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Multiple Intelligences in the E.S.L. Classroom Growing up, my parents provided their
Growing up, my parents provided their children with a multitude of opportunities so that we could discover our talents and nurture those skills. They enrolled me and my sister in Art, Piano, Gymnastics, Ballet/Jazz, Cello, Girl Scouts, and Kumon classes, just to name a few. Because my parents were such strong proponents of a well-integrated education, I was able to recognize my innate artistic capabilities at a very early age.
However, as I entered High School my extra-curricular activities were reduced to Piano Lessons and Student Council. My parents brought in private tutors for my sister and me with the hope that we may excel in our Honors English and Math Courses at school. I couldn't blame them for their decision. After all, any college- bound student who takes her future seriously must demonstrate a high proficiency in Language and Math on the standardized S.A.T. exam. I remember being frustrated by my average score, and thought how unfair it was that my aptitude in the arts had been overlooked. But fortunately for this new generation of young learners, things are beginning to change.
The theory of Multiple Intelligence was first introduced in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard University. He asserted that the human mind contains an array of cognitive skills, and that intelligence should no longer be quantified by a single entity as it has for so long in our education system. Dr. Gardner claims that our culture places too much emphasis on Linguistic and Mathematical Intelligence. Focusing on this fixed model can consequently stifle our children's potential growth by not allowing them to explore the intrinsic talents they possess. He classified the various intelligences into eight groups, which include:
Linguistic Intelligence- Word smart Logical-Mathematical Intelligence- Number/Reasoning smart Spatial Intelligence- Picture smart Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence- Body smart Musical Intelligence- Music smart Interpersonal Intelligence- People smart Intrapersonal Intelligence- Self smart Naturalist Intelligence- Nature smart
Many educators and Learning Institutions have adopted this new perspective to classroom teaching. This new approach encourages students to think and learn in different ways, and it allows educators to reflect and adjust their pedagogical practice to meet the needs of the range of learners in their classrooms. But how should teachers apply this theory to an E.S.L. class, where understanding Language is the primary objective'
The prospect of implementing this Multiple Intelligences Paradigm for language adaptation may seem counter-intuitive at first. However, we cannot presume that learning a new language should be any more difficult for individuals that lack verbal fluency skills. After all, everyone has already adopted his or her own native language. To teach a new language should be compared to any other subject. Ultimately, what will determine their ability to absorb the information are the tools and strategies the teacher will use in the classroom.
For instance, students with spatial intelligence may retain language more easily with visual aids, such as pictures, graphs, or video. Logical-Mathematical Students may enjoy crossword puzzles and unscrambling words, whereas, the musically inclined student may appreciate the study of song lyrics while simultaneously listening to the tune. Group and Pair work will please the Interpersonal students, and a reflective writing assignment may appeal to the Intrapersonal students. It can even help to vary the learning environment space from time to time. The teacher might consider taking the class to the zoo rather than learning the animal names from a course book.
As teachers, we are told to contextualize our lessons based on the demographic of the classroom. Just as age, culture and interests should be considered in lesson planning, teachers should become familiar with their students intelligences. This new approach to teaching and learning can make a remarkable difference in the classroom. Above all, the students will gain a strong sense of self- worth. The commitment to help students reach their optimal level of performance can only be achieved when we truly believe that every person is an intelligent being.