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GretaCoverSwedish teenager Greta Thunberg has inspired an enormous global youth movement pressuring world leaders to respond to the climate crisis in a way that reflects the scientific consensus of the existential threat to their own future, and of future generations.

Major climate action organizations such as, and authors like Naomi Klein have been doing everything they can to generate the kind of grass roots movement needed to force the transformational action the planet needs to survive. However, it may be that Greta’s role will prove to be the spark that was needed to motivate adults to act in time to reduce the effects of climate change enough to ensure a habitable world for future generations.

Greta Thunberg calls Asperger’s her super power

Greta is also having an important impact on people’s (children and adults) perception of people identified for Asperger’s syndrome. The following is an excerpt from Greta (find context here):

Without [Asperger’s] I wouldn’t have noticed this crisis,” she said. “Because everyone else, they saw the same thing, they saw the same pictures and films as I did, the destruction of nature and what was happening with the climate, but no one else seemed to really understand why their lives weren’t turned upside like mine was.

We [people on the autism spectrum] walk the walk,” she said. “We don’t have the distance from what we know and what we say and how we act. But to normal people, they have cognitive dissonance. I can’t understand how someone can say, ‘Yeah, climate change is very important,’ and not do something about it. If you know it, then you also know you have to do something.

Teachers may also choose to address this theme. Society tends to stigmatize difference. That stigma -- not the difference itself -- is so often the greatest barrier to those that differ from the ‘norm’. Greta’s words offer an opportunity for greater understanding here as well.

SWI in Context

Central to my work with schools is modeling how scientific investigation of the written word can be effectively used as leverage for learning about any content area. (See an archive of such examples drawn from my time at the Nueva School in the “Investigations” section on Real Spellers.)

I was finally motivated to create and share these resources on SWI in the context of the climate crisis as I prepared for flying to Australia for workshops in the midst of the catastrophic 2020 climate-fuelled fires. I shudder at my own climate footprint from all my flying. I’m looking into purchasing climate off sets for my flying, knowing that remains a very weak bandaid. 

I share these resources for SWI investigations as one way to spark further attention to this essential topic.

Working with this document

There is no intention that anyone tries to do all the lesson ideas provided here. Nor should you restrict yourselves to the words observations I share!

I am not giving great detail of ‘how to teach’ these investigations. Instead I hope people pick and choose launching pads that make sense to them. Essentially, I’m just offering some orthographic information about a set of words that teachers can draw from/revise as they wish. I’ve tried to provide some examples that will feel accessible to novices, but some of the content will be more juicy for people with more background.

Some of this information is new, and some is drawn from lessons I’ve done over the years. Please don’t assume that what I present is the “correct” or final analysis. I will be delighted if anyone finds an analysis they think is more coherent. If you find something you are wondering about feel free to email me at <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>. If you provide evidence of a more coherent analysis, I’ll be delighted to update the resource with credit!

Bolded words signal words and word families I have created resources for after the speech. When those words, or related words are used later, I don’t bold them a second time.

With that, have a read of Greta’s speech, and enjoy seeing what else you can learn about her message, words and orthography in the process...