July 1999 — Volume 4, Number 1
A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom
Michael Berman (1998)
Wales, UK: Crown House Publishing Limited
Until recently tests of intelligence that were used to assess the academic potential of school children were those developed early this century by Binet. However, the traditional definition of intelligence, on which such tests were based, is now regarded as disputable and too narrow. Far from still considering intelligence as a linguistic and logical-mathematical concept, a change of attitude has taken place. This change is based largely on the work of Howard Gardner (1983, 1995), educational psychologist and creator of the theory of multiple intelligences. Gardner’s work emphasises that intelligence, rather than being an innate, fixed entity, is something that may be developed. Gardner’s work has relevance to all forms of teaching, but Michael Berman’s book is the first to apply it to the English language classroom.
Gardner initially identified seven intelligence types: kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical, intrapersonal and spatial. An eighth intelligence, naturalistic, was added recently. According to Gardner’s theory, learners’ intelligence profiles consist of various combinations of each type. In this book Berman provides brief but motivating language activities that will appeal to learners with each of the intelligences.
Activities for Developing Intelligence Type
Throughout this book activities cater for specific intelligence types. The activities in unit 1 involve movement and cater for learners with kinesthetic intelligence. They require students to circulate around the classroom to find someone, locate missing information, or engage in a role-play. These activities are samples and suggestions rather than prescriptive techniques, as are the activities in unit 2, on catering for musical intelligence. Many of these draw upon work published in the 1970s by the Bulgarian psychotherapist Lozanov (1978, 1988) on Suggestopaedia and the power of music to remove barriers in order to create the possibilities of incidental learning. [-1-]
Units 4, 5, and 6 focus on catering for interpersonal, logical-mathematical and linguistic intelligence. The unit on interpersonal intelligence occupies a quarter of the whole book, which made me wonder if all types were really of equal importance for language learning.
Catering for the remaining three intelligence types, spatial, intrapersonal and naturalistic, includes tasks that involve guided visualisations (e.g., trips across lakes to talk with monsters and other creatures), introspective activities (e.g., “Love is . . . ,” “Who am I?”), plus identifying relationships between words in mixed groups and then classifying them. One example of the latter is as follows: learners locate, list and then classify lesson, student, homework, classroom, and teacher as words all related to the subject of school. I found the activities in these three units to be the most stimulating for intermediate learners.
Learner Levels and Using this Book
Too often, especially in the unit on catering for interpersonal intelligence, the author includes terms, phrases and vocabulary in what he classifies as elementary level tasks that are more suited to intermediate users of English. One further criticism I have is that although it is interesting to introduce cultural aspects to course books for English language teaching (ELT), too many times sociocultural knowledge is required to complete the tasks. From the many examples related to tourist London, the royal family, and the British monarchy, it seems that users most suited to this book would be those studying on or returning from a summer in the UK. It would also be useful for learners resident in the UK and studying English as a second, rather than a foreign language. How else could learners be expected to know the names of two royal residences or where to find Speakers’ Corner? Indeed, non-British teachers using this book would need help from teachers’ notes, which are too often sadly lacking. A future edition could rectify this omission.
The SAFER approach to ELT
Unit 10 presents an alternative model to traditional ELT classroom pedagogy and incorporates techniques such as educational kinesiology and Suggestopaedia. The result is Berman’s SAFER model for language teaching:
S: Setting the scene
F: Focusing on main features of each intelligence type
E: Error correction
I’m fairly certain that most teachers, especially those in the early stages of their careers, would not readily adopt the SAFER approach as it stands, but feel the author has made a great stride towards applying contemporary pedagogical thought to ELT.
Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books, Inc.
Gardner, H. (1995). Reflections on multiple intelligences: Myths and messages. Phi Delta Kappan 76, 200-209.
Lozanov, G. (1978). Suggestology and an outline of Suggestopedia. New York: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers.
Lozanov, G. & Gateva, E. (1988). The foreign language teacher’s Suggestopedic manual. New York: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers.
Özel Çakabey Lisesi, Izmir, Turkey
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