The weekly column
Article 85, January 2002
CATERING FOR MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES - A FOREIGN-LANGUAGE LESSON PLAN INVOLVING OCCUPATIONS *
By Rolf Palmberg Department of Teacher Education, Åbo Akademi University (Vaasa, Finland)
Introduction and aim
In 1983, Howard Gardner, the creator of the Multiple Intelligences (MI) Theory, suggested that all individuals have personal intelligence profiles that consist of combinations of seven different intelligence types. These intelligences were verbal-linguistic, mathematical-logical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal (Gardner 1983). In 1997 Gardner added an eighth intelligence type to the list, naturalist intelligence, and two years later a ninth type, existentialist intelligence (Gardner 1999). Gardner's MI Theory was first applied to foreign-language teaching by Michael Berman in 1998.
The purpose of this paper is twofold: first, to illustrate how teachers can cater optimally for learners with different intelligence profiles during a foreign-language lesson, and second, to suggest ways in which a learning environment in which learners feel secure and relaxed can be created.
The goals of the proposed lesson are for participating learners to be able to introduce themselves, to tell their occupation, and to ask for other people's names and occupations in the foreign language. The learners will also learn the names of a number of occupations in the foreign language either receptively or productively.
Phase 1: Start the lesson by playing a song indicating an occupation or occupations, for example Rod Stewart's "I'm sailing". Invite the learners to guess the topic of the lesson.
Phase 2: Share the goals of the lesson with the learners. Invite them to suggest different situations in which one has to introduce oneself and be able to ask for somebody else's name and occupation in a foreign language.
Phase 3: Ask the learners to name some occupations that they already know in the foreign language.
Phase 4: Display a transparency showing a list of typical occupations, such as doctor, teacher, cook, mechanic, musician, waiter, baker, nurse, farmer, policeman, soldier, artist, worker, butcher, carpenter, and postman. Go through the meaning of the occupations in two steps: first, by asking the learners to see how many occupations they can tell the meaning of (either because they already know the word or because they can guess the meaning of the foreign-language word owing to the fact that it is similar to the translational equivalent of the corresponding mother-tongue word); second, by explaining to them the meaning of the remaining occupations. Next, practise the pronunciation of the words with the learners.
Phase 5: Ask the learners to copy the list of occupations on a lined sheet of paper, with one occupation on each line. Or, if you want to save lesson time, hand out such a (pre-prepared) worksheet to each learner.
Phase 6: Write the phrases "What is your name? My name is ..." and "What's your occupation? I'm a(n) ..." on the blackboard. Teach (or revise, if more appropriate) the meaning of the phrases to the learners and practise the pronunciation.
Phase 7: Display a transparency showing pictures representing the selected occupations, with the foreign-language word for each occupation written below the picture (nice illustrations for this purpose are found in Wright 1994). Again, practise the pronunciation of the occupations and revise the phrases written on the blackboard. Next, give each learner a random slip of paper (cut from a photocopied paper version of the transparency) containing a picture representation of one of the occupations and the foreign-language word for the occupation. It does not matter if there are fewer learners in the class than there are occupations or if several learners are assigned the same occupation, so long as there is at least one occupation that is not assigned to anybody.
Phase 8: Ask the learners to walk around in the classroom, asking each other about their names and occupations. (To ensure that everybody asks for everybody else's name, not only their occupation, each learner could be assigned a new name in the foreign language.) Ask the learners to take notes of each other's names and occupations but not to show their slips of paper to anybody. When they are finished, ask them to find out which occupation(s) was/were best represented in the classroom (their own occupation included) and which occupation(s) was/were not represented at all.
Phase 9: Ask the learners individually to decide for each occupation whether it is (a) a predominantly male or female occupation; (b) a basically safe or risk-filled occupation; (c) an occupation which requires some proficiency in a foreign language.
Phase 10: Next, ask the learners to compare and discuss their results in pairs or in groups of three.
According to Gardner (1983, 1993, 1999) and Berman (1998, 2001), verbal-linguistic learners enjoy expressing themselves orally and in writing and love wordplay, riddles and listening to stories. Mathematical-logical 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-kinesthetic 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.
The various intelligence types are catered for in particularly during the following phases of the proposed foreign-language lesson:
The following features of the lesson plan facilitate learning and help creating a secure and relaxed learning environment:
(a) Sharing the goals of the lesson with the learners (phase 2).
Knowing the main topic at an early stage of a lesson makes learners more secure; realising the usefulness in real life of what they are going to learn motivates learners to participate more actively in the various phases of the lesson.
(b) Exploiting and emphasising the existence of learners' potential vocabularies in the foreign language (phase 4).
Realising that not all foreign-language words are totally new (and therefore "difficult") when first encountered but in fact sometimes recognisable (and easily guessable) owing to similarities that exist between a foreign-language word and its translational equivalent in the learners' mother tongue, increases learners' self-confidence and facilitates learning. The importance of such potential vocabulary in foreign-language teaching was first pointed out in the late 1960s by Russian linguists (cited in Takala 1984; further discussed in Palmberg 1990).
(c) Providing all learners with a "support frame" containing the key phrases (phase 6) needed for the communicative activity (phase 8), and (d) providing each individual learner with a slip of paper (phase 7) showing a picture representation of their occupation and the word for it written in the foreign language.
Good language learners can in most cases manage without such teaching aids as they will probably learn the set phrases and their assumed occupation very quickly anyway. Slow learners, on the other hand, feel much more secure knowing that they only have to look at the blackboard or read their personal slips of paper to revise any wanted language items.
(e) Displaying a transparency showing the selected occupations both visually and in writing (phase 7) and keeping it displayed throughout the communicative activity (phase 8) and the follow-up categorisation task (phase 9).
Knowing that the meanings of the words told by their fellow learners are found on the transparency increases learners' curiosity to identify the occupations correctly. Moreover, identifying the meaning of words through picture representation can help learners to remember the meanings better.
From a teaching point of view, therefore, the most important thing is not whether teachers elect to base their courses on specific coursebooks or whether they reserve the right to interpret, select and use the types of classroom activities that can cater for (or be designed to cater for) the intelligence profiles of their particular learner group. It is far more important for teachers to recognise the fact that learners are in fact different and therefore learn differently. Only in doing so can teachers fully encourage their learners to try harder and at the same time make the learning environment as meaningful and enjoyable as possible for all parties involved.
Berman, Michael. 1998. A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom. Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing.
Berman, Michael. 2001. ELT Through Multiple Intelligences. London: NetLearn Publications.
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.
Palmberg, Rolf. 1990. "Improving foreign-language learners' vocabulary skills". RELC Journal 21:1 (1-10).
Takala, Sauli. 1984. Evaluation of Students' Knowledge of English Vocabulary in the Finnish Comprehension School. Jyväskylä: Reports from the Institute for Educational Research Vol. 350.
Wright, Andrew. 1994. 1000+ Pictures for the Teacher to Copy. London: Nelson.---------------------------
* Paper based on a workshop presented in December 2001 at the 6th English in South East Asia (6ESEA) Conference in Ateneo de Manila University.
About the author
For information about Rolf Palmberg please click here.
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