Verbally gifted children are among the most neglected children in our schools, including schools with special programs for gifted children.  The assumption is that verbally gifted children, due to their strengths in reading and writing, have an advantage over other children, including other gifted children, because they have already mastered the skills required to do well in other subjects.

This assumption is based on the idea that language is simply a tool to be used for other subjects and the purpose of  studying language is to improve student achievement in those other subjects. After all, students must be able to read and write in the other subjects in order to learn and demonstrate learning.

However, the abilities of verbally gifted children aren’t simply a strength; they are also an interest, sometimes an obsession. Some attempts are made to nurture these abilities, but these attempts are most often in the areas of creative writing, argument, and foreign language learning. Creative writing no doubt provides challenging experiences for many verbally gifted children, particularly those whose interests in language are more artistic and emotional. For them, there is something special about expressing ideas and feelings in a poem or a short story.

Foreign language learning can also nurture the abilities of verbally gifted children. They tend to learn languages quickly and enjoy the challenge of learning to express their ideas in a different language. However, there are some verbally gifted children who are more interested in why languages are different.  They want to know how language works, much the same way that a child interested in chemistry wants to know how chemicals interact. In other words, they have a scientific interest in language. They want to study  language as linguists do — scientifically.  Unfortunately, such study isn’t offered. The best these children can expect is extra work with grammar or the study of word etymologies.

I posted a paper here in the hopes that it will help people understand the needs of verbally gifted children and the importance of meeting them. The paper is a study on whether teachers with no background in linguistics can teach basic linguistic principles to verbally gifted children. They can. To get a full summary of the paper, you can read the abstract. The appendix of the paper includes materials that can be used in lessons about language, including materials for language games and instructions for playing them.

You can also find some lesson plans I created for a unit on linguistics that can be used with gifted children in grades 4-6.

Feedback is welcome. Please contact me at

Read the Abstract
See the Table of Contents

Read the Chapters:

Chapter One: Introduction
Chapter Two: Characteristics and Needs of Verbally Gifted Children
Chapter Three: Methodology
Chapter Four: Discussion
Chapter Five: Teaching Linguistics to Verbally Gifted Children

See the Reference list

Download the complete paper (1.26 mb)