The Theory of Multiple Intelligences as an Integral Part of ESL Teaching
Every child is born with an immense capacity for learning, with an innate sense of curiosity and creativity that are of vital importance for the learning process to become a truly exciting journey. However, as a child grows up he is immersed into the world of formal schooling that tends to be downright tedious at times. As a result, most often the child feels pressed because of the attempts to fit in the way he is being taught. Memorizing, chasing results becomes a habit, while ingrained personal strengths remain barely discovered. Hence, a huge realm of human inborn potential remains unrecognized. But what if the idea of multiple intelligences would be integrated into modern education? What if the educational system would be based on the idea of making learning process accessible for every kind of mind?
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Armenui T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
The idea of multiple intelligences comes out of psychology. It is a theory that was developed in 1983 by Howard Gardner who claims that every human being has different kinds of intellectual strengths and that these strengths are of crucial importance for the learning process. Moreover, he believes that everything can be taught in more than one way, as well as anything that is understood can be shown in more than one way. If a teacher has a clear understanding of a child's style of learning, if he is aware of the way the student processes and absorbs information, it becomes much easier to set up the right learning environment to uplift the student and help him to succeed academically. So, what are the eight types of multiple intelligences? Let's have a closer look at them.
One of the styles of learning is called interpersonal. Students who have this kind of intelligence dominating benefit from interacting with other students. It means that they thrive in small study groups or peer tutoring sessions. Since they have excellent communication skills, they tend to learn best from performing in front of other students.
Those who prefer a learning environment with little or no interaction are called intrapersonal or solitary learners. Learning becomes personalized for them. They enjoy setting goals and tasks for themselves, choosing their own topics to research as well as internalizing ideas. A calm and quiet environment free of distractions would be most beneficial for this group of students.
Another group of students is known as kinesthetic or physical learners. Such children learn at their full capacity while performing physical activities, stretching or walking around. In a word, learning through their senses is what they crave.
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Students who have a good sense of written and pronounced words are those who have well-developed verbal or linguistic intelligence. They succeed when having an opportunity to express themselves through writing or composing, delivering speeches, participating in debates where they can exchange ideas with their peers. Visual students are likely to have a good imagination, and information is best processed through space and direction. Learning through charts, diagrams, mind mapping suit them to a tee.
Logical or mathematical-style learners need the clearest explanation possible. The best learning environment for them is the one where they can think strategically, complete tasks step by step following clear instructions.
Auditory or musical learners make the most of sounds, rhymes, and music. The emotional connection to sound and music leads them to a better comprehension of information.
Finally, there are students who are recognized as a naturalist. learners. Such children are highly sensitive to nature. They are good at discovering the wonders of it. Moreover, they have an affinity for animals and are skillful at training and understanding them.
How to Adjust the Theory to ESL teaching?
The approach of multiple intelligences can be adopted by EFL teachers and implemented in the process of learning English as a second language. Based on my personal teaching experience I would assume that most of the adult learners have their interpersonal, intrapersonal, verbal and logical intelligences more developed over others, while young learners tend to absorb information better through kinesthetic, visual, auditory and naturali st styles of learning.
Types of Activities
Now we are going to have a look at the activities that can be selected by a teacher to involve all learners equally while building upon their receptive and productive language skills based on the following topic 'flowers'.
I suppose that interpersonal students might feel outrageously engaged to participate in a role-play 'at the florist's' or creating a collage with pictures of various kinds of flowers on it and a short description, then presenting it to their groupmates, giving and receiving feedback.
Intrapersonal students should be given an opportunity to look for the names of flowers themselves. Probably, they might like to choose a kind of flower they like the most and read into it trying to collect more information about it, which they could present the way they find the best, e.g. creating a PPT or 'a flower album'.
Those students having a talent of expressing themselves verbally may leap at an idea of composing a poem about flowers and then reciting it in front of their peers, or recording it using a tape recorder, while logical learners might enjoy finding out the meanings of new words in the dictionary, writing the names of flowers in columns, making up sentences with these words or doing worksheets.
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Currently, I am working with young learners. That is why now I am going to outline the most common activities that I may use while teaching the sentence structure 'It's a flower' trying to take into account the multiple intelligences my students have.
Since most of my students boost energy and vitality, they crave movement. That is why I rely greatly on TPR. The total physical response makes them fully engaged in the lesson. We start each class by moving and shaking our bodies while dancing or performing some simple actions. When teaching a sentence structure 'It's a flower', they can be asked to hop or make frog jumps to the flashcard having a flower on it. Another activity involving physical movement is miming. Students can be asked to mime a flower with their bodies and say 'It's a flower'. Besides, games with a ball can be used to practice any kind of a sentence structure.
Young learners are always thrilled to bits when I draw pictures on the whiteboard. The teacher can draw small parts of 'a flower' on the board asking students to pronounce the following sentence structure 'It's a flower'. The flower can be drawn extremely big or tiny, with a happy or a sad face. Kids can try to help the crying flower to become happy by saying 'It's a flower'. Then they can say goodbye to it. Each time they say 'goodbye flower', the teacher erases a part of it. Besides, for visual students, PPTs work really well. Students can be asked to find 'a flower' on the slide and touch it, or play 'What's a missing game'. Rhyming is an amazing activity for those students who have their auditory skills dominating over other skills. The rhyme 'One-two-three, what do you see? I see a flower, one-two-three' can be effectively used in an EFL classroom. The teacher can use a chair or a box as a drum. Such students enjoy performing activities where they are supposed to say the same sentence with a different pitch of voice. Songs and chants are very welcomed by these students.
For naturalist learners, it would be important to touch a real flower. An activity 'plant and grow a flower' could be used to their advantage. Each kid can be asked to put a seed into the soil and pronounce 'It's a flower'. Then each of them gets a chance to water the seed saying 'It's a flower'. When the flower is grown, each of them can smell or touch the flower and say 'It's a flower'.
As a way of conclusion, I would like to express my perception that true learning should not become an uphill struggle for students. On the contrary, I believe it can become a fascinating process of self-discovery in case if students are allowed to follow their own unique ways of acquiring information. I feel that it is up to us, teachers, to create a fertile environment for learning. We are those who can spark our students' creativity and accelerate both the learning process in general as well as learning a foreign language in particular. Even though it is obvious that we cannot teach in eight different ways at the same time, it is very important to keep asking the question if we reach every child in our class and if not, what can be done about it. We should bear in mind that every person has all the intelligences. However, some of them are more or less developed. Thus, we should make sure that we use different ways of delivering information within a lesson to reach every student equally and create a safe, engaging and educationally sound environment for everyone.
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