It’s Christmas time – an EFL lesson plan*
In his famous Multiple Intelligences Theory from 1983, Howard Gardner suggests that all individuals have personal intelligence profiles that consist of combinations of seven different intelligence types. These intelligences are verbal-linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal (Gardner 1983, 1993). Since then, Gardner has added an eighth intelligence type to the list, that of naturalist intelligence, and also suggested the existence of a ninth intelligence type, that of existentialist intelligence (Gardner 1999).
The purpose of this paper is to outline a lesson plan that caters for these intelligence types and at the same time optimises students’ talking time. The lesson is aimed at secondary school-level students of English as a foreign language (EFL) and focuses on a recurring festival: Christmas. In order to maintain maximal student activity and interest throughout the lesson, it comprises a variety of language activities and teaching techniques. Special attention has been paid to co-operative learning and peer teaching, because, as pointed out by e.g. Anita Woolfolk, the best teacher for a student is another student (Woolfolk 2001).
The sample lesson
There are eight phases in the lesson. During Phase One, the teacher introduces the teaching goals. S/he tells the students that after the lesson they will be able to talk about food and objects relating to Christmas (including making suggestions, agreeing and disagreeing). They will also be able to ask their friends about the way they celebrate Christmas and to describe their own Christmas traditions.
For Phase Two, the teacher hands out a worksheet containing two columns of Christmas-related vocabulary items (homework from the previous lesson). One column lists English words and the second words in the students’ mother tongue. The students’ task is to match the English words with their mother-tongue equivalents.
For Swedish-speaking students, the worksheet could look like this:
Phase Three involves independent learning stations, i.e. pre-designated places in the classroom where each place has been allocated to a specific type of language task. The teacher displays the correct answers on an OH transparency and then divides the class into five groups. S/he next provides each student with an individual worksheet and invites the groups to work at five learning stations (one group per station). The students are told that although they work as groups, each student must fill in all answers in his or her worksheet. They are also told that there are no correct answers at their disposal and that at five-minute intervals (timed and announced by the teacher) the groups have to move on to the next learning station.
The individual worksheet could look like this:
At Station A there is a detailed picture of a living-room decorated for Christmas (suitable pictures can be found in course books and on the internet or they can be created or modified by the teacher for the present purposes). There are various kinds of mistakes in the picture, both misspellings (e.g. in Christmas greetings) and logical inconsistencies (e.g. a wall calendar displaying July the 31st or an object placed upside down). The students’ task is to spot as many mistakes as possible and list them in their individual worksheets.
At Station B students have to categorise given objects according to what one can do with them, for example:
At Station C there is a computer preset to show a video clip selected from the Video Nation website http://www.bbc.co.uk/videonation/feature/christmas. In the video clip, entitled “Christmas List”, a little girl called Sheri is writing her Christmas list to Father Christmas. The students’ task is to watch the video clip and answer the following questions: What presents does Sheri want? Where does she send the letter? How will she get her presents? What will she do when she wakes up at Christmas?
At Station D students have to match the halves of about twenty words that have been chopped in half. One of the words is not a Christmas word. Which word is it?
Example of chopped-up words:
At Station E there is a computer preset to play “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, selected from the Christmas carol collection presented on the Twelve Days of Christmas website <http://www.12days.com/library/carols/default.html>. The students’ task is to listen to the song while reading the song text displayed on the computer screen. When the students have listened to the song they have to turn away from the screen and fill in the missing words in their individual worksheets (indicated by numbered gaps in the song text).
During Phase Four, when all learning stations have been visited by all groups, the teacher divides the students into new groups. In groups of three or four, they compare their worksheet notes and agree upon the correct answer for each task.
During Phase Five, the teacher introduces a communicative task requesting students to move around in the classroom and interview their classmates about their Christmas habits (this is a modified version of a task entitled “On Christmas Eve”; Christison 2005). More specifically, the students have to find out at what time their friends normally get up, go to bed, have breakfast, have lunch, have dinner, exchange presents, and watch television. They also have to make notes in specially-prepared individual worksheets provided by the teacher. A typical worksheet could look like this:s:
Ten minutes later, during Phase Six, the teacher invites the students to compare their notes in order to specify the range of times that people prefer to perform the various activities. What is the biggest time difference between the earliest time and the latest time at which someone prefers to perform a certain activity?
For Phase Seven, the teacher organises the students into new groups consisting of about five people. Their task is to find out which activity has the biggest time difference and to discuss the possible reason/s for this. (Depending on the cultural and/or religious background of the students the most probable outcome will be either ‘exchanging presents’ or ‘watching television’.)
During Phase Eight, finally, the teacher asks the students to start working on individual essays entitled “What Christmas means to me” based on the group discussions and to finish the essays at home for the next EFL lesson. S/he also challenges the students to incorporate as many different Christmas words as possible into their essays.
Characteristics of learners representing different intelligence types
According to Gardner (1983, 1993, 1999), Berman (2002) and Christison (2005), verbal-linguistic learners enjoy expressing themselves orally and in writing and love wordplay, riddles and listening to stories. Logical-mathematical learners display an aptitude for numbers, reasoning and problem solving, whereas visual-spatial learners tend to think in pictures and mental images and enjoy illustrations, charts, tables and maps. Bodily-kinaesthetic learners experience learning best through various kinds of movement, while musical-rhythmic learners learn best through songs, patterns, rhythms and musical expression. Intrapersonal learners are reflective and intuitive about how and what they learn, whereas interpersonal learners like to interact with others and learn best in groups or with a partner. Naturalist learners love the outdoors and enjoy classifying and categorising activities. Existentialist learners, finally, are concerned with philosophical issues such as the status of mankind in relation to universal existence.
Catering for the various intelligence types
The different intelligence types are catered for (especially) during the following phases of the sample lesson outlined above:
As early as in 1976, Earl Stevick pointed out that memory works at its best when the new subject matter appeals to the students and they can organise what they are learning into familiar patterns (Stevick 1976). The ability to remember new vocabulary items is further increased when students are allowed to use their imagination during the learning process (as during the categorisation task at Station B). Conscious effort (referred to by Stevick as ‘depth’) is required from students in order to enable the target vocabulary to be properly processed and transferred from the short-term memory into the long-term memory.
* This is an extended version of a paper presented at the 6th Asia TEFL International Conference held in Bali in August, 2008.
Berman, Michael (2002). A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom. Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing. Second edition.
Christison, Mary Ann (2005). Multiple Intelligences and Language Learning. San Francisco: Alta Books.
Gardner, Howard (1983). Frames of mind. The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, Howard (1993). Multiple Intelligences. The Theory in Practice. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, Howard (1999). Intelligence Reframed. Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York: Basic Books.
Stevick, Earl (1976). Memory, Meaning and Method. Rowley: Newbury House.
Woolfolk, Anita (2001). Educational Psychology. Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Eighth edition.