8 Smarts in ELT Materials by Beril Ayman Yücel

" 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.


Materials design is an on-going process and requires a great deal of effort, time and training. While designing materials, teachers should consider whether

  • the aims of the material are clear to the learners
  • the material is relevant to the needs/interests/ level of the learners
  • the material meets the course objectives
  • the topic/content of the material is interesting for the learners
  • the learners can relate to the topic through their own experiences, interests and cultural knowledge
  • the material includes sufficient number of activities
  • there is a variety of activities in the material
  • the activities in the material provide enough practice to develop certain skills
  • the activities encourage personal involvement of the learners in the learning process
  • there is a logical progression between the activities
  • it is easy for the students to follow the material
  • the texts, exercises and visuals are clearly presented
  • the layout of the material is easy to follow
  • the layout is attractive and appealing
  • the material is at the right level of difficulty

Teachers should always be aware of the fact that piloting plays quite a significant role in the production of quality materials. Feedback about materials should be received continuously from the learners and other colleagues and materials should be improved in the light of this feedback.

Another main point that should be kept in mind is that it would be quite beneficial and practical for the teachers to use some kind of checklist or set of criteria when designing materials.


After introducing the characteristics of the eight intelligences and discussing the crucial points in materials design, it would be a good idea to share the chart on the next page which includes the eight intelligences and some questions designed according to their main characteristics. It would be helpful for teachers to use this as a checklist to see how they can integrate the intelligences into their materials.


  • What kinds of critical thinking or problem-solving activities can I integrate into my material?
  • Would it be possible to put some puzzles, charts, mind maps into the material? How?
  • What kind of visual aids (pictures, OHTs, word flashcards,etc), visualisation and colour can I use?
  • Where can I locate these visuals on my material?
  • What kind of music, songs, environmental sounds, rythmical patterns can I use?
  • At what stage of the material can music/songs or poetry be used?
  • What kind of stories, poems, short plays, word games, lectures, etc can I use?
  • How can I include note-taking and presentation skills in my material?
  • What kind of role-play cards, puzzle cards can I prepare?
  • What kind of hands-on materials can I prepare?
  • What kind of category charts and diagrams can I use?
  • How can I encourage students to describe or observe the environment and relate it to the subject in my material?
  • What kind of pair work/ group work activities can I integrate into my material?
  • What kind of peer sharing or co-operative learning materials can I use?
  • What kind of activities can I cover in my material which would evoke personal feelings or values?
  • Would it be possible to put a journal component in my material?

Teachers have to help learners use the combination of their intelligences to be successful in school and in life. They should support them to use their intelligences in the most efficient way. There is not only one way to learn how to read or how to write. It would not be wise to say that everything should be taught in eight ways. Equally, it would be meaningless to say that all intelligences can be covered in one specific piece of material. That is not the point of the Multiple Intelligences Theory. The theory should be applied gradually.


In conclusion, it can be said that teachers have to be extraordinarily imaginative, creative and persistent in helping students understand things better and make learning meaningful. The teacher's role is to encourage learners to use their minds well, and this can be achieved by careful planning and effective materials design.


Campbell, L. , Campbell,B. & Dickinson, D. (1996). Teaching & Learning Through Multiple Intelligences. Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon.


Beril Ayman Yücel works as the Head of Teacher Training and Development Unit at the English Language Department of Baskent University, Ankara, Turkey. She has a BA in ELT and holds an MSc in Educational Sciences from Middle East Technical University, Ankara. Her most recent work with Meral Güçeri is on Action Research and was published in May 2002. Her professional interests are materials design, teacher education, research and educational administration.

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