M I Theory Summarized

In my previous blog I talked about Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (MI) Theory, and how by applying it to the classroom setting teachers could harness student’s different learning styles more fully. The following table nicely summarises this school of thought.

 Multiple Intelligences  Learning Methods/Materials  Learning Activities
Verbal-Linguistic Books, stories, poetry, speeches Writing stories, scripts, poems, storytelling
Mathematical-Logical Exploring patterns, problem solving, classifying systems Counting, calculating, theorizing, demonstrating, programming
Musical Tapes, CD’s, live music Performing, singing, playing, composing
Visual-Spatial Posters, art work, slides, charts, graphs, video tapes, laser disks, CD-ROMs and DVDs, museum visits Drawing, painting, illustrating, graphic design, collage making, poster making, photography
Bodily-Kinaesthetic Physicalizing concepts, rhythm exercises Dance recital, athletic performance
Interpersonal Teams, group work, specialist roles Plays, debates, panels, group work
Intrapersonal Reflection time, meditation exercises Journals, memoirs, diaries, changing behaviours, habits, personal growth
Naturalist Terrariums, aquariums, visits to museums, botanical gardens, zoos etc., nature walks, Collecting, classifying, caring for animals
Existential Working on causes, charity work, spiritual concepts Community service, philosophical debates

MI in the Classroom

It would be quite unrealistic, I think, in the classroom setting to try to tailor-make each lesson to suit every individual’s learning style. It is more realistic, on the other hand, to vary  learning activities as much as possible over the whole of a course, so that in time you can stimulate all the different types of intelligences.

Moreover, by observing students on how they respond to the different activities, and recording this information, one might well discover a certain predominant composition of learning styles; for example, that there is a class with a majority of visual learners. In this case one may try using flash cards more often, for instance, or focus on board work activities more, without forgetting the other learner’s styles of course. I think this partly explains why sometimes I have tried an activity with one group and it has fallen flat, to later find it works really well with another set of students.

Classroom Activities with MI in Mind

Here is a small selection of the type of activities I use in some of my classes in order to tap into student’s differing learning styles.

Name of Activity Brief Description MI Involved
The “Pi” Counting Game Students in a circle take turns counting, in order, from 1 onward. However for certain multiples, e.g. of 3 or 5, they have to say “pi!” instead of the number. Henceforth the counting changes direction. Any mistakes would result in a forfeit, e.g., doing a sum. Mathematical-Logical



Guess the Mime A group of 3 or 4 students organise themselves unseen, and then mime a scene in front of the class. The other students have to guess what the actions are, using set target language, e.g. present continuous. Bodily-Kinaesthetic



 Blind Serial Drawing Students are asked to draw on a sheet of paper. However they start drawing only part of said drawing e.g. the head of a monster. Then they fold the paper so that only part can be seen, e.g. the neck. They then pass the sheet to the student on their right. Then on the sheet they’ve been passed students continue drawing up to another indicated point. The drawing-folding-passing continuous until the drawing is completed by different students. Finally the original students unfold the drawings they had started and describe it. The resulting drawing is usually very funny. Visual-Spatial


Re-writing songs Students are played a song which contains rhyming using particular word types e.g. –ly adverbs, -ing adjectives or –ed participles etc. After a comprehension stage, students in small groups are asked to re-write the song using alternative target words. The groups have to sing their song to the rest of the class. The teacher finally asks comprehension questions about the new song. Musical-Rhythmic


Lottery Conditionals Using the 2nd conditional students write on a sheet of paper what charitable works they would perform if they won the lottery. The teacher collects, and reads out these writings one by one, whereby the others have to try and guess the author. Intrapersonal




In conclusion I would say that although you can’t please all the students all the time, it’s good to bear in mind that there are many different ways of learning and adjust the class activities accordingly. If you identify a loner or someone who is always up and out of their seat, you might try from time to time putting activities into your lesson plan that you think will suit them.

Learning Styles

As an English teacher I am constantly made aware in my classes that students all have different learning styles. For example, some of my students really enjoy working in groups while others progress much more quickly working alone. Alternatively, I have seen some learners draw pictures in their vocabulary books in order to help them assimilate words, and yet others need to hear a word repeatedly before they start to use it.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

The American psychologist Howard Gardner came up with the theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983) which for me goes some way towards explaining these different learning styles. According to Gardner there are eight different types of intelligences, as follows:

  • Linguistic – The word player
  • Logical / Mathematical – The questioner
  • Visual / Spatial – The visualizer
  • Musical – The music lover
  • Bodily / Kinaesthetic – The mover
  • Interpersonal – The socialiser
  • Intrapersonal – The lone thinker
  • Naturalistic – The nature lover

Apparently, everyone has some of each of all these intelligences, but in different people one (or more) is more pronounced. I would say that I respond best to logical or intrapersonal styles of learning; so, for instance, I would get more out of trying to solve a puzzle by myself than learning a song in a group.

Classroom Activities Based on Learner Styles

Thankfully, M. Loon from the University of Canberra has developed the table below to help us link learner types to specific learning activities. (See Jeremy Harmer’s book The Practice of English Language Teaching for more information).

Learner type Is good at Learns best by Activities
Linguistic Reading, writing and stories Saying, hearing and seeing words Memory games
Trivia quizzes
Logical / mathematical Solving puzzles, exploring patterns, reasoning and logic Asking questions, categorising and working with patterns Puzzles
Problem solving.
Visual / Spatial Drawing, building, arts and crafts Visualising, using the mind’s eye Flashcards
Project work.
Musical Singing, listening to music and playing instruments Using rhythm, with music on Using songs
Bodily / Kinaesthetic Moving around, touching things and body language Moving, touching and doing TPR activities
Action songs
Running dictations
Interpersonal Mixing with others, leading groups, understanding others and mediating Co-operating, working in groups and sharing Mingle activities
Group work
Intrapersonal Working alone and pursuing own interests Working alone Working individually on personalised projects
Naturalistic Nature Working outside and observing nature Environmental projects.

In my next blog I will be looking at how we can take advantage of these insights to help us get more out of learning English in a classroom setting.


As you may already be aware the Valencian regional government is looking to develop an educational system based on Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), where a significant part of the day to day school curriculum will be taught in English. So, you may be wondering, how might a Valencian teacher go about preparing a CLIL course? According to the experts here are few things the teacher would need to have in mind.

The Who and the What

The first thing to think about when planning a CLIL course is who the students are – their level of English, their level of content knowledge, and any particular requirements. The second thing to think about  is what to teach them, in terms of both content and language, including all the necessary materials. The “who” as we will see affects the “what”.

If the CLIL students have generally quite a high level of English the teacher can focus more on the content side (be it science and technology, or art and crafts), using English as a vehicle for content. With these students, one could easily adapt material designed for native English pupils.

So, for example, at university level the teacher could provide a text book designed for native English secondary schools. This would work well for both the teacher and students as the content level wouldn’t be too hard, but provide an authentic context for the vocabulary that the students would need later on. As the book would already be there with its exercises ready-made, all that would remain for the teacher is to design activities to teach the language that is in the book.

On the other hand, if the students’ English level is weak, one would have to go for a more language-oriented approach, focusing on the particular vocabulary related to the content areas. With these pupils, native English text books would be linguistically too hard. In this case, it requires the teacher to write and adapt materials to both teach key subject vocabulary and also develop language skills. The goal would be to allow these students to be able to use “real” English content text books by their last year of school.

Cognitive Load

Another important factor to take into account when preparing a CLIL course is cognitive load – that is, you don’t want to overload students’ brains with too much information. This can be done by either selecting a relatively simple content area, or by using an area that has already been covered in the mother tongue and then doing the CLIL course as revision and extension.

Exploiting Material

Once the text to be covered has been chosen, the next question is how to exploit it. One of the first aspects to think about may be the vocabulary – is there any technical or specialist vocabulary that students need to know for the course or to understand the text? This might be pre-taught by getting students to match words to definitions or pictures, or by making a gap-fill. Alternatively, one could help them discover the meanings through the text – helping them to guess meaning from context. The main activity would probably concentrate on general comprehension of the text. This could be done with comprehension questions, information gap tasks, jigsaw reading tasks, jumble tasks and so on.

Follow-up activities could concentrate on reinforcing the vocabulary taught earlier and developing both language skills and comprehension of the topic. These activities could include group discussions, individual presentations, making posters and writing about the topic (for homework or in class).

Well, I hope I´ve given you some pointers as to how Valencian teachers may need to go about preparing their CLIL classes in the near future. If you want to know more about CLIL follow this link to further articles: