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Reading tasks for logical-mathematical
language learners
by Rolf Palmberg
- 1

Introduction and aim

We are not all the same. According to Howard Gardner, creator of the Multiple Intelligences (MI) Theory, we all have personal intelligence profiles that consist of combinations of eight or nine different intelligence types. An important message of the MI Theory is this: if education is to work as effectively as possible, teachers should take into account their learners’ MI profiles rather than ignore them (Gardner 1983, 1993).

The aim of the present paper is to give examples of reading tasks that are particularly attractive to logical-mathematical language learners. Such learners, according to Gardner’s MI Theory, are particularly fond of logical reasoning and numbers. They especially enjoy tasks that involve problem solving, finding patterns, categorising words and objects, completing brain teasers, and asking ‘why’ questions. The tasks presented below therefore go beyond what Neville Grant refers to as “plain sense reading”, i.e. the ability to understand what is stated in a text, or simply, the ability to “read the lines” (Grant 1987).

TASK ONE – jigsaw reading

The first task is based on the principle of jigsaw reading, but it has an additional twist. The teacher starts by pre-teaching (or revising) the most relevant vocabulary items in the sample text ‘The Window’ (taken from Berman 2008; see Appendix 1). Next, s/he divides the class into groups of three to four learners. Each group is given a copy of the text, which – just like a real jigsaw puzzle – has been cut into pieces (there are seven pieces, each constituting one of the first seven paragraphs – the last paragraph should not be handed out). The learners’ task is to arrange the paragraphs (marked A-F for reference purposes) into their correct order, and, within each group, to come up with a suitable ending to the story.

After each group has presented their ending of the story, the teacher reveals the correct order of the paragraphs (which is D-A-F-B-E-C-G) as well as the original ending (the missing eighth paragraph). If there is time, the learners are encouraged to discuss the moral of the story or to decide which group has the best ending.

TASK TWO – deductive reading

The second task requires learners to be able to draw inferences from a text, i.e. to “read between the lines” (Grant 1987). The teacher hands out a modified version of ‘Monologue 9’ (Mortimer 1980 p. 18; see Appendix 2), a text that was originally written to test learners’ listening comprehension ability. The learners’ task is to read through the text individually and answer twenty comprehension questions. It is a good idea to translate the questions into the learners’ mother tongue before handing them out. In doing so, the teacher can better judge whether the learners have in fact understood the text.

When the learners have answered the questions, they are asked to compare and discuss their answers in pairs or in groups of three or four.

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