How Can The Theory of Multiple Intelligences Help in Teaching Children?
Learning and teaching process requires awareness of types of intelligence and learning styles. Some people use a mnemonic device Method of loci, or memory palace, to recall information. This method is based on spatial memory to learn by heart names, numbers, or objects. Others may need to move or use the so-called Total Physical Response that helps them to start thinking. Every student is unique and uses different learning strategies. One of the reasons is the variety of intelligences. Multiple intelligences concept helps to develop the abilities of different students. For example, the focus is on children learning English as a foreign language. If a teacher wants to design diverse and interesting lessons, he/she needs to know more about this theory.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Marina R. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
The Essence of the Theory
The theory of Multiple intelligences was formulated in 1983. Howard Gardner, the Harvard professor, criticized the limitations of I.Q. tests and explained why. The author stated that “the tasks are definitely skewed in favor of individuals in society with schooling and particularly in favor of individuals who are accustomed to taking paper-and-pencil tests, featuring delineated answers” (Howard Gardner, 1993: 16). He stressed that the process of learning and assessing is more complex and diverse. Since then Gardner’s model of eight intelligences became classic. It revealed different ways of identifying learners’ strengths and weaknesses. Moreover, the study showed that people could improve them through learning activities.
Eight main intelligences reflect the ways people use and develop their capabilities. Linguistic intelligence deals with receptive and productive skills such as reading, listening, speaking and writing.
Logical/Mathematical intelligence copes with logic, numbers and rational thinking. The musical one means the ability to distinguish different sounds and rhythms. Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence includes control over body and movements. Spatial intelligence is about visual materials like photos, videos, charts, and diagrams. Interpersonal intelligence describes the abilities to understand the feelings and emotions of others. Intrapersonal intelligence is connected to self-awareness and the ability to organize oneself.
Naturalistic intelligence reflects the ability to understand nature and its patterns. This knowledge caters to different students and helps to improve their learning skills.
The theory of Multiple intelligences reveals some disadvantages of using only I.Q. tests and broadens the mind. Students have all these intelligence but use them at different levels. A teacher can vary the ways information presented and discussed during the lesson. Children as a category of learners are more open and enthusiastic about classes and different games. That is why it is simple and rewarding to diversify classroom activities.
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How a teacher can put this theory into practice?
He/she can include photos, experiments, communicative activities, TPR-chant, or puzzles in lesson plans. Also, one can launch the sharing process. Children with strong Logical/Mathematical intelligence can share their strategies on how to complete tasks. A student with developed Musical intelligence can assist a teacher or leader in singing a song. This kind of cooperation creates an open and inspiring atmosphere and increases children’s self-confidence.
Teachers can add activities connected to different intelligences to any stage of a lesson. There are suggestions in the following example. On the Engage stage, a teacher prepares videos, audios, or simple games. This approach awakens chosen intelligences and allows to begin a lesson inclusively. The Study stage may consist of visual aids (spatial intelligence) and worksheets as individual or group tasks. Pair work for interpersonal intelligence development and drilling for the linguistic one are suitable for this part too. At this stage, children use various intelligences to complete tasks and share their experiences. On the Activate stage, a teacher sums up the whole class topic, adds activities and lets the students be creative. The stage may contain self-evaluation (intrapersonal intelligence), role-plays, and questionnaires (interpersonal intelligence). The main point of all these stages is to play to children’s strengths and develop all their intelligences.
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It is crucial to use not only a linguistic approach during EFL classes. However, if teachers try to include all the types of intelligences at once, it may cause an overload of information. Tasks will change too often and students will not have enough time to analyze and reflect closely. Another problem might arise in a large group if a teacher attempts to tailor a class for all students of different intelligences. It may cause difficulties in planning and designing a lesson. Although variety is the spice of life, teachers should use theoretical concepts wisely. Finding balance requires practice and error analysis.
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The knowledge of Multiple intelligences theory is one of the milestones of personality development. It appeals to a child as an individual and takes into account one’s strengths and weaknesses. The appropriate use of this concept will add more diversity, integration, and fun to any class. Besides, it will increase cultural and cooperative levels and allow children to express themselves in different ways. Also, if a teacher is aware of his/her own strong and weak intelligences, it will help to build rapport with students and improve children’s learning skills and cognitive abilities.
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