Teach English in Mugang Zhen - Huangshi Shi

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The approaches used for teaching students, individually or in a class, have been evolving since years. A quite well known approach consists on the teacher following a standard program, applying standard exercises, explaining the same subjects in the same way. The interaction with the students may be kept to the bare minimum and progressing towards the defined goal for the course is kept as a priority. This style relies on the assumption that all the students learn in the same way. There are few interesting theories available nowadays, proposing a paradigm shift: the starting point is that people have not one but multiple “intelligences”, some of which are more developed than others. By leveraging the right activities for a specific intelligence type, a teacher could achieve better results with the students. Before going deeper into details, let`s define what do we mean in this paper with the word “intelligence”. This apparently easy task results to be controversial as there is no consensus among the different groups studying this amazing subject. Here we will use one of the simplest and most pragmatic approaches and state that the “intelligence” is a set of abilities allowing us to execute three main activities: learn, detect problems and resolve problems. Now that we defined the starting point, let`s focus on one of the most known theories associated to “Multiple Intelligence”, the one written by Howard Gardner, an Harvard psychologist. Gardner defined eight different types of intelligence. Each of them leverages specific characteristics and may influence the way we act and learn. Let`s review them in a bit more detail. The first type is the Verbal Linguistic: present in people with a huge passion for words and languages. They are generally good in reading, writing, debating. The second group is the Visual Spatial: persons showing this type are very good in visualizing objects and position them in the space. They process well images and pictures and can be quite creative. People showing the third type, Logical Mathematical, focus on numbers and patterns. The fourth category is the Bodily Kinesthetic. People showing this type of intelligence have strong physical coordination and control of their bodies. The fifth type is the Musical intelligence. This is an area mastered by people who leverage at most sounds to analyze and retain information. People with accentuated sixth type, the Interpersonal Intelligence, are very good in dealing and interacting with people. They can be very emphatic. The seventh group is characterized by people with remarkable Intrapersonal Intelligence. They are doing a lot of self-reflection and have a good self-awareness. The last and most recent type is the Naturalistic one. Persons showing this style have an enthusiastic passion for the nature and for getting in touch with the environment around them. Now, even if some psychologists don`t agree with Gardner`s theory as they consider the types he lists rather like abilities, the concepts the Harvard Professors shared are very useful for teachers passionate to achieve the best results in a class. Independently if we are talking about skills or intelligence types, just by monitoring students in a class a teacher could learn a lot about the abilities they leverage the most or the things that motivate them the most. To make some examples: some people take a lot of notes during a lesson; some draw pictures all the time; some repeat words... All these observations are extremely useful to create a lesson plan, which can engage the highest number of students with contents being retained in an easier and often simpler way. How? By integrating different activities in order to reach people having different approaches to learning. Before looking into some examples, there is one additional interesting consideration to make: students may be happy to know which their own learning style is. There are a number of simple and quick on-line tests returning this piece of information. Learners can use the outcome to work on their study method and apply actions that will leverage their skills the most. We are now about to review a set of activities which can be used to stimulate at best each type of intelligence. Essays, crosswords and storytelling would be perfect actions to get Verbal Linguistic people on-board. For people rather closer to the Visual Spatial style, the best would be to using pictures for example via learning cards or games like Pictionary. With the Logical Mathematical group, activities leveraging numbers or logic exercises would be the best choice. You have to move a bit around to capture the people with strong Body Kinesthetic intelligence. They may enjoy acting, role-plays and games requiring them to move or exercise. Use the sounds when addressing Music intelligence type of people. Leverage songs, listening exercises, using rhythm to memorize information. With the Interpersonal type, great activities involve more people: pair-work, activities mobilizing the full class, interviews. Intrapersonal type of people rather prefer introspective tasks like working alone on an essay, or with a software. Finally, Naturalistic type of learners are comfortable with activities making them closer to the nature like looking after animals or plants in the class. At a first glance, planning lessons leveraging all the type of activities listed above may look impossible. In reality, this is not the case and it worth to try due to the gained benefits. Primarily, not all the techniques must be used during the same hour. When explaining a concept, a teacher may decide to leverage some activities more, and use a different type of activity when repeating the topic in a following lesson to consolidating the know-how of the learners. In addition, varying the “rhythm” of each lesson is normally a good practice as it keeps student engaged and interested thanks to the change of dynamics. Triggering actions targeting different intelligence types increase variety and allow reaching a higher number of students. So, to conclude this topic, the key messages for teachers are: 1) make yourself familiar with the different Intelligence types; 2) observe your class to understand which style they are closer to; 3) embed in your lessons a variety of activities stimulating different Intelligence types to motivate and “activate” the highest possible number of learners.