Catering to Multiple Intelligences
A foreign-language lesson plan involving houses
By Rolf Palmberg
In 1983, Howard Gardner, the creator of the Multiple Intelligences (MI) Theory, suggested that all individuals have personal intelligence profiles that consist of combinations of seven different intelligence types. These intelligences were (Gardner 1983):
In 1997 Gardner added an eighth intelligence type to the list, that of naturalist intelligence, and two years later a ninth type, that of existentialist intelligence (Gardner 1999). To the best of my knowledge, Michael Berman was the first to extensively apply Gardner's MI Theory to foreign-language teaching (Berman 1998/2002).
The purpose of the paper is twofold: first, to demonstrate how teachers can cater optimally for learners with different intelligence profiles during a foreign-language lesson, and second, to show that this can be easily achieved using everyday classroom activities and techniques.
A proposed foreign-language lesson
Phase 1: Share the goals of the lesson with the learners. Tell them that after the lesson, they will be able to recognise the names of common rooms and other words related to houses. Furthermore, they will be able to use most of the vocabulary items productively or, more precisely, to be able to describe houses and name the various rooms that houses may hold, to ask questions about houses, and to argue in favour of their own as well as against other people's opinions.
Next, invite them to suggest real-life situations in which they may have to discuss or describe houses in a foreign language.
Phase 2: Read out the text entitled "Our House" to the learners. Ask them to listen carefully and to pay special attention to the various types of rooms mentioned in the text. You could also invite one of the learners to do the reading.
I live in a big yellow house near the main road. Our house has eight windows and two balconies that overlook a big garden. On the ground floor there are a kitchen, a hall, a living-room with many paintings on the walls, a dining-room where we have all our meals, a bathroom, a toilet, a computer room with lots of books in a giant bookcase that fills the whole wall, and a garage. In front of the house there are a garden, a swimming-pool, and a large, green fountain with fish.
On the first floor there are three bedrooms, a bathroom, and a small toilet. On the second floor there is an attic which has all kinds of old furniture. Behind the house there is a vegetable garden. We have a large basement too, with a cosy sitting-room and an open fireplace.
Phase 3: Divide the learners into pairs and ask them to list the different rooms mentioned in the text and to provide answers to the following questions:
Phase 4: Ask the learners to make individual lists of all the rooms they wish they had in their dream house. Also, ask them to specify whether their dream house is new or old, a single-family house or in a block of flats, located in a city or in the countryside, etc.
Play the song "Our House" (performed by Crosby, Stills and Nash) at a low volume in the background while the learners are working.
Phase 5: Divide the learners into groups of three and give each group a copy of the house plan shown below. Ask each group to agree among themselves as to which rooms there are in the house plan, and at the same time try to include as many elements as possible from every group member's individual dream house.
Phase 6: When the learners are finished, invite them to walk around in the classroom, discussing and comparing house plans. Ask them to make notes of the types of houses included in everybody else's individual house plans while walking around, and also of the rooms found in the house plans agreed upon within the groups.
Phase 7: Divide the learners into new groups of three and ask each group:
Phase 8: Play the background song "Our House" one more time (at a higher volume) and ask the learners to concentrate specifically on the lyrics1. Next, ask them to decide what the text is all about and then share their thoughts with the learners sitting next to them.
Phase 9: As the final phase of the lesson, ask your learners to work with a computer program entitled "Our House". [Youll find an alternative lesson plan involving this program here2. The program is downloadable free of charge from the author's CALL site3.] The program opens with a blank screen and the learners' task is to complete the program text by suggesting words to it. Each accepted word will appear on its correct line(s) and in its correct place(s) in relation to all visible words, but without any indication as to the number or place(s) of the missing words. Invite the learners to help one another but challenge them to complete the program text [which is in fact identical with the original text] without using the "Help" function of the program. Since the purpose of this phase is repetition, it could be a good idea to postpone this phase until the following English lesson.
Characteristics of learners representing different intelligence types
According to Gardner (1983, 1993, 1999) and Berman (1998/2002), verbal-linguistic learners enjoy expressing themselves orally and in writing, and love wordplay, riddles and listening to stories. Mathematical-logical learners display an aptitude for numbers, reasoning and problem solving, whereas visual-spatial learners tend to think in pictures and mental images, and enjoy illustrations, charts, tables and maps. Bodily-kinaesthetic learners experience learning best through various kinds of movement, while musical-rhythmic learners learn best through songs, patterns, rhythms and musical expression. Intrapersonal learners are reflective and intuitive about how and what they learn, whereas interpersonal learners like to interact with others and learn best in groups or with a partner. Naturalist learners love the outdoors and enjoy classifying and categorising activities. Existentialist learners, finally, are concerned with philosophical issues such as the status of mankind in relation to universal existence.
Catering for the various intelligence types
The various intelligence types are catered for in particularly during the following phases of the proposed foreign-language lesson:
From a teaching point of view, the important thing is not whether teachers elect to base their teaching on specific coursebooks or whether they reserve the right to interpret, select and use the types of classroom activities that can cater for (or be designed to cater for) the intelligence profiles of their particular learner group. It is far more important for teachers to recognise the fact that learners are in fact different and therefore may need different types of classroom activities and techniques in order to learn. Only in doing so can teachers fully encourage their learners to try harder and at the same time make the learning environment as meaningful and enjoyable as possible for all parties involved.