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It’s Christmas time – an EFL lesson plan*
by Rolf Palmberg

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Characteristics of learners representing different intelligence types

According to Gardner (1983, 1993, 1999), Berman (2002) and Christison (2005), verbal-linguistic learners enjoy expressing themselves orally and in writing and love wordplay, riddles and listening to stories. Logical-mathematical 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 different intelligence types are catered for (especially) during the following phases of the sample lesson outlined above:

verbal-linguistic learners: all phases;
logical-mathematical learners: phase 3 (stations A & D) & phase 6;
visual-spatial learners: phase 3 (stations A, C & E);
bodily-kinaesthetic learners: phase 3 (when moving between stations) & phase 5;
musical-rhythmic learners: phase 3 (station E);
interpersonal learners: phases 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7;
intrapersonal learners: phases 1, 2 & 8;
naturalist learners: phase 3 (station B);
existentialist learners: phases 1 & 8.


As early as in 1976, Earl Stevick pointed out that memory works at its best when the new subject matter appeals to the students and they can organise what they are learning into familiar patterns (Stevick 1976). The ability to remember new vocabulary items is further increased when students are allowed to use their imagination during the learning process (as during the categorisation task at Station B). Conscious effort (referred to by Stevick as ‘depth’) is required from students in order to enable the target vocabulary to be properly processed and transferred from the short-term memory into the long-term memory.

From a teaching point of view, therefore, the important thing is not whether teachers choose to base their teaching on specific course books or whether they reserve the right to interpret, select and use the types of classroom activities that can cater for the intelligence profiles of their particular learner group. It is far more important for teachers to realise that learners are in fact different and therefore require different types of classroom activities and techniques in order to code the new information successfully and store it in their long-term memory. Only in doing so can teachers fully encourage their students to try harder and at the same time make the learning environment as meaningful and enjoyable as possible for the parties involved.

* This is an extended version of a paper presented at the 6th Asia TEFL International Conference held in Bali in August, 2008.


Berman, Michael (2002). A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom. Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing. Second edition.

Christison, Mary Ann (2005). Multiple Intelligences and Language Learning. San Francisco: Alta Books.

Gardner, Howard (1983). Frames of mind. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Gardner, Howard (1993). Multiple Intelligences. The Theory in Practice. New York: Basic Books.

Gardner, Howard (1999). Intelligence Reframed. Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York: Basic Books.

Stevick, Earl (1976). Memory, Meaning and Method. Rowley: Newbury House.

Woolfolk, Anita (2001). Educational Psychology. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Eighth edition.


Rolf 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.
He is also the author of a range of CALL programs and Java applets, available at: His non-academic interests include geographical enclaves and tripoints.

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