It’s Christmas time – an EFL lesson plan*
by Rolf Palmberg

Introduction

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:

bell
candle
card
carol
chimney
decoration
fireplace
gift
gingerbread
mantelpiece
mistletoe
reindeer
sleigh
snowman
stocking
tree
julsång
skorsten
spishylla
strumpa
ren
ljus
mistel
julgröt
kort
snögubbe
julskinka
dekoration, prydnad
julfrid
pepparkaka
spis, eldstad
klocka
träd
gåva, present
släde
julkyrka

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:

Station A
Spot the errors in the picture

 

 

Station B
Which of the things can you;

(a) find in a forest?
(b) buy in a department store?
(c) make yourself?
(d) eat?
(e) wrap up in a parcel?
(f) put into your pocket?

NOTE that can do many of these things with some of the things.

Station C
(a) What presents does Sheri want?

(b) Where does she send her letter?

(c) How will she get her presents?

(d) What will she do when she wakes up at Christmas?

Station D
(a) What are the Christmas words?

 

(b) Which is the extra word?

Station E.
Fill in the missing words:

Rudolph, the [1] reindeer [1]
had a very [2] nose. [2]
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

All of the other [3] [3]
used to laugh and call him [4]. [4]
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer [5]. [5]

Then one [6] Christmas Eve [6]
[7] came to say: [7]
"Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won't you guide my [8] tonight?" [8]

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they [9] out with glee, [9]
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you'll go down in [10]! [10]

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:

Which of these things can you
(a) find in a forest?
(b) buy in a department store?
(c) make yourself?
(d) eat?
(e) wrap up in a parcel?
(f) put into your pocket?

(1) a chimney
(2) a fireplace
(3) a gingerbread
(4) a mantelpiece
(5) a misteltoe
(6) a reindeer
(7) a sleigh
(8) a snowman
(9) candles
(10) stockings

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:

ca lpiece mist rd
ation fire igh ca
ginge pre rol deer
mante clas ft sent
gi sle stmas decor
rbread letoe king place
chi mney chri sroom
rein stoc

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:

name gets up goes to bed has breakfast has lunch has dinner exchanges presents watches televison
               

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:

verbal-linguistic learners: all phases;
logical-mathematical learners: phase 3 (stations A & D) & phase 6;
visual-spatial learners: phase 3 (stations A, C & E);
bodily-kinaesthetic learners: phase 3 (when moving between stations) & phase 5;
musical-rhythmic learners: phase 3 (station E);
interpersonal learners: phases 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7;
intrapersonal learners: phases 1, 2 & 8;
naturalist learners: phase 3 (station B);
existentialist learners: phases 1 & 8.

Conclusion

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.

From a teaching point of view, therefore, the important thing is not whether teachers choose to base their teaching on specific course books or whether they reserve the right to interpret, select and use the types of classroom activities that can cater for the intelligence profiles of their particular learner group. It is far more important for teachers to realise that learners are in fact different and therefore require different types of classroom activities and techniques in order to code the new information successfully and store it in their long-term memory. Only in doing so can teachers fully encourage their students to try harder and at the same time make the learning environment as meaningful and enjoyable as possible for the parties involved.

* This is an extended version of a paper presented at the 6th Asia TEFL International Conference held in Bali in August, 2008.

References

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.

Biodata

Rolf Palmberg is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Teacher Education at Åbo Akademi University in Vaasa, Finland, where he has taught EFL methodology since 1979. His publications comprise a number of books and papers mainly in the fields of applied linguistics and EFL methodology. He is also the author of a range of CALL programs and Java applets, available at: http://www.vasa.abo.fi/users/rpalmber/download.htm His non-academic interests include geographical enclaves and tripoints.

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