• Tom Garside

Implementing Multiple Intelligences in the language classroom

As we saw in our last article, Multiple Intelligences (MI) theory aims to reach the widest range of intelligence spectrums in learners. By stimulating the different intelligences of students in different ways, we can facilitate learning more effectively.

Appealing to a wide range of learners in this way is like planing a diverse menu for a party. The wider the variety of food on offer, the more likely it is that everyone will find something that they like. If you serve the same thing cooked in several different ways (fried chicken, roast chicken, chicken kebabs...), it is less likely to appeal to everyone in the room, and the guests will get tired of chicken pretty quickly, or not be able to eat it at all (for vegetarian or vegan guests). Catering for a range of intelligences is like catering for a range of tastes, and we should think about what task types to put on the menu.

In the language classroom, we are spoilt for different types of stimulus types which could be incorporated into a multiple intelligences approach to learning. The diverse task types we use to teach languages can include work on all of the intelligences that are defined in MI theory.

Verbal / linguistic intelligence (‘word smarts’) is central to what we do - this is the type of stimulus that we want to encourage most. Grammar transformation tasks, deducing meaning, reading comprehension and many more task types require word smarts, so this intelligence is covered

Logical / mathematical intelligence (‘number smarts’) doesn’t just refer to maths and numerical logic. Inductive approaches to language learning, such as deducing meaning from context, working out patterns from examples (rather than having language explained by the teacher), especially through top-down approaches all involve logical thinking, and many students respond well to this more cognitive approach to learning.

Visual / spatial intelligence (‘visual smarts’) is important to tasks which require students to draw or work out spaces and positions, when working with prepositions, for example, or in blind dictation tasks which involve drawing or positioning items. Mingling tasks require students to move around the classroom and talk to a range of partners - perhaps the act of moving from partner to partner helps to support spatially strong learners

Bodily / kinaesthetic intelligence (‘body smarts’) is not traditionally associated with language learning, though approaches such as learning by doing, Total Physical Response and running games all harness the physical aspects of learners to get them engaged in different ways

Musical / rhythmic intelligence (‘music smarts’) are important when using poetry or song in the classroom, which are common resources in language learning. Also, pronunciation work with stress, rhythm, pacing and intonation involve aspects of musicality which can work for musically intelligent learners

Interpersonal intelligence (‘people smarts’) is central to communicative tasks where students need to share information to achieve an outcome, such as information gap tasks, discussions, surveys and Q and A tasks.

Intrapersonal intelligence (‘self-smarts’) is important to reflective thinking and working independently, as well as individual study contexts such as exam preparation. A lot of learning time is spent working out meaning and language structures, and many students work well on their own, figuring things out for themselves before sharing ideas with others.

Naturalist intelligence (‘Nature smarts’) is less easy to bring in to the language classroom, though given the range of contexts which typically appear in language learning materials, and given the recent increase in focus on environmental topics, naturalist intelligence is more and more a part of every classroom.

According to Gardner’s MI theory, the important thing is to ensure a range of stimulus types across the lessons that we teach. The best way to achieve this is to plan your teaching with examples of each of the above task types, whether that is across a week of study, every few days, or even in a single lesson.

Next time you are planning a series of lessons focusing on a specific topic or set of language points, think about how you can approach it from different angles based on this range of tasks, appealing to this range of intelligences, and you will connect with the widest range of learners possible.

Tom Garside is Director of Language Point Teacher Education. Language Point delivers the internationally recognised RQF level 6 Trinity College Certificate for Practising Teachers, a contextually-informed teacher development qualification with specific courses which focus on online language education or online methodology.

If you are interested to know more about these qualifications, or you want take your teaching to a new level with our teacher development courses, contact us or see our course dates and fees for details.