24.S95 | Spring 2023 | Graduate

Linguistics in K–12 Education


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week; 3 hrs / session


There are two prerequisites: first, that you come motivated to make linguistic inquiry accessible to all; second, that you come committed to collaborating with others in this work.

Previous experience teaching linguistics at any level is welcome, but not required. Graduate students from other departments and undergraduates are also welcome if they have taken a linguistics course or have my approval.

Course Description

In this seminar, we will explore the idea that the study of language in K–12 (kindergarten to grade 12) education can be a means to develop young people’s understanding of scientific inquiry as well as their understanding of the nature of language. We will examine the view that the native language knowledge that each student brings to the classroom comprises a rich, accessible database, which can be used to give students the opportunity to become familiar with the methods, concepts, and attitudes of scientific inquiry. We will probe past and current efforts to engage young learners in linguistic inquiry and consider how to advance this work.

The challenge of this seminar is to create pedagogical materials and methods that will motivate learners of all ages to be inquisitive about their native language and about language in general, with a primary focus on secondary school students (grades 6–12). Seminar participants will work with one another and in partnership with K–12 teachers whenever possible.

Course Context

This course is offered in the context of a revitalized MIT Linguistics initiative to introduce high school students to language science. A major objective of the initiative is to design an introductory high school linguistics course that will excite students about the scientific study of human language. We will pursue our work with this objective in mind, using our class as a design laboratory.

Learning Goals

This course is designed to enable you to do the following:

  • Analyze case studies of K–12 linguistics through the lens of curriculum design
  • Design and present a linguistics “unit” (course/unit/lesson) within the Understanding by Design (UbD) framework of “backwards” course design, which involves identifying “desired results,” determining “evidence of understanding,” and developing a “learning plan” and “learning events”
  • Engage learners in linguistic inquiry by using effective instructional practices
  • Collaborate with others by giving and receiving feedback on unit design and co-teaching
  • Deepen your thinking about core linguistic concepts through reflection on curriculum
  • Reflect on what linguists need to know about introducing linguistics in K–12 settings

Course Requirements

Prepared Class Participation

We will spend much of class learning by doing: learning the UbD framework by designing units of instruction. The vitality of our discussions and the progress we make in our design work depend on everyone being an active, prepared participant in every class. Class participation, with no more than two absences, will contribute significantly to your grade. If you must miss class for any reason, please email me as soon as you can.


(For more information about each of these projects, see the Assignments page.) 

Design and Teaching Experience I: Spring Spark

Our class will participate in Spring Spark, a 2-day-long, weekend program at MIT hosted by the student-run MIT Educational Studies Program. We will register as a group to cooperatively teach two sections of Language Science.

Design and Teaching Experience II: A Linguistics Lesson in a Partner Teacher’s Class

You will pair up with a middle school or high school teacher who will help you develop a presentation, lesson, or activity (hereafter referred to as the ‘lesson’), which you will then deliver in that teacher’s class.

Poster Presentation

At the end of this course, you will make a poster presentation to the class and to the MIT Linguistics community about your work.

Final Project and Paper: A Linguistics Unit

For your final project, you will develop a linguistics unit using the UbD framework, and write a paper about the unit. 

A Note about Collaboration

This course will involve a good deal of work with class colleagues. I encourage you to work with others throughout the semester as you develop, try out, assess, and hone your ideas and your work. But please: Write up the work that you submit on your own. If you collaborated with others on the work, acknowledge their contribution. If you have any questions about this, please speak to me.

Academic Integrity

I will hold all members of this class to the high standard of academic integrity that is expected of students at MIT. I expect that you will submit work that you have done yourself and that you will acknowledge the sources that you use and the contributions of others to your work. (See A Note about Collaboration, above.) It is important that you know, understand, and uphold MIT’s policies regarding academic integrity, which are available at Academic Integrity at MIT: A Handbook for Students. If you have any questions about these policies, please speak with me.


MIT and MIT Linguistics value diversity of backgrounds and an inclusive environment. I too share these values. I welcome all of you and I hope to foster a sense of community in this course. I expect all members of this class to contribute to making this class a respectful, welcoming, and inclusive environment. If this standard is not being upheld, please speak with me.


Accessibility is necessary for an inclusive environment. If you need disability-related accommodations, I encourage you to meet with me early in the semester so that I can support you with your approved accommodations. If you have not yet been approved for accommodations, please contact Student Disability Services.


Your course grade will be based on the following components:

  • Prepared class participation and reflection essays (50%)
  • Poster presentation (15%)
  • Final project paper (35%).

If you have any questions or concerns about your work in this course, please speak to me.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2023
Learning Resource Types
Instructor Insights
Lecture Notes
Written Assignments with Examples