this is hard to know as your personal schedule will determine how often you can engage with the online materials. I recommend that you give yourself a week in between each Module so you can consolidate your thinking and also have time for the Between Module Reflections. For this reason, the Modules are ‘dripped’ out to you once a week. But don’t worry if reports are due or your children get sick and you don’t get to a Module one week. You will have three months to access it so you have the time to devote to your learning.

Do I get Professional Development credit for the hours of professional learning?

At the completion of Module 4, a certificate of participation for 6 hours will be supplied to you. (This is based on 1 hour per Module and an estimated two hours for the Between Module reflections.)

How does it work if I purchase a Team Registration?

We all know we learn so much more when we have the chance to talk about our thinking and listen to others’ ideas. I recommend that each participant has his/her own individual log-in to work through the modules independently and then get together to share and discuss (the Reflection and are really helpful for this).

Email Melissa at with the names of your team members and she will send you a discount code. You qualify for the team discount if there are more than 4 participants from the same site/team.

But what if I don’t have a team to learn with?

Don’t worry! You will still get a lot from the eCourse if you need to learn on your own. In fact, even if you’re learning with a team it is a good idea to journal your ideas. The Reflection Guides will support you in this. And…one of the reasons I decided to use Thinkific as the hosting site for my eCourses is each eCourse has a Discussions capacity. So if you like to feel connected to some others who are learning through the eCourse at the same time as you, you can post ideas or questions in the Discussions and build some online connections. I check in on the Discussions each week too.

What technology do I need?

All you need is a computer with speakers and access to a reliable internet service. The course modules have been thoroughly tested across multiple devices and browsers and are all functioning correctly, but occasionally some users run into issues. These are usually related to specific computers, internet browsers, internet connections or school security firewalls.

To avoid the frustration of being blocked by your site’s security firewall (which unfortunately we can't control), we recommend that prior to beginning the eCourse, you contact your school’s ICT/Network manager about removing any security block on the eCourse or Thinkific site.

We also find that GoogleChrome is a more reliable browser for the Thinkific platform so you might like to use this from the start.

What do I get for this Registration Fee?

  • Access to all 4 Modules for 6 months
  • Reflection Guide for each Module
  • Downloadable examples and templates to support your assessment of spelling and planning for your Spelling Investigations.

Lisa Burman

Lisa is an educator who sees herself as an ‘every-day researcher’, fascinated with childhood and learning. After a number of years teaching and leading primary schools in Australia, she consulted in and around New York for ten years. Her highly regarded consultancy business is now based in Adelaide, South Australia. Lisa’s interests include early childhood education and care, imbedding and contextualizing the principles of the Reggio Emilia educational project within learning environments, play, literacy learning, inquiry learning and strengthening children’s connections to nature. She is passionate about pedagogies that see children as capable and competent learners who are skilled in researching life and making connections. Her favourite work is side-by-side with children and educators in their learning settings. Lisa has presented at a number of national and international conferences, including REAIE Landscapes of Imagination Conference (Melbourne, 2016), International Reading Association Annual Convention (Chicago, 2006), Australian Literacy Educators Association Annual Conference (Darwin, 2006), National Staff Developers Association New York State Conference (Rochester, 2006) and National Association for the Education of Young Children Annual Convention (Atlanta, 2006). Each year she is invited to present keynote addresses and facilitate workshops at regional and international conferences. Lisa writes a quarterly newsletter and is presently working on ideas for her second book.Her first book was published by Redleaf Press and is titled “Are You Listening? Fostering Conversations that Help Young Children Learn”.

Course curriculum

  • 1

    Welcome & Introduction

    • Welcome from Lisa

    • Trouble Shooting Guide

  • 2

    Module 1: Clarify Your Beliefs

    • Module 1: Clarify Your Beliefs

    • Madison talks about spelling

    • Talking about Spelling Tests

    • Module 1.2 - Clarify Your Beliefs

    • Resources for Teaching Spelling

    • Analysis of Spelling Approximations - example

    • Analysis of Spelling Approximations - template

    • Module 1: Clarify Your Beliefs Reflection Guide

    • Morphemes, Graphemes and Phonemes

  • 3

    Module 2: Take an Inquiry Stance

    • Module 2: Take an Inquiry Stance

    • A Conversation with Helen Young about Whole School Growth

    • Talking about inquiry spelling

    • Module 2: Take an Inquiry Stance Reflection Guide

  • 4

    Module 3: A Process for Investigating

    • Module 3.1 - A Process for Investigating

    • Michelle Cox talks about a spelling investigation

    • Module 3.2 - A Process for Investigating

    • Ways to Represent a Sound

    • Some Common Affixes in English

    • Module 3: A Process for Investigating Reflection Guide

  • 5

    Module 4: Beyond the Investigation

    • Module 4.1 - Beyond the Investigation

    • Sophie talks about her word sort

    • David talks about his word sort

    • Module 4.2 - Beyond the Investigation

    • Talia's Spelling Interview

    • Spelling Interview

    • Shopping List Edit example

    • Shopping List Edit Examples 2

    • Shopping List EditTemplate

    • Strategy Analysis - example

    • Strategy Analysis of Spelling Approximations - template

    • Writing Workshop Resource List

    • Module 4: Beyond the Investigation Reflection Guide

  • 6

    Module 5: UPDATE - More Learning & Teaching Strategies

    • 5:1 UPDATE - More Learning & Teaching Strategies

    • 5:2 UPDATE - More Learning & Teaching Strategies

    • 5:3 UPDATE - More Learning & Teaching Strategies

    • 'Who's in the Family?' Problem Solving Game

    • Teacher Talk in Word Study

    • 5:4 UPDATE - More Learning & Teaching Strategies

    • Evidence of Thinking about Spelling Tally Sheet

    • Recommended Resources #2

  • 7

    Word Study Planners

    • Example - Year 1 Word Study plan from text "Where is the Green Sheep?"

    • Example - Year 1/2 Word Study plan from text "We're Going on a Bear Hunt"

    • 'Plan from Text' Planner (template)

    • 'Plan from Text' Planning template (fillable)

    • Example - Year 2 Word Study Spotlight Study into Double Consonants

    • Foundation Word Study Planner (template)

    • Year 1 Word Study Planner (template)

    • Year 2 Word Study Planner (template)

    • Year 3 Word Study Planner (template)

    • year 4 Word Study Planner (template)

    • Year 5 Word Study Planner (template)

    • Year 6 Word Study Planner (template)

  • 8

    Certificate of Participation

    • Certificate of Participation (updated hours)


5 star rating

Using inquiry processes to build spelling knowledge

Geraldine Jones

This course was very thought provoking. I particularly found Module 1 interesting, learning about the technical terms and what they each meant and reviewing ...

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This course was very thought provoking. I particularly found Module 1 interesting, learning about the technical terms and what they each meant and reviewing the theoretical background informing this methodology. The videos of students sharing their experiences were also very informative.

Read Less