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This article is © Copyright 2000 Pilgrims Ltd. The copyright owners reserve all rights to its reproduction.
Short Article 03
The Eight Wonders of Human Beings: a Humanistic Approach to Teaching Multiple Intelligences Theory to Language Learners
Erinç Oran
Erinç Oran has been working as an English language teacher for seven years. She has a Master’s Degree in English language teaching and her main interest is designing EFL classrooms in a way that accommodates all intelligences and also teaching this theory to build high motivation and self-esteem. She teaches at the 80. Yil Gazi Primary School in Urla, Izmir, Turkey.

I. Introduction

II. Why Teach MI Theory?

III. Introducing MI Theory to Language Learners Through a Metaphor

IV. Conclusion


I. Introduction
Multiple Intelligences (MI) Theory, proposed by Gardner (1983), redefines the intelligence by valuing many more abilities that seem to be irrelevant for intelligence tests but actually are essential for life. Thus, we have more than one intelligence and each one is responsible for a different domain and therefore they make everyone unique and special. These intelligences are verbal/linguistic intelligence, logical/mathematical intelligence, naturalist intelligence, bodily/kinesthetic intelligence, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, spatial intelligence and musical intelligence. With this theory that social relationships have been valued within an intelligence domain, as interpersonal intelligence. In addition, awareness of one’s own inner strengths, which has been suggested as intrapersonal intelligence, is another previously neglected area of human beings in the educational framework and is very significant for educating young people.
In relation to second language classrooms, MI Theory emphasizes “all aspects of communication” as well as the “linguistic” side of language learning by integrating music, kinesthetic activities and social relationships (Richard and Rodgers, 2001). In this way, the techniques stemming from MI Theory seem to accommodate the concept of diversity in terms of intelligences in second language classrooms. Harmer (200:47) describes the individual differences in a second language classroom :
While some people with a strong logical-mathematical intelligence might respond well to a complex grammar explanation, a different student might need the comfort of diagrams and physical demonstration because their strength is in the visual/spatial area. Other students who have a strong interpersonal intelligence may acquire a more interactive climate if their learning is to be effective.
Addressing the needs of different intelligent types in the classroom, the theory also helps to create a relaxing classroom atmosphere where behaviour problems also decline (Armstrong, 2000:80). Besides, Campbell et al. (1999, p.xxi) emphasize that when students are offered options and a variety of learning strategies, frustration and academic failure might be greatly reduced.
II. Why Teach MI Theory?
When a child calculates very well or answers a logical question in a very short time, then he/she is considered to be intelligent. When a child performs a dance very well or sings he/she is said to be talented rather than intelligent. This distinction confuses learners and they assume being intelligent means being successful only in a few lessons and in a few realms of life. As a result, some of them end up with low self-esteem and switch off. Gardner (1993:11) draws attention to the fact that many learners are labelled as unable or slow because of insufficient means for determining learners’ capacities, saying:
I am not worried about those occasional youngsters who are good in everything. They are going to do just fine. I’m concerned about those who don’t shine in the standardized tests, and who, therefore tend to be written off as not having gifts of any kind.

As an English language teacher, I have experienced that students tend to make two frustrating inferences which put them off studying more:

  • I am not successful at language; therefore, I am not intelligent and I cannot get good marks in the other lessons.

  • I know that I am not very intelligent but I cannot do anything about it.

Unfortunately, many students have a bleak view of their abilities and their future as well. These negative thoughts spring from their narrow perspective of themselves and it is necessary to inform them about their real potential abilities along with ways to nurture them to exploit each to the maximum. Thus, it would be more effective to push our students to discover new abilities day-by-day in order to help them to prepare for real life.

MI Theory has the potential to change traditional beliefs about what intelligence is and what we can do with our intelligences. Here are some motivating keypoints drawn from MI Theory:

  • As we have more than one intelligence, then being successful in one lesson does not guarantee success in the others and vice versa (Gardner,1999a:102),

  • We are not confined to our mental potential which is given at birth; thus we can improve our intelligences through effort, with time and related activating materials (Gardner,1999b: 68).

Thus, in language classrooms, integrating music, kinesthetic activities, intrapersonal and interpersonal tasks, a naturalist perspective along with visual aids, will, without doubt, provide language learners with alternative ways of understanding the material and develop their abilities to become a whole person. Furthermore, teaching MI Theory to language learners will ensure their introduction to a more individualized fashion in language learning in which they can choose the optimal ways to learn even outside school.

III. Introducing MI Theory to Language Learners Through a Metaphor
The activity below aims to teach MI Theory to learners of English. It suggests a metaphor which connects the intelligences of human beings to the Wonders of World that have been created. Gardner (1999a:172), in his book “Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century” advises teachers to use metaphors “to illuminate new topics” and “to come up with instructive analogies, drawn from material they already understand, that can convey important aspects of the less familiar topic”. Thus, metaphors help learners to understand the new information as they establish a link to the information that they already know.

Activity name: The Eight Wonders of Human Beings

Language level and grammar topic: The level can be determined by the teacher since the texts will be prepared by the teacher considering the level of students, therefore any grammar point can easily be inserted into the texts.
Step 1: Find pictures and some information about the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Prepare short texts for each and make copies for each student. Before the copies are given out, present pictures of the Seven Wonders of World and ask students to name them and then give some general information about them. Give some more detailed questions then hand out the information papers and let students read them carefully to find the answers of the questions.
Step 2: After students have enough information about each one, ask them about the Wonders, ie abilities, of human beings. Students will naturally give some of the names of intelligences: mathematical ability, musical ability, etc. Here, explain the eight intelligences along with their basic qualities. After that, write the names of each intelligence on a flash card and ask students to write some sentences or verbs that show how they use that particular intelligence in daily life on the other side of the card, and then share with their peers. They can also illustrate the information they put on the cards with examples.
Step 3: Ask students to match each intelligence with one of the Wonders of the World. You can start with some examples to encourage them, for example, The Pyramids in Egypt may be a good metaphor for mathematical intelligence because the concept “pyramid” or “triangle” is already familiar to them from mathematics. Another example may be The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. This magnificent garden clearly reflects the naturalist intelligence. Intrapersonal intelligence may well be associated with the metaphor of human beings themselves as the Eighth Wonder, as they possess all intelligences and produce the other Wonders of World. The Temple of Artemis and The Statue of Zeus could be metaphors for visual/spatial intelligence.
It is possible to find some common points between the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World with the Eight Wonders of Human Beings, but if students cannot suggest a good metaphor, it is also possible to enrich the topic with more modern examples that they are more familiar with through some initiating questions such as:

  • What is the most interesting sport/action produced by kinesthetic intelligence in the world?

  • What have people produced using their interpersonal intelligence ?

  • What can be considered as the linguistic wonder of the world?

  • What would you like to produce through your musical intelligence for humanity?

Step 4: In this last step, language learners are asked to label the activities they do in English lessons in relation to the type of intelligence necessary to accomplish that activity. For example, learning a song in English can go under title of musical intelligence, whereas solving a story problem in English activates logical/mathematical intelligence. Likewise, studying grammar suggests rather a linguistic aspect.
Comments: With this last step, language learners can reflect on their language learning experiences by categorizing them in relation to active intelligence types and consequently, this activity as a whole actually helps them understand that there are many ways to learn a language and people learn in different ways.
IV. Conclusion
The ideas presented in this article can help language teachers to pass on their knowledge about what actually being intelligent is and what we can do with our intelligences. It would much easier for students to retain the intelligences suggested by MI Theory by matching them with the Wonders of World. The idea of the Wonders of Human Beings suggests a humanistic metaphor and probably would attract learners. Through this activity a creative context is set for language learners to gain awareness about their abilities and focus on positive products using their intelligences.


Ashmawy A.K. The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Armstrong, T. (2000). Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom. Alexandria, VA,

USA: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development.

Campbell L., Campbell B. & Dickinson D. (1999). Teaching and Learning Through Multiple Intelligences. Massachusetts: Allyn & Bacon.
Gardner, H. (1999a).Intelligence Reframed. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. (1993). Multiple Intelligences. New York: Basic Books.
Gardner, H. (1999b). The Disciplined Mind. New York: Simon and Schuster Inc.
Harmer, J (2001) The Practice of English Language Teaching London: Longman
Richards, J. C., & Rodgers T. S.(1986). Approaches and Methods in Language

Teaching: A description and analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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