with multiple intelligences
activities for foreign language teachers
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 verbal-linguistic,
mathematical-logical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic,
musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal (Gardner
1983, 1993). In 1997 Gardner added an eighth intelligence
type to the list, naturalist intelligence, followed by a ninth
type two years later, existentialist intelligence (Gardner
1999). To the best of my knowledge, Gardner's MI Theory was
first applied exclusively to foreign-language teaching by
Michael Berman in his 1998 book A Multiple Intelligences Road
to an ELT Classroom.
by Rosie Tanners two papers on Howard Gardners
MI Theory and how to apply them in foreign-language teaching
(Tanner 2001a, 2001b), I decided to expand her suggestions
into an eight-step activity plan for teachers who are familiar
with Gardners MI Theory in general but do not know exactly
how and where to start.
your own intelligence profile. There are several questionnaires
available, one of the most comprehensive ones being Walter
McKenzies survey published on the internet (McKenzie
1999). Another fairly comprehensive one (specifically aimed
at language teachers) is the one by Rosie Tanner (2001a).
your learners intelligence profiles. Again, there are
several questionnaires to be found for this purpose, e.g.
the one in Berman (1998). Another way of identifying learners
intelligence profiles is through observation, using e.g. Thomas
Armstrongs checklist which is available on the internet
the list of activities (methods of work, types of practice,
classroom techniques) presented in Bermans book (1998)
and try to categorise them according to the intelligence they
cater for. Which of them are best suitable for foreign-language
teaching in general and which are best suitable for your learners
the language-skills activities chart suggested by Tanner (2001b).
Select one of the four language skills (e.g. reading) and
cut out the list of suggestions made for that particular language
skill for each of the eight different intelligences contained
in the chart. Next, prepare a similar list of activities for
each intelligence, but this time concentrating on another
language skill (e.g. listening). When you have finished, compare
your list of activities with Tanners list of suggested
some foreign-language teaching workbooks. Try to identify
a number of typical exercises or activities for each of the
nine intelligences. How many can you find that cater for five
or six different intelligences at the same time? Are there
specific intelligences that are often linked to one another,
or, to put it differently, are there specific intelligences
that can often be catered for through a single type of exercise
on your most recent foreign-language lesson. Assuming that
you had to do the same lesson again, this time with a class
consisting of, say, only bodily-kinaesthetic learners, what
would you do differently? Why?
a teaching topic for a specific learner group. Write down
the topic on a large sheet of paper and draw a circle around
the word. Make notes of all tasks, texts, exercises, methods
of work, aids, activities, songs etc. that relate to the given
topic and that you come to think of. Do not mind if they appear
unrealistic or impracticable. Next, arrange your ideas according
to the intelligence you think they cater for the best. (If
you are a spatial learner yourself, you might want to draw
nine new circles around the central circle and draw lines
from the central circle to each of the new circles. Label
the new circles according to each intelligence, and write
down your ideas into the appropriate circles; idea based on
take an overall look at your sheet of paper. Are there activities
that can be combined? Are there activities that can be modified
to fulfil the teaching objectives more efficiently? Are there
activities that for some reason do not seem suitable for the
present context? Next, rearrange the remaining, possibly modified
ideas and activities into a logical order (from old to new;
from easy to more difficult).
a new language lesson the way you normally do, using, if applicable,
the ideas you came up with during Step Eight. Then answer
the following questions (modified from Nicholson-Nelson 1998)
and make adjustments into your lesson plan wherever necassary:
Have you provided the learners with opportunities to speak,
listen, read and write?
(b) Have you included numbers, calculations and/or activities
requiring critical thinking?
(c) Have you included pictures, graphs and/or art?
(d) Have you included activities involving movement?
(e) Have you included music and/or rhythms?
(f) Have you included pair work and/or group work?
(g) Have you provided the learners with private learning time
and/or time for reflexion?
(h) Have you included categorisation tasks and/or arranging
(i) Have you helped the learners consider the topic/theme/grammar
point(s) of todays lesson in relation to a larger context?
T. 1999. 7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your
Many Intelligences. New York: Plume Books.
M. 1998. A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom.
Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing. [A new edition of the
book is in press.]
H. 1983. Frames of mind. The theory of multiple intelligences.
New York: Basic Books.
H. 1993. Multiple intelligences. The theory in practice. New
York: Basic Books.
H. 1999. Intelligence Reframed. Multiple Intelligences for
the 21st Century. New York: Basic Books.
W. 1999. Multiple Intelligences Survey. http://surfaquarium.com/MIinvent.htm.
K. 1998. Developing Students Multiple Intelligences.
New York: Scholastic Professional Books.
R. 2001a. MI and you. English Teaching professional
21 (pp. 57-58).
R. 2001b. Teaching intelligently. English Teaching
professional 20 (pp. 40-41).
Palmberg is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Teacher
Education at Åbo Akademi University in Vaasa, Finland,
where he has taught EFL methodology since 1979. His publications
comprise a number of books and papers mainly in the fields
of applied linguistics and EFL methodology.
is also the author of a range of CALL programs and Java
applets, available at: http://www.vasa.abo.fi/users/rpalmber/download.htm
His non-academic interests include geographical enclaves
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