Linguistics, Literacy and Language Arts
in Teacher Education:
A Guide for Education Majors

       Among all of the many components of child development and young adult learning, the mastery and appreciation of spoken and written language is one of the most important. For most teachers and students, spoken and written language is the primary medium through which the daily activities of the classroom are conducted, and the study of language arts occurs at all levels of the curriculum. No matter where you find yourself as a teacher, on any given teaching day you might find yourself:


As you prepare to become an educator, your course work in linguistics will provide you with a body of knowledge and skills that you can weave together with threads from your literacy, literature and education courses.  It will be up to you, as an educator, to create your own tapestry out of the threads given to you. As you progress through the program, you should begin to notice that the linguistics and language arts curriculum:

Here are some of the threads
in the Linguistics, Literature, Writing and Literacy Curriculum

• Language structure and function –What are the basic building blocks of language? How do the different components of the language system, such as sounds (phonology), words and suffixes (morphology), phrases and clauses (syntax), meanings (semantics), and interpersonal functions (pragmatics) work together to create a whole discourse? How do languages and dialects differ, or resemble one another? How might teachers use this knowledge to understand and assess language development, and facilitate the acquisition of language arts and literacy?

• First and second language acquisition – how do children accomplish the remarkable feat of learning one, or more, complex human languages? What do the stages in language acquisition tell us about the cognitive processes involved? What are the interconnections among language development, cognitive development, and social interaction? How can teachers use their knowledge of first and second language acquisition processes to create the best kinds of learning environments?

• Linguistic and cultural diversity – how does language usage vary in relation to social background, ethnicity, age, gender and geographical region? How can societies and schools support bilingualism, community languages and dialects, second language learning, and mastery of the standard language? How do the facts of language diversity accord with the political and economic pressures for language standards? How can a teacher reconcile the desire to value linguistic diversity with the desire to empower students with a mastery of standard English?

• Emergent Literacy and Literature – How do children recognize the sounds of their language and relate them to letters and print? What are the different kinds of cues that children rely on in making sense of visual and verbal texts? How do early experiences with a rich variety of children’s literature and text support emerging literacy? How might teachers create classroom environments that support emerging writers and readers?

• Developing Literacy and Literature- how can we prepare children for the increasingly important roles that reading and writing, speaking and listening, will play in their lives? What processes do successful writers and public speakers typically use in their own work? How do you help students recognize that their language choices as writers will vary according to audience and purpose? How do you integrate student writing with other areas of the curriculum? How does the writing process support critical thinking, and facilitate understanding of a variety of content areas? How can we help students take pleasure in reading, and in all of the verbal arts, including storytelling, theatre, poetry and song? How can we help students use language: 1) to express themselves, 2) to comprehend the world and its cultural traditions, 3) to participate fully in the economy, 4) to lend their full voice to the discourse of a democratic society.