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Learning Styles and the Multiple Intelligences Theory in the ESL Classroom

Learning Styles and the Multiple Intelligences Theory in the ESL Classroom | ITTT | TEFL Blog

It is evident that, in every classroom, there is a great diversity of students. Diversity talks about race, culture, customs, thinking, etc. Diversity also includes different learning styles of a group of students, for instance, how each student remembers, understands, and applies a concept, new grammar, new vocabulary, and more.

The learning styles are cognitive, affective, and physiological features that are relatively stable indicators that help to analyze how students perceive interactions and answer in a learning environment (Gomez, 2004).

There are learning styles’ strategies that are developed according to cognitive abilities that are classified either in the Model of the Cerebral Hemispheres or the Multiple Intelligence Model. Both the Model of the Cerebral Hemispheres and the Multiple Intelligence Model is intelligence theories that are very important in pedagogy to teach the students according to their skills and ingenuity. However, this research introduces the Multiple Intelligence Model to be able to match a learning style to each kind of intelligence.

What is the Multiple Intelligences Model about?

The Multiple Intelligence Model is based on the existence of at least eight different intelligence types, which describe how the brain capture and understands external information. Each intelligence shows a capacity that works according to its own procedures, systems, rules, and understanding, having its own biological bases.

Music smart – Musical.

It refers to the proper use of rhythm, melody, and tone in musical construction and appreciation in the communication (Macias, 2002).

Body smart – Bodily-Kinesthetic.

This indicates those skills that involve body handling in performing movements based on physical space and to handle objects with dexterity (Macias, 2002).

People smart – Interpersonal.

This shows the ability to recognize the emotions and feelings between people and their groups (Macias, 2002).

Word smart – Verbal linguistic.

It refers to the proper construction of sentences, the use of words according to their meanings and sounds, as well as the use of language in accordance with its various uses (Macias, 2002).

Logic smart – Logical-mathematical.

This involves handling chains of reasoning and identifying patterns of operation in problem solving (Macias, 2002).

Nature smart – Naturalistic.

It refers to the ability to classify and recognize living organisms in nature. These people recognize themselves as part of the environmental ecosystem (Macias, 2002).

Self-smart – Interpersonal.

It indicates the capacity that a person has to know their internal world, their own emotions and feelings, as well as their own strengths and weaknesses (Macias, 2002).

Picture smart – Visual-spatial.

It refers to the ability to handle spaces, plans, maps, and the ability to visualize objects from different perspectives (Macias, 2002).

Most of the people have all these intelligences, although they have developed them in a different level, a product of the biological endowment of each sort of intelligence, of their interaction with the environment and the prevailing culture in their historical moment.

However, we combine them and use them to different degrees, in a personal and unique way. On the other hand, we also have certain less developed intelligences, however, it is possible to develop all intelligences until each one possesses a reasonable level of competence (Programa Nacional de Educación, 2004; Programa Nacional de Educación, 2004).

How can we determine the type of intelligence in a student and how they learn?

It is important to identify the kind of intelligence in every student to apply specific learning styles’ strategies at the moment to teach them a second language, in this case, English. How can we determine the type of intelligence in a student? Independently of their race, age or culture. There are specific Multiple Intelligence Charts that show by type of intelligence what kind of personality, hobbies, likes or dislikes on each of them. And how could I know that information?

In every first class, in the introduction class, the teacher can get personality or hobbies information from a simple sentence: Say your full name and a hobby that you like and why. So with this information and the next chart, the teacher can identify which student is active, or music smart, linguistic, self-smart, etc. Below, there is this kind of chart that helps a lot to identify the type of intelligence of a student and also helps to know what kind of activities could work during a level period with that person or group.

Table 1. Personalities and learning styles by intelligence. (Programa Nacional de Educación, 2004)

Intelligence The student is great in They like: Learning style

Music smart

Music, identifying sounds, singing, rhythms,remembering melodies.Sing, hum, play an instrument, listen to music.Rhythm, melody, singing, listening to music and melodies.

Body smart

Athletics, dance, drama, manual work, use of toolsMove, touch and speak, body language, practice sportsTouching, moving, processing information through bodily sensations.

People smart

Understanding people, leading, organizing, communicating, resolving conflicts,Have friends, talk to people, hang out with peopleSharing, comparing, relating, interviewing, cooperating.

Word smart

Reading writing,

narration stories, think in words. Read, write, tell stories, speak,memorize puzzle listening and seeing words, speaking, writing, discussing and debating.

Logic smart

Math, reasoning, logic, problem solving, patternsWork with numbers, make new projects and experimentsUsing patterns and relationships, classifying, working with the abstract.

Nature smart

Making distinctions, identifying flora and fauna.Participate in nature, activities in natureWork in the natural environment, explore living things, learn about plants and topics related to nature.


Recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, setting goals.Work alone, reflect, follow their interests.Working alone, doing projects at your own pace, having space, reflecting.

Picture smart

Maps, graphs, drawing, mazes, puzzles, imagining things, visualizing.Design, build, dream

look at drawings, drawing Working with drawings and colors, visualizing, using your mental eye, drawing.


The student diversity is colossal: likes and dislikes, skills and shortcomings, strengths and weaknesses. This means that they will show a different reaction when they are learning a new subject in the classroom. Either you can lose them because they did not get interested on the topic (like body smart students) or you can get their full attention because you are being creative and teaching according to each kind of student’s intelligence. Identifying your students’ learning styles through Multiple Intelligences Model, from a very active student to the most passive of them, will help you to give a more dynamic class, changing the activities and innovating in the organization of your lesson planning and teaching material.

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Works Cited

Gomez, J. (2004). Neurociencia cognitiva y educación. Pedro Ruiz Gallo: Fondo Editorial FACHSE.Macias, M. (2002). Las multiples inteligencias. Barranquilla, Colombia: Psicología desde el Caribe.Programa Nacional de Educación. (2004). Manual de Estilos de Aprendizaje. Mexico city: Secretaría de Educación Pública México.