Multiple Intelligences and Language Learning: A Guidebook of Theory, Activities, Inventories, and Resources * Multiple Intelligences in EFL: Exercises for Secondary and Adult Students

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  • Multiple Intelligences and Language Learning:A Guidebook of Theory, Activities, Inventories,and Resources

    M. A. Christison

    Alta Book Centre Publishers 2005, 361pp., $36.95

    ISBN 978 1 882483 75 4

    Obtainable from: www.altaesl.com

    Multiple Intelligences in EFL: Exercises forSecondary and Adult Students

    H. Puchta and M. Rinvolucri

    Helbling Languages 2005, 157pp., e19.50

    ISBN 3 902504 25 0

    Obtainable from: www.helblinglanguages.com

    Like Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP),Multiple Intelligences (MI) became part of myconceptual baggage around the early 90s, as Iguess it did for many people in ELT. The first book Iread onMI was Howard Gardners (1993) collectionof papers Multiple Intelligences: The Theory inPractice. For a then full-time teacher trainer whosejob was often to synthesize new ideas and relatethem to daily classroom practice for teachers atdifferent levels of the state education system, thiswas a very useful introduction, as it laid out boththe background theory and examples of practice.From this I was able to develop a series of practicalexamples which worked in various ELT contexts.I was helped some time later by two articles by JimWingate (1996; 1997) in the first two issues of ETp,and then by the first (to my knowledge) ELT bookon MI by Michael Berman (1998). Since thenarticles on various aspects of MI have cropped upoccasionally in the various British ELT journals (e.g.Tanner 2001a; 2001b; Oliviera 2002; Altan 2002;Green and Tanner 2005), and conferences aroundthe world are sprinkled with papers on the topic.Perhaps, then, it is a sense that MI has now comeof age and is an accepted part of English languageteaching which sees the publication of two booksrelating the concepts involved to language teachingthis year. Or perhaps it is simply that the authorshave by this time had time to distill the ideas anddevelop a range of classroom techniques whichthey wish to pass on.

    If you are unfamiliar with the ideas involved, theunderlying concept is that we all possess eightdifferent intelligences (see below), each of whichwe can develop to a high degree of performance,given the right learning contexts. As Gardner wrotein the book cited above: human cognitivecompetence is better described in terms of a set ofabilities, talents or mental skills, which we callintelligences. All normal individuals possesseach of these skills to some extent; individualsdiffer in the degree of skill and in the nature of theircombination (1993: 15). Before embarking on usingthe two books reviewed here, we should perhapsbear in mind, however, that Gardner neverintended his book on multiple intelligences to be

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  • a blueprint for learning . . . [and that he] says he isuneasy about the way his theories are used inschools (Revell 2005).

    Mary Ann Christisons book (metaphorically)thumped onto my doormat! At 21.5 x 28 cms and2 cm thick it is much larger than the average UKteachers resource book. (The Puchta/Rinvolucribook is the typical size at 19 x 28.5 cm and 1 cmthick.) The front cover is, frankly, a messa jumbleof overlaid pastel words and images with stickfigures and cartoon faces dotted about it and anamusing (not!) typeface for the titles. Ahem! Theflick test gives a better impressionplenty of whitespace, illustrations, lists, tables, and clear labellingfor sections. A closer look reveals, however, thatalthough many of the format variations are forphotocopiable classroom materials, there is muchillustrated decoration, which serves no functionother than as eye-candy for the user. Pages vxiigive a very full contentsUnit 1 being 12 pages ofIntroduction, followed by seven units listing thetwenty or so activities related to the seven differentintelligences. This may surprise those readers whoknow something about MI, as the number ofdifferent intelligences usually given is eight or nine.Christison achieves seven, by leaving outexistential/spiritualist intelligence, and combiningintrapersonal and interpersonal intelligence intoone section called personal intelligence. Thismeans that each of these normally separate twointelligences gets only 13 activities each as opposedto 2024 activities for the other six intelligences.

    In case you werent sure, the other intelligencesare: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial-visual, bodily-kinaesthetic, musical,naturalist. The Introduction is very goodindeeda fine analysis and synthesis of thebackground and the practice, with this verysensible last sentence: It takes patience, time,imagination, and creativity to bring a new theoryinto your teaching. In the case of MI theory, Ibelieve that the effort will be worth it! (p. 12).

    The book is organized so that most of the activitiesfit onto one page, and any necessary PhotocopiableHandouts are put together in a separate block atthe end of each unit. For each of the activityrecipes we are given the following: intelligencesdeveloped (the main one for the unit, plus anyothers involved), the objectives, the age-group it issuitable for, the language level necessary, thematerials needed, and finally a numbered sequenceof steps to follow. Everything is very clear and easyto follow. The author does, however, give noindication of timing for the activities, which is

    usually a standard piece of information, though, Ihave to say, the least helpful, except in the verygeneral terms of knowing whether an activity mighttake five minutes or an hour.

    There are some caveats to offer at this point.Almost every activity is designed for pair or groupwork; almost half of the activities require thePhotocopiable Handouts at the end of the unit;most activities also require additional materials(e.g. in the logical-mathematical unit, the followingthings are needed over the 20 activities: OHTs,OHP, plain white paper, coloured paper strips, holepunches, rulers, coloured markers, board, flipchart,a bag, tape, wrapped candies, scissors, paper bags,samples of empty food packages, writing paper,four boxes, four small common household items,paper coins and bills). If these three areas areproblematic for you for one reason or another, thenthis may not be the book you require, as it seems toassume American/Western European levels ofeducational and home setting.

    That said, however, Christison presents a great manyworthwhile and enjoyable activities for those whohave access to the necessary equipment and space.Activity 6.9, for example, is called Paper airplanes,and it appears in the personal intelligences unit. Theactivity focuses on interpersonal intelligence, butalso requires bodily-kinaesthetic, linguistic, logical-mathematical and visual-spatial intelligences to beused. The objectives are fourfold: to develop logicalthinking and skills for seeing visual/spatial patternsand relationships, to reinforce langaugedevelopment through movement and to givestudents an opportunity to work together. There aresix numbered steps to the activity, which involvessmall groups in making a paper aeroplane each,flying and ranking the planes in their groupregarding distance travelled, fastest, most graceful,best designed, etc. The students are then asked tocreate a chart which presents their reasons for whythe planes performeddifferently. They use their chartto decide which plane is best. They then writeinstructions for making their plane. The activityconcludes with a large group discussion about theresults, which they present as groups to the class.Christison puts this as a middle school to adultactivity with intermediate to advanced languagelevel. This activity is fairly typical of what to expectfrom this book.

    At the end of the book there are several appendices:answer keys; four MI inventories (for students andteachers to determine their MI strengths andweaknesses); five age and level index lists, showing

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  • which activities are appropriate; a 3-page contentindex; a 2-page bibliography.

    Unlike Berman (1998) and Christison (above),Puchta and Rinvolucri do not organize their bookaccording to the intelligences; rather they have fivechapters called: 1) General MI Exercises (20activities) 2) Teaching from your coursebook (14activities) 3) Looking out (22 activities) 4) Lookingin (10 activities) 5) Self-management (8 activities).These chapters are preceeded by a 17-pageIntroduction which gives useful backgroundinformation on MI, and then leads into discussionsways of working with MI. The books aim, they say,is to bring the richness of MI thinking to EFLstudents, and so to speed up, deepen and generallyenhance their learning process (p 20). The authorsare also extremely helpful about how the book canbe used by teachers.

    Multiple Intelligences in EFL: Exercises for Secondaryand Adult Students looks very attractive on thepageclean and clear, despite being much moreconventional as an ELT recipe book in its generalappearance than Christisons, though none theworse for that. There are few visuals, diagrams, andso on, and these are for photocopiable pages.Eighteen of the 74 activities require photocopiables.Each activity is treated formulaically with Languagefocus, Proposed MI focus, Level, Time andPreparation given at the top, followed by the inclass numbered steps. One design feature I likevery much is that where an activity runs onto furtherpages, the activity number appears in the same wayon each page, but what was a bold title on the firstpage turns into a grey ghost for the subsequentpage(s). At the back is a double-page spreadteachers quick-reference guide. This grid givesseven levels from beginner to advanced, and thenlists the activities and the MI focus at the side,then places the number of each activity in anappropriate box. This shows very clearly that thebook is heavily weighted towards lower-intermediate students upwards, with only sixactivities suitable for beginners, and these six anda further 12 for post-beginners.

    Teachers familiar with the standard ELT recipe bookformula will easily find their way around this book. Iparticularly like Chapter 2, with its 14 coursebook-related activities, which I suspect many teacherswill find immediately useful. Some of the othersrequire more planning and familiarity with thegroupespecially, as the authors themselves say,the final group of self-management activities, whichallow the users to reflect on their own learning/language-learning behaviours in a structured way.

    To conclude, then, two good books, with a wealth ofideas in them for providing language learners withworthwhile activities which allow them to activateother intelligences than the purely linguistic one. Ifyou teach young learners and beginners more, youmight prefer Christisons book. If you want yourideas clearly focused on particular areas of languagedevelopment as well as MI you might prefer thePuchta/Rinvolucri one. If you teach everyone andeverything, you might want both books, becausethere is no perceptible overlap in the activitiespresented. Perhaps the main overlap comes in thefact that all three authors are clearly committed togiving learners the chance to develop as humanbeings through enjoyable activities in English,rather than just teaching them English. And as far asIm concerned, thats what its really all about.

    ReferencesAltan, M. Z. 2001. The theory of multipleintelligences. MET 10/1: 526.Altan, M. Z. 2002. Assessment for multipleintelligences. MET 11/3: 5660.Berman, M. 1998. A Multiple Intelligences Road toan ELT Classroom. Bancyfelin: Crown HousePublishing Ltd.Gardner, H. 1993. Multiple Intelligences: The Theoryin Practice. A Reader. New York: Basic Books.Green, C. and Tanner, R. 2005. Multipleintelligences and online teacher education. ELTJournal 59/4: 31221.Oliviera, A. 2002. Literature circles and multipleintelligences. MET 11/3: 3941.Revell, P. 2005. Each to their own. GuardianWeekly Tuesday 31 May.Tanner, R. 2001a. Teaching intelligently ETp 20:401.Tanner, R. 2001b. MI and you. ETp 21: 578.Wingate, J. 1996. Multiple intelligences. ETp 1:2831.Wingate. J. 1997. Multiple intelligences and lessonplanning. ETp 2: 2830.

    The reviewerDavid A. Hill is a freelance teacher, trainer andmaterials writer working out of Budapest, andtravelling widely. He is currently writing materialsfor Egypt and China and running a British Studiescourse for Hungarian primary school teachers. Hehas close links with NILE, and is on the committeeof management of IATEFL.Email: futured@hu.inter.netdoi:10.1093/elt/cci109

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