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8 Smarts in ELT Materials
by Beril Ayman Yücel
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" Each student is unique and all in individual ways offer valuable contributions to human culture."
(Campbell, L., Campbell B. & Dickinson, D.1996)


ESL/EFL teachers very often observe a lot of individual differences among students in terms of their learning. There are some students who can use visual aids or pictures successfully in their learning. There are some who are gifted in writing poems or stories. Some are good at sequencing. Some students find it easy to work with peers, cooperate in activities and understand others' feelings. Others are good at identifying their own strengths, weaknesses, feelings and moods. Some students are really successful in using their body and movement while some others can create melody or rhythm easily. And there are also some students who can do classifications very well. So as teachers how can we plan our lessons and design our materials to address to these different groups of students who have developed different intelligences? Fortunately, there are various strategies and materials teachers can make use of to improve the quantity and quality of learning in their classes. However, teachers should continuously be asking themselves what they know about their students and how they can appeal to individual needs and ways of learning.

Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences Theory has shed light on many areas in ELT. According to this theory, people possess varying amounts of eight intelligences, and combine and use them in highly personal ways. Taking this into consideration, teachers should plan their lessons in such a way that students can activate their intelligences and learn in their own most efficient way. One of the most significant components of lesson planning is materials design. Materials are important in the sense that they should provide a clear and coherent structure which guides both the teacher and the learner through a variety of activities to increase the chances of learning. They should also provide opportunities for learners to use their thinking capacities and should appeal to their way of learning. Therefore, it is important for a teacher to look for some ways of integrating Multiple Intelligences into her/his materials.

This article presents some tips for EFL/ESL teachers about how to explore the 'Eight Smarts' (Logical-Mathematical/Visual-Spatial/Musical/Verbal-Linguistic/ Bodily-Kinesthetic/ Naturalist/Interpersonal and Intrapersonal) when designing suitable and effective materials. Initially, the characteristics of the eight intelligences are presented. Secondly, the crucial points that need to be taken into consideration in materials design are discussed. Finally, a checklist is provided for teachers who would like to integrate multiple intelligences into their materials.


Gardner defines intelligence as:

  • the ability to solve problems that one encounters in real life.
  • the ability to generate new problems to solve
  • the ability to make something or offer a service that is valued within one's culture.

(Campbell, L., Campbell B. & Dickinson, D.1996)
Gardner's eight intelligences are described in Campbell, L., Campbell B. & Dickinson, D.(1996,pg. 16) as follows:

Verbal-linguistic intelligence consists of the ability to think in words and to use language to express and appreciate complex meanings. This intelligence is best exhibited by poets, journalists, lawyers, speakers,etc.

Logical-mathematical intelligence makes it possible to calculate, quantify, consider propositions and hypotheses, and carry out complex mathematical operations. Scientists, engineers, mathematicians,etc demonstrate strong logical-mathematical intelligence.

Visual-spatial intelligence
enables one to perceive external & internal imagery, to recreate, transform, or modify images, to navigate oneself and objects through space, and to produce or decode graphic information. Sailors, painters,architects,etc are some examples who have this type of intelligence.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence enables one to manipulate objects and fine-tune physical skills. Dancers, athletes, etc have this type of intelligence.

Musical intelligence is evident in individuals who possess a sensitivity to pitch, melody,rhythm, and tone. Those demonstrating this intelligence include composers, conductors, musicians,etc.

Interpersonal intelligence is the capacity to understand and interact effectively with others. It is evident in successful teachers, social workers, actors, or politicians.

Intrapersonal intelligence refers to the ability to construct an accurate perception of oneself and to use such knowledge in planning and directing one's life. Some individuals with strong intrapersonal intelligence specialize as theologians, psychologists, and philosophers.

Dr. Gardner added the Naturalist intelligence to his list in 1996. This intelligence has to do with recognising and classifying plants, minerals, and animals. People who possess this type of intelligence are good at observing, understanding and organising patterns in the natural environment. Hunters, farmers or biologists can be given as examples of people who develop naturalist intelligence.

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