June 2006
Volume 10, Number 1

Contents  |   TESL-EJ Top


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

Author: Mary Ann Christison (2005)
Publisher: San Francisco, CA: Alta Book Center Publishers
Pp. xiv + 361 978-1882483-75-4 $36.95 U.S.

Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences grew out of his research in developmental psychology. The theory attempts to account for the many different ways people intelligently go about their lives while excelling in different ways. Gardner's theory expands intelligence beyond verbal and mathematical intelligences. By doing so, it offers powerful and rich possibilities for educators. As Gardner's theory gains greater acceptance in education, it will require translation of theory into practice. While the definition of a kinesthetic learner, for example, may be clear on paper, translating the definition into practical applications in classrooms requires a writer, thinker, and practitioner comfortable in both the academy and the classroom. Mary Ann Christison exceeds these essential requirements in Multiple Intelligences and Language Learning.

The book is divided into 2 parts: (1) a concise introduction of the theoretical framework and activities and inventories for the eight types of intelligence; (2) appendices which include answer keys, multiple intelligence inventories, an age and language level index, a content index, and a bibliography of works on multiple intelligences.

The 11-page introduction is divided into 4 parts: an introduction to the theory, the theory itself, implications of the theory of multiple intelligences for the second language classroom, and the steps to follow in applying the theory. The steps include:

The introduction moves from explication to guidance written more in the tone of a mentor or colleague than an expert. The introduction is followed by four activities for second language teachers which are referenced in the introduction. Two activities require groups while two may be done individually though they too would benefit from discussion. The group activities should include at least one teacher who self-describes herself as having one of the specified intelligences; the individual activities consist of two activities aimed at analyzing the intelligence types addressed in the activities teachers use.

After the introduction and teacher activities, the author compiles activities for each intelligence type in eight separate units. All activities include these elements: intelligences developed, objectives, age group targeted, language level, materials needed, and steps in doing the activity. Each unit addresses first, the predominant intelligence type an activity is tailored to and second, other types it could also be suitable for. After each activities section, there are photocopiable handouts for those activities that use handouts. These handouts will fit onto 8 inch x 11½ inch (20.32 cm x 29.21 cm) or A4 paper.

Not all the over 160 activities are new. This is to be expected because the book's primary purpose is to show how the different intelligences fit—or don't—with specific teaching and learning activities. The activities are classified by intelligence type; the user still has to decide where in the curriculum to use the activity, and what other activities to use to cover a lesson's content and purpose for the other intelligence types in her class. The author also provides guidelines for teachers who want to analyze the activities they already use. In addition to the activities, there is an intelligence-type profile inventory for teachers to move through to discover the types of personal and teaching activities they might like to do.

While the activities clearly specify intelligences and state objectives, the author does not show any ways to chain the activities together or how they might be integrated into a curriculum. Admittedly, the author seeks not to dictate and admits that each teacher will use the book in different ways. However, an example or two of how the activities could be put together perhaps at the elementary or high school level would be helpful. A frustration this teacher has with the book is that there is no easy way to determine which activities aim to develop vocabulary, oral, or writing skills. The titles of activities, for example pointillism, are not transparent as to their use. Perhaps this is an attempt on my part of trying to impose my old way of doing things on this practice, but the lack of a clearly informative heading may discourage teachers from trying to incorporate an activity into their teaching.

Experienced teachers may have some of the activities already in their repertoire but should still find the book valuable in guiding them toward understanding how different activities develop different intelligences. Novice teachers may at first find the book too much of a good thing because of its vast number of activities. Both will find it an easy to use collection of activities or, even better, a book they can adapt to their specific situations. But since the materials in the book are aimed at a wide range of classroom situations, teachers may hunt through it and find only a few that fit their own situations. Such scope at first seems like a drawback; however, teachers may find that if they take up the author's challenge to identify the (perhaps limited range of) intelligence types addressed in their current activities, the book will prove quite rewarding.

This introduction to applying a multiple intelligences' approach to second-language teaching and learning presents the theory and translates it into guidelines for practice quite effectively by mixing psychological explanations with easy to understand examples and details. Christison's accomplishment in writing, compiling, and organizing this book shows her care for the materials and her respect for her fellow teachers. Since she has done much to make the book accessible to its readers, teachers will discover that the author speaks their language, as one teacher talking to another. The size and scope of the book can be daunting, but living with the book for a while will lead to an acquaintance with a newfound friend with a principled educational approach and many helpful ideas to share.

John M. Graney
Santa Fe Community College, Florida

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