Although vocab lists and conjugation tables can still sometimes do the trick, I’ve got some fresh ideas on how to engage multiple learning styles in world language education — with tried-and-true activities that are fun for learners of all ages!
One of the major challenges I hear facing teachers, both in the U.S. and abroad, involves engaging a classroom full of students who are on different learning levels and who all learn in different ways — not to mention the additional complexity of addressing the needs presented by ESL/ELL students and those with learning disabilities.
By engaging diverse learning styles in language education, students have a better chance of understanding and mastering a new language — and becoming confident global citizens.
But first, here’s how I define multiple intelligences: basically, the concept that students think and learn in many different ways — psychologist Dr. Howard Gardner organizes these ways into nine different “frames of mind”: spatial, naturalist, musical, logical-mathematical, existential, interpersonal, bodily-kinesthetic, linguistic, and intrapersonal. Sound familiar? Let’s get started!
1. Grammar challenges
As teachers throughout time can attest to, kids love competition. Spark some friendly competition involving both logically intelligent and kinesthetically intelligent learners through grammar challenges — simply, the student who is the quickest to run up to the board and translate a sentence from another language to English (or vice versa!) wins the point.
With two students “competing” per round, the activity is a favorite, especially among the more competitive and sports-loving students.
2. Cultural skits
It can be challenging to help each student practice their speaking skills in a language classroom — especially in a large class. Build confidence among your students by having them perform skits in the target language, practicing conversations with real-world scenarios. Students with interpersonal intelligence love this activity —check out some of our courses for example conversations and scenarios that you can give your students. In a beginner language classroom, have your students give presentations in English on a certain aspect of the culture found in the countries where the target language is spoken.
I’ve found that students with existential intelligence find cultural presentations especially engaging. When teaching my fourth-grade class about the caste system in India, for example, I engaged existentially intelligent students to think deeper about the effects of belief systems on a society.
3. Music videos
Music and visuals are great learning tools, especially when a class contains many students who speak English as a second language. Have your class listen to a song while following along with the lyrics in the target language (which is great for musically intelligent students), or play international music videos to engage learners with visual intelligence.
Asking your class to analyze the meaning behind the lyrics engages intrapersonally intelligent students (through reflecting and interpreting the lyrics), as well as existentially intelligent students (through delving into the deeper meanings behind the lyrics).
4. Poetry and pop songwriting
Although teaching students to write can be a difficult task (let alone in a second language!), try offering an extra credit assignment for which students can write new lyrics for a pop song, summing up the material that was covered that year. Kids love the chance to be creative, and students with linguistic intelligence and intrapersonal intelligence will especially enjoy this activity.
For additional extra credit, students can choose to sing the song in front of the class (which is a hit with musically intelligent students!).
No matter which method is most effective for a student to learn, the more intelligences that lesson can engage, the more chances a student has of mastering the material, and the more chances teachers have of leading their students to success.
Start exploring Mango Languages’ practical conversations as a starting point for engaging multiple intelligences by clicking the button below. You can also learn more about Mango Languages’ special classroom features and tools, designed for educators and students alike.