Multiple Intelligences in Daily Lesson Planning
By JoEllen M. Simpson
By now we’ve all heard about Multiple Intelligences. Many of us
have attended motivational workshops teaching us about the
theory. Maybe even some of us have tried using MI activities or
learning centers in our classes. But probably the majority of us
have thought to ourselves, “Yeah, it sounds interesting, but I’ve got
so much to do and so little time that I am not going to bother with
This article is for those people. It gives
practical suggestions of how to include MI activities within your
regular lesson planning in a way that doesn’t take much time and, if
done appropriately, makes your students more interested in what they
are doing with you: learning language.
Multiple Intelligences in Lesson Plans
What is the purpose of including MI activities in
your lesson plans? What are the benefits? One of the main
characteristics of MI activities is that they are enjoyable. But
they are not simply fun for the students: they provide motivation to
participate in real language use. Unlike traditional language practice
such as fill-in-the-blank or complete-the-sentence (which really do not
reflect realistic language use and are generally boring for students),
MI activities reflect things that we do in real life. And as a
result, students are motivated to participate and create new language
(and practice existing language in new ways) through their many
It is important to remember that MI activities
should not be included randomly just to “have fun” or to distract the
students. Activities should be chosen in a way that they
reinforce what the students are studying, practicing the language
naturally through these non-traditional activities.
The following section describes some activities and
links them to typical elements of language class. The purpose of
this list is not only to give interesting and enjoyable activities to
practice language, but also to inspire you to create or modify your own
activities to include an MI emphasis. Note: the personal intelligences
are not specifically separated in the following activities because they
are present in each one.
MI Activities for Beginner Students:
After studying a grammatical concept (like word order for yes/no
questions), have students close their eyes and visualize sentences and
their question forms, focusing on the movement of elements. To
insure that students are not sleeping, talk them through one or two
examples. Then ask them to draw a cartoon-like representation of the
Gong beyond the basic TPR, you can mime a series of actions and have
students guess what you are doing (for example to practice “occupation”
vocabulary). After initiating, get one or two student volunteers to
mime for the class.
Using pictures or definitions, ask students to classify words by
grouping them together. This can work for vocabulary (for example
domestic and wild animals) or even for grammatical categories
(adjective vs. adverb, count vs. non-count, etc.).
Mood music (musical):
To start a stressful class (for example, before an exam), play relaxing
music without words. Or alternatively, if students are too
mellow, keep a cassette or CD on hand with modern pop music and invite
students to listen to and dance to a song to wake them up.
Word games (linguistic):
For example, tongue twisters. This is a frequently overlooked,
but fun way to practice pronunciation. Here’s one of my
favorites: How many boards
could the Mongols hoard if the Mongol hoards got bored?
Grow a plant (natural):
When learning about processes or comparisons or numbers, etc., bring to
class paper cups, soil, and bean, pea, lettuce, corn, etc.,
seeds. Students plant the seeds and describe the process. As the
seeds grow, they can compare (bigger, faster, tallest) and measure
(numbers), among many other things.
MI Activities for Intermediate Students:
Folk dancing (bodily-kinesthetic):
In order to practice prepositions of place, you can do square dancing
with your students. This may take some preparation on your part
if you are unfamiliar with calls and to make calls that allow students
to practice all the prepositions. Students can even be included
in the process and can be guest callers.
Collages (spatial and bodily-kinesthetic):
After introducing any complex concept (for example story structure),
have students make collages, using pictures and words they cut from
magazines, to illustrate the concept.
Cycles of the moon (natural):
After studying logical connectors, especially time connectors, but not
exclusively, have students write and/or talk about the cycles of the
moon using connectors to link the phases.
Language machine (logical-mathematical):
When learning about complex sentence structure or grammar (for example,
the many conditionals of English), have students describe that
structure in terms of a machine (the subject of the sentence could be
the battery or the wheel, for example). Students should then draw
their language machine (spatial).
Write a song (music and linguistic):
To remember phrasal verbs, have students change the lyrics of a popular
song and sing it several times. When they need to remember one of
those phrasal verbs, students only have to sing the song to themselves
to get the meaning and correct usage.
MI Activities for Advanced Students:
Many people think that multiple intelligence activities cannot be used
with older or more advanced students. In my experience, older,
advanced students frequently respond more positively than younger
(teenage) students (Simpson, 2000). So don’t hesitate to try
these types of activities with your advanced groups.
Optical illusions (spatial):
To encourage discussion about cause and effect, show students a variety
of optical illusions. In groups they can explain what causes it
to be an illusion, and then they can try to create their own.
Logic puzzles (logical-mathematical):
Taking advantage of published materials (Mensa magazines, for example)
choose activities which encourage students to talk about different
These activities are just a place to start.
Once we know what the MI Theory is all about and have a few ideas to
get your creative juices flowing, we can all create new and exciting
things for our students to practice language through the many different
intelligences that we all have.