When most people think of language learning in school, they think of reading and writing. Reading and writing are two skills critical for success in both school and in life. But why is the teaching of language referred to as Language Arts? Why isn’t it language science?
It makes sense to categorizing the study of language in school as Language Arts because the study focuses on the art of using language, and there is definitely an art to it. We need to be able to read and if you think about it, there is an art to reading, particularly once you get past the initial learning stages. If you’ve taken even one literature course, you will understand what I mean. There is an art to interpreting the meaning of a poem, a short story, and even a novel.
There is also an art to using language, both spoken and written. How do you move people, persuade them in a speech or in an essay? How do you write a story that gets a reader so involved she feels she is in the story herself? It is an art. To create that kind of art, a writer needs the right tools, and those tools include an understanding of grammar and punctuation. Words and grammar to a writer are like paint and brushes to an artist.
The study of Language Arts is great for verbally gifted children – at least those verbally gifted kids who are see language as an artist sees paint. But there is more to language study that art. There is also science. And this is where we fail so many verbally gifted children.
Some verbally gifted children are interested in language, not as an art form, but as a subject for scientific inquiry. They are more interested in the building blocks, not of a poem, short story, or essay, but of language itself. What are the elements of language? What differentiates human language from animal communication? How do sounds combine to create meaning? How do words combine into sentences to create meaning? How can a sentence be grammatically correct, but still make no sense? (Ex: Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.)
So what can we do? How about introducing the study of linguistics to gifted kids?
Lesson Plans and Materials to Use for a Language Science Unit
Are you interested in teaching language science in addition to language arts, but don’t know how? Work with me to create units you can use in your classes (or at home). Years ago I did a study on teaching linguistics to verbally gifted children in grades 4 through 6. Not only were they able to understand the basic concepts, they LOVED it! (What took place in that study is discussed in my dissertation.)
Based on that study, I have created lesson plans and materials to use for the first three topics that would be covered in a linguistics unit for gifted kids. I have 3-4 lessons plans to create for a complete unit on linguistics. Have a look. See if you believe you could use the materials, and feel free to use them. If something doesn’t make sense, let me know and I’ll see if I can make it clearer. My ultimate goals is to get the materials published (if you help, you’ll be mentioned!) Don’t worry if you aren’t a linguistics expert! Remember what Ms. Frizzle says in the Magic School Bus books: “Get messy! Make mistakes!” It’s okay to make mistakes. And you don’t even have to get messy. It’s okay if you don’t have the all the answers. Not knowing an answer is just an opportunity to research and to learn.
In addition to the unit on linguistics, I’m planning a series of fiction books on linguistics. Ideally these can be used to help children (and teachers and parents) learn about language. I’m currently working on the first book, which covers the question “What is Language?” You can read the first 3 chapters of “Anna and the Translator Tree” to see what you think. The books will come with workbooks so children will have a chance to understand and work with linguistic concepts presented in the books. You can view the first few pages of the first workbook to see if you think children will enjoy thinking about language.http://giftsforlearning.com/wp/the-science-of-language-for-verbally-gifted-kids/http://giftsforlearning.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/language-legos-15382077_s.jpghttp://giftsforlearning.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/language-legos-15382077_s-150x150.jpgEducationLanguage,Linguistics,Verbally Gifted