25 Nov A Reminder to Be Aware of Multiple Intelligences in the Language Class
Does Your Teaching Match Your Students’ Different Learning Styles?
A Reminder to Be Aware of Multiple Intelligences in the Language Class
Author: Ilinca Stroe
In order to teach our students effectively, we need to know how they learn best. During an initial qualification course such as CELTA, trainees are advised to take into account, when planning lessons, mainly two types of learning styles: aural (whereby people learn best through listening and speaking) and visual (where it’s pictures, diagrams and the like that best facilitate learning). Those notions are good but basic. To add depth, complexity and extra effectiveness to our teaching, it would make a lot of sense to look at learning styles from the point of view of multiple intelligences (MI).
If, on the one hand, the learning style is about how a person acquires knowledge, and, on the other, an intelligence can be described as a channel by which a new piece of knowledge is captured, digested and acquired, then it seems reasonable to maintain that there may be as many learning styles as there are multiple intelligences. And there are eight, according to the MI theory proponent, Dr Howard Gardner, ranked here from the highest to the lowest by their dominance among a target group of university EFL students: Interpersonal, Linguistic, Spatial, Logical-mathematical, Bodily-kinesthetic, Intrapersonal, Musical, Naturalistic.
Our language class activities, whether for young or adult learners, should address and stimulate all those different intelligences, if we want our teaching to really enable language acquisition for the whole range of learning styles existing in the class. Designing MI-aware class activities, we appeal and connect to the attending students’ different types of intelligence, we make sure our teaching reaches all of the class. For that to happen, we need to know what it is that defines each of the eight intelligences and what type of activity might best activate it. If based on that, our lesson planning stands a good chance to become more MI-inclusive, and our lessons – more impactful and effective overall.
- Interpersonal intelligence has to do with empathy. It allows us to understand facial expressions and gestures, and to sense the feelings of those around us. The class activities which best respond to interpersonal intelligence are roleplays, team competitions, pair-/group-work, peer-teaching.
- Linguistic intelligence is related to words, speaking and writing. It facilitates verbal communication and self-expression through language. Some of the class activities that stimulate it are lectures, writing assignments, readings, storytelling, grammar and vocabulary exercises (e.g. gapfills), debates.
- Spatial intelligence relies on images and visualisation. It is sensitive to colour, line and shape, and it values the visual representation of ideas. To address this intelligence in class we can make mind maps and graphs, use flashcards and picture stories, watch videos, do picture dictation, draw timelines or play pictionary.
- Logical-mathematical intelligence encompasses numbers, but also logical patterns and functions. It supports processes like categorisations, classifications, inferences, generalisations, hence the class activities that best suit it are explanations of grammar rules, error correction, word games, vocabulary charts.
- Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence deals with the body as a means of expressing ideas and feelings. It involves physical activity, hence the classroom tasks which stimulate it include TPR* activities like “Simon Says”, using realia, playing miming games, making collage, doing crafts, even performing drama.
* TPR = total physical response
- Intrapersonal intelligence is centred around self-awareness, understading one’s capabilities and moods, having self-control. To put it at work in the classroom we can use brainstorming, journal writing and any kind of reflective task (e.g. listing one’s strengths and weaknesses).
- Musical intelligence is all about sounds, beats, pitch, tone and rhythm. People who have it find it easy to perceive and interpret accurately a wide range of sounds. To a language learner, that means pronunciation might be her/his forte. Other suitable class activities: poem writing, jazz chants, songs, choral drilling.
- Naturalistic intelligence has to do with the natural environment. It enables people who have it to easily recognise different types of plants, trees, animals, natural phenomena, etc. In language teaching, this type of intelligence can be nurtured through outdoor classes, field trips or environment-related vocabulary lessons.
At the end, one big question: can language teachers cater for all the eight intelligences, every class? Could every lesson plan be designed in such a way as to address all the existing learning styles? And could every lesson include tasks, explanations, exercises and activities that resonate, at one point or another, with each learner’s specific way of learning? That is certainly a challenge worth posing to oneself. It is ultimately up to us, language teachers, to do our best to teach for as many of the multiple intelligences as we can, day by day, class by class.
International House Bucharest runs regular CELTA and DELTA courses for teachers of English at its Teacher Training Centre, as well as training events online, onsite or at partner locations. To sign up for a course or event, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sanan Shero Malo Zebari, Hussein Ali Ahmed Allo and Behbood Mohammedzadeh. “Multiple Intelligences-Based Planning of EFL Classes.” Advances in Language and Literary Studies 9:2 (April 2018), 98-103.