This exploratory case study supports the findings of Fabb (1985) and Goodluck (1991) in that children enjoyed learning about language. However, the present study sought to avoid the lecture approach of Fabb and Goodluck studies, presenting the information, not through lectures, but through short presentations, followed by discussions and games. The presentations and discussions allowed the students to learn the material, and the games helped the students apply what they learned through those presentations and discussions. There was no suggestion that the students found the information too difficult. In fact, they seemed to get bored quickly when they were not being challenged. The difficulty in teaching linguistics to verbally gifted children lies in the fact that teachers without a background in linguistics may not be able to teach it.
If a teacher is interested in the subject, he or she might read about the topic and create lesson plans for children. However, even if a teacher is interested, time constraints could prevent him or her from spending the necessary time to learn the material well enough to present it to the children. What about those teachers who are not interested? They will be less inclined to learn linguistics concepts well enough to teach them. If verbally gifted children are to be given the opportunity to nurture their interest in language, it must be possible for them to learn it with minimal instruction and that instruction should be as easy and fun for the teachers to work with as it is for the children.
Some subjects, like math, that some children struggle with are presented in fiction books that children enjoy reading. For example, children can learn about some math concepts through books like Sir Cumference and The First Round Table or The Number Devil. But there are no such books about language. When we see books about language, they are textbooks or workbooks. Fun fiction books about linguistics could allow children to learn about the concepts. These books could be read by all children, but could be used in gifted programs as part of a gifted language arts curriculum. Since the information would be presented in a simple way through a story, teachers would not be required to study the information before teaching it. In fact, they would be learning it along with the children. Such books could also be used for enrichment at home or for homeschooling. Both teachers and parents could use these language books as a way to nurture the strengths of verbally gifted children.
Each book would introduce children to one branch in the field of linguistics: phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, historical linguistics, and sociolinguistics. To reinforce what is learned in the books and to promote critical thinking on the concepts introduced, a workbook would be available for each book. The workbooks would include summaries, quizzes, puzzles, games, and thought-provoking questions that are designed to get children to think beyond the information presented in the books. The first book in such a series of books would be about language – what it is and whether animals have it. Students in the present study expressed an interest in the topic and two of the seven children created final projects about animal communication. The first book in this series is offered in this chapter.
[The book, titled Anna and the Translator Tree: Adventures in Lingualand, is about a little girl who wakes up one day no longer able to talk with her family. She is, however, able to talk with her dog Chompsky, and together they go on an adventure searching for a solution to Anna’s problem. They hope to find a way for Anna to talk again with her family. Chompsky leads Anna through a magic tree which transforms the world into one where Anna is able to speak with animals. As they search for a solution to Anna’s problem, Anna learns about how animals communicate and how animal communication differs from human communication. The book will be available separately sometime in the future.]