Once upon a time, long, long ago, I was given an article to read by my art teacher. It had been written by a man named Howard Gardner. It was a difficult read, including all sorts of concepts I’d never heard of before: logical-mathematical intelligence, visual-spatial intelligence, and other such concepts. After a few reads, I had an idea of what Mr. Gardner meant, and was ready to present the article to the rest of the class. Back then, only seven intelligences had been identified. Nowadays, there are nine. I won’t go into detail about this theory here, but will encourage interested readers to look it up on wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_multiple_intelligences).
Gardner’s theory interested me greatly, so you can only imagine how pleased I was years later when I found out that the Dalton school I worked at also wished to apply this theory in its own teaching practice. So off I went, figuring out how to include multiply intelligent activities in my own ESL lessons.
I plan my lessons a theme at a time. That way, the lessons build up in a logical fashion to a certain objective. I start by picking objectives from my semi-annual planning. Then I grab the objectives provided by the textbook I’m using, if that’s what I’m using. After that, it’s time to dream. The sky’s the limit. What kinds of fun games can we do, while learning to speak, read, write and understand English? This is where the multiple intelligences come in. What can we do to stimulate children’s learning while activating their various intelligences?
Of course, it’s easy enough to fill in the Musical intelligence. Songs, songs, and more songs… but also, rhythm! English is a language full of rhythm, and it would be a shame not to put that to proper use every chance we get. Clapping the words, stomping them out, until the children literally feel the words coming through their mouths.
Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence is also pretty easily filled in. Charades, TPR exercises, and role plays are basic means of activating this intelligence. I also employ sign language every so often, and children remember the words combined with the motions, placing their new vocabulary inside their bodies.
What could we do with our logical-mathematical intelligences? Putting story cards in order, sorting words per theme, and “odd one out” topped my list most times. We also made a flowchart describing animals and played a quiet game with hoops in the form of a Venn Diagram whenever I needed a lesson that started with some quiet.
The naturalist intelligence was a bit more difficult for me. I often made do by connecting the theme-related words to weather, climate or culture. It wasn’t perfect, but I comforted myself with the idea that as long as we activated most of the intelligences, we were helping every child learn via his or her various intelligences.
Interpersonal intelligence was often filled in with role plays, while intra-personal intelligence led to journal pages, family portraits, and presentations about ourselves.
We often drew pictures in our project notebooks, activating the children’s visual-spatial intelligence, or used posters, played memory games, drew mind maps, and used flashcards to activate their visual memories.
The linguistic intelligence was easiest of all, it seemed, as foreign language instruction was really all about language. Even here, though, I made certain to put in special language-based activities: telling jokes and simple puns, making crossword puzzles for the older children, reading stories and poems to the younger ones.
I never worked with the existentialist intelligence, having only learned of its existence after I stopped working with young children. A pity, perhaps, but also a space to be developed by other ESL teachers around the world, I hope.
As time went by, I ended up developing, finding, and implementing a wide array of tools to get children learning English in ways that worked best for them. Over a decade later, I look at a cupboard full of good stuff, in the hope I can share it once again.