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a Theoretical Description ...


*****... Tesis: Teaching English as a Foreign Language Using ...
Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles Theories
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*****......... .... An aplication of this theories to Costa Rican ...
Preschool Students
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Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles Theories: a Theoretical Description

by Lic. Luisa Venegas Robinson

Both the theories of Multiple Intelligences,(MI) primarily deriving from cognitive science, and Learning Style (LS) theory, primarily deriving from the psychoanalytic work of Carl Jung, have many classroom applications, particularly if we integrate these theories into a useful model. Learning styles emphasize the different ways people think and feel as they solve problems, create products and interact. The theory of MI seeks to understand how cultures and disciplines shape human potential. LS are concerned with differences in the process of learning, whereas MI center on the content and products of learning. For example, someone with great strength in kinesthetic intelligence and who leans toward a self-expressive style might choose to create a diorama or display, represent ideas in dance or drama or develop a plan for directing a scene.

Although it is true that each child possesses all eight intelligences and he can develop all nine to a fairly high level of competence, children seem to begin showing what Howard Gardner calls "proclivities" (or inclinations) in specific intelligences from a very early age. By the time children begin preschool, they have probably established ways of learning that run more along the lines of some intelligences than others. In this section, we will examine how you can begin to describe students' most developed intelligences so that more of their learning in preschool can take place through their preferred intelligences.

Where does thinking about the language we are learning take place?

There are many kinds of intelligence centers. Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner has spent many years analyzing the human brain and its impact on education, including language learning. Gardner says that we have several types of intelligence:

•  Linguistic Intelligence: The ability to read, write, and communicate with words.

•  Logical-Mathematical Intelligence:  The ability to reason and calculate. 

•  Musical Intelligence:  The musical ability highly developed by composers and top musicians. 

•  Visual-Spatial Intelligence:  The ability to master position in space. This intelligence is used by architects, painters, and pilots. 

•  Visual Intelligence:  The ability to memorize visually, and use the imagination. 

•  Kinesthetic Intelligence:  The physical intelligence used by dancers and athletes. 

•  Social Intelligence:  The ability to relate to others, used by salespeople and motivators. 

•  Introspective Intelligence:  The ability to know one's inner feelings, wants, and needs. 

•  Natural Intelligence:  The ability to learn by exploring nature.(Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences 1983 and 1998).

 

Connecting Multiple Intelligences with a foreign language teaching.

Here are 13 tips for teaching children's a foreign language supported by quotations stating their convenience within the classroom:

  1. Learn by doing.  Play grocery store, make a snack, or take a walk. While you are interacting with the children during these activities, speak a second or third language (Dryden & Rose, 1995).
  1. Reinforce with pictures and sounds.  Say the sounds of the language that accompany a picture in a playful way. For example, "A is for apple" (Dryden & Rose, 1995; Dryden & Vos, 1997).
  1. Learning should be fun.  The more fun it is to learn a language, the more a child will want to stay with it. Learning while playing is the best way to learn because it creates emotional attachments, and emotion is the door to learning (Jensen, 1994; Dryden & Vos, 1997; Dryden & Rose, 1995).
  1. Learn in a relaxed but challenging state.  Never stress a child. Current research shows that 80 percent of learning problems are stress related (Stokes & Whiteside, 1984).
  1. Learn with music and rhythm.   Music is one way to use the whole brain. Do you still remember the songs you learned in early childhood? Most people do because lyrics combined with music are easier to learn (Lozanov, 1978; Campbell, 1997; Brewer & Campbell, 1998).
  1. Learn with lots of movement-use the body and the mind together.  The brain and the body are one. However, the traditional education system encourages students to sit all day long. Now we know that we learn more when we move as we learn. Encourage children to dance and move to the rhythm when learning a second or third language (Gardner, 1983; Doman, 1984; Dryden & Vos, 1997).
  1. Learn by talking to each other.  Having students practice a language by talking to each other over a meal, for example, is a great way to learn (Gardner, 1983; Dryden & Vos, 1997).
  1. Learn by reflecting.  It is important to let children take time to "simmer." There is a dormant stage to language learning. First children absorb the language. Later they begin to speak (Krashen, 1992).
  2. Link numbers and words in a playful way (Dryden & Rose, 1995).  "The more you link, the more you learn" (Vos, 1997). Anything can be linked when learning a second language, including numbers and new vocabulary words (Dryden & Vos, 1997). For example, reciting the numbers from one to ten in Spanish in rhythm is a fun way to begin language learning - "Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis, siete, ocho, nueve, diez."
  1. Learn by touching (Dryden & Rose, 1995).  Do little finger rhymes in a second language. While you sing or say "Itsy, bitsy spider" have the fingers of each hand touch another finger, as if the spider is climbing.
  1. Learn by tasting (Dryden & Rose, 1995).  Have youngsters celebrate language learning by eating foods and saying the food name in the new language.
  1. Learn by smelling (Dryden & Rose, 1995).  Play smelling games. Hide objects in a sack, and have the children guess what is inside. Encourage them to say the new word in the language they are learning.
  1. Use the whole world as your classroom (Dryden & Vos, 1997).  Turn every outing into a learning experience. You can learn a new language while counting oranges; comparing leaves; classifying different birds, food, or anything that interests the children.

 

In 1983, Gardner, suggested that all individuals have personal intelligence profiles that consist of combinations of seven different intelligence types. These intelligences were verbal-linguistic, mathematical-logical, visual-spatial, bodily-kinaesthetic, musical-rhythmic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal In 1997, Gardner added an eighth intelligence type to the list, the naturalist intelligence, followed by a ninth type two years later, existentialist intelligence (Gardner, 1999).

Gardner's MI Theory was first applied exclusively to foreign-language teaching by Michael Berman in his 1998 book A Multiple Intelligences Road to an ELT Classroom , inspired by Rosie Tanner's two papers on Howard Gardner's MI Theory and how to apply them in foreign-language teaching (Tanner 2001).

How can we use Gardner's theory in our classroom?

We decided to expand Tanner's suggestions into an eight-step activity plan for teachers who are familiar with Gardner's MI Theory in general but do not know exactly how and where to start. All checklists mentioned in this plan are included in later pages.

(a) Have you provided the learners with opportunities to speak, listen, read and write?
(b) Have you included numbers, calculations and/or activities requiring critical thinking?
(c) Have you included pictures, graphs and/or art?
(d) Have you included activities involving movement?
(e) Have you included music and/or rhythms?
(f) Have you included pair work and/or group work?
(g) Have you provided the learners with private learning time and/or time for reflex ion?
(h) Have you included categorization tasks and/or arranging exercises?
(i) Have you helped the learners consider the topic/theme/grammar point(s) of today's lesson in relation to a larger context?

Gardner (1999) suggests that everyone has the capacity to develop all intelligences to a reasonably high level. This is encouraging for language educators. Success in helping our foreign language learners develop their intelligences, including linguistic intelligence, is a combination of the right environmental influences and quality instruction. Both of these are factors we can help control.

      Gardner's adds i ntelligences work together in complex ways. Because no intelligence exists by itself; language learning activities may be successful because they actively encourage the use of several intelligences. Within each intelligence category, there are many different ways to be intelligent. For example, I have a friend who claims he has no bodily-kinesthetic intelligence because he does not participate in any sports. Yet, he built a fence around his property and added a deck to his home. I reminded him that it takes a great deal of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence to complete these projects.

What are Learning Styles?

Learning styles are simply different approaches or ways of learning. The types of learning styles are:

Visual Learners: learn through seeing ...                     .

These learners need to see the teacher's body language and facial expression to fully understand the content of a lesson. They tend to prefer sitting at the front of the classroom to avoid visual obstructions (e.g. people's heads). They may think in pictures and learn best from visual displays including: diagrams, illustrated text books, overhead transparencies, videos, flipcharts and hand-outs. 

During a lecture or classroom discussion, visual learners often prefer to take detailed notes to absorb the information.

A uditory Learners: learn through listening...

They learn best through verbal lectures, discussions, talking things through and listening to what others have to say. Auditory learners interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances. Written information may have little meaning until it is heard. These learners often benefit from reading text aloud and using a tape recorder.

Tactile/ Kinesthetic Learners: l earn through, moving, doing and touching...   

Tactile/Kinesthetic persons learn best through a hands-on approach, actively exploring the physical world around them. They may find it hard to sit still for long periods and may become distracted by their need for activity and exploration.

Background.

Costa Rican has been living a transitional time with the process of globalization and its generating changes in many areas. This contributes to the social, economic and technological development, as well as the open marketing among countries, the privatization of public companies and new ways for international policies and organization. Under these circumstances, our challenge as teachers is to educate a society within a globalization process where we have to attend not only our country's demands, socio cultural transformation, social integration, lack of cultural identity, but also the migration of people in and out.

The use of English brings cultural implications: an exposure to new and changing values, the newly available access to media, the current international information, especially about scientific research, and the access to the realm of computer technology. The achievement of an improved, relevant, quality and equal, population-wide education is a challenge. In La Nación 1998, November 26, a need for new, technological opportunities for adolescents in Costa Rica, increased by external investments, is promoted.

“De acuerdo con representantes de las empresas internacionales asentadas aquí en estos años, es preciso fortalecer a corto plazo la enseñanza del inglés, de la comunicación, de la electrónica, el uso de laboratorios de alta tecnología y la electromecánica “.

 

More recently the competitiveness of Costa Rican businesses has been fostered by executives of the transnational companies: Baxter, Procter & Gamble and Intel, warning on immediate reforms in labor laws and the teaching of English as a Foreign Language:

“Se deben reformar las leyes laborales y la enseñanza del inglés como segundo idioma. … “Si no rectificamos en estos temas, esto puede ser muy serio” (2002, April 29).

 

The president of our country himself expressed extreme concern about the state of work and education in the country. The implications of not responding to these warnings may be inferred as economically catastrophic. The Minister of Education of the past administration, Astrid Fichel, stated:

“Con tal propósito, durante los últimos años, se ha ampliado la cobertura en la enseñanza del inglés como idioma extranjero beneficiando a los estudiantes de los diversos niveles y modalidades del sistema educativo costarricense. Está acción se enmarca dentro de una perspectiva la cual pretende contribuir a una mejor y mayor integración económica y cultural costarricense a la comunidad mundial, a la promoción de igualdad de oportunidades para cada uno, y al fortalecimiento de la identidad del ciudadano de nuestro país”. (2002, April 29).

 

Since then, MEP has had the firm purpose of working to achieve the spread of Preschool Education. Nevertheless, to fulfill this goal requires more infrastructures and the creation of new educational positions or new professional codes. The creation of new ways of access for the population that has not still been inserted to the system is also required.

Even though the up-to–date EFL syllabus has been developed for more than 10 years, its content has been largely focused on a small portion of the academic population, ironically the one with more economical and technological advantages.

In order to fulfill this gap and provide the complete preschool population with a centered and quality EFL instruction allowing it to fight against the globalization process, it is necessary to finally apply what the MEP Syllabus for Preschool Educations states:

“The English teacher profile in Preschool Education in the Transition Cycle must have those characteristics that reflect Preschool children's own attitudes, knowledge, values and skills”.

 

We must now stop for a moment and ask ourselves:

•  Which are exactly the Preschool children's own attitudes, knowledge, values and skills that the MEP syllabus refers to?

•  Are we prepared to deal with our children's needs?

In 1998, according to Bienzan, a mandate for country-wide provision of quality English instruction was declared and it referred to the existence of such a deficit of prepared professionals for teaching a foreign language. As a result of several years of continuous work to overcome such deficit, MEP has established a program oriented to the learning of English as a Foreign Language.

This program includes as its main objectives the ones of:

“The Educational Policy for the 21st century will provide learners with the opportunity to express their positive feelings for their country, which is characterized by its democracy, culture and its respect for law, nature and peace”.

“The main purpose of this policy is to encourage Costa Ricans to be positive leaders with critical mind to enhance the democratic system. Democracy will help Costa Ricans to develop their own identity as independent learners”

Some of the basic principles of the policy are:

1. Individuals should be able to develop personally and should seek opportunities to contribute to the development of their country while fulfilling their own needs and pursuing their own happiness. They should be able to interact with other people and cultures to solve problems and produce benefits for their country. They should respect their own values and the values of others.

2. Education should promote the broadening of understanding through challenging classroom situations and opportunities for self-growth. Individuals should “learn how to learn”. Teachers should promote the need and love for learning in the students so they will become life long learners.

3. Social and economic gaps should be bridged by providing individuals with possibilities for social improvement in order to integrate them into every-day problem solving situations. The goal should be to promote a self-sufficient society.

4. Achieving sustainability in production and economy in general represent a challenge for education. The country needs more qualified people in order to increase productivity and improve the spirit of competitiveness. There is also a need to integrate the country more effectively in global economy.

5. The information or content, that learners acquire should be up-to-date and should be relevant to global development in the 21 st century.

6. Education should aim to reinforce values and attitudes. This is a moral imperative. (MEP Syllabus, 2004).

Based an my personal experience as graduate Bilingual Preschool teacher and researcher, I shall affirm that the process of learning English as a foreign language promotes not only cognitive skills but also the emotional and humanistic ones since they increase our students' critical thinking to face social changes and their future needs as citizens of the 21 st century.

The Preschool Child: a theoretical description of the cognoscitive characteristics of age.

It should also be taken into consideration that human beings are capable of learning other languages besides their mother tongue. The learning of a foreign language at an early age contributes to a better development of the child. Children's early learning experiences have an effect on their overall future as it is mentioned in MEP Syllabus:

“English is conceived as a linguistic and cultural tool for communication, which complements education as a whole. Knowledge of English helps children become sensitive to the new linguistic code, facilitates linkage with the Costa Rican “Transition Cycle”, and values Costa Rican culture and its interaction with other countries. English also allows the learner to understand and produce appropriate oral messages and to accept and adapt to constant changes”.

My experience within the classroom has shown me how young children are naturally inclined to learn and their receptivity is at its best. In addition, before entering preschool, most children have undergone learning as a pleasurable, almost unconscious, experience. Preschool children welcome opportunities to be inventive with language, to play with rhyming, to joke to explain things to each other and even to argue.

Opportunities to talk about what preschool children are doing, what they see, and hear help children construct meaning while learning from their own experience. Preschool children have a powerful urge to find out things and to figure them out. They ask for many questions, often deep unanswerable ones, and they love to play guessing games or solve puzzles. Their curiosity leads them to figure out concepts and relationships, become interested in symbols, enjoy listening to stories, exploring and trying. These concepts must form the basis on all the expectations they build in the future.

Regarding this behavior, Lilian Katz (1998) states that:

“The developmental question is not what young children can do, but what should young children do that serves their development in the long term”.

Although children arrive in preschool with different backgrounds, experiences and stages of development, they all share, more or less, the same characteristics. They move through these stages as they mature, but the rate varies from one child to another. Development is always from general to specific, from dependence toward interdependence, and from gross motor control toward fine motor control.

There are basically three areas that should be worked on during the preschool period:

•  The socio emotional one.

•  The physical one.

•  The intellectual development one.

At the beginning of the year, some children may be shy and appear to lack initiative. However, as they come to know the situation, and their teachers and classmates, they usually gain confidence and begin to establish friendship and become active parts of the class.

They can show considerable empathy toward classmates and teachers when their own needs do not conflict with the needs of others. When helpfulness is noticed, modeled and encouraged by the teacher, helpful behavior is likely to become more common in the classroom; they are now developing a sense of independence while learning to work cooperatively with others.

Is EFL a must in the Preschool Syllabus?

Physical activity is one common characteristic of Preschool children. Most of them are full of energy, ready to run, swim, climb and jump. They are developing a sense of rhythm and enjoy such activities as marching, jumping or clapping to music. The coordination of eyes and other senses is still developing, as well as, fine motor activities such as coloring, cutting, and grasping.

Preschool children love to talk. Their intellectual development is reflected in the rapid growth of vocabulary and the power of express ideas. They are developing visual and auditory memory and the ability to listen to others.

F or years, it has been thought that teaching a foreign language to preschool-age is useless. However, if we consider that when adults try to learn languages in a contrived way, they find it much more difficult. And even if they know how to study, recite and use verbs and statements in English when they travel to the United States or Canada, they report serious trouble to communicate fluently. Children, on the other hand, immerse themselves in the language learning process quickly and more easily.

We can then affirm that if the EFL process starts at the preschool age, all the cognoscitive advantages will support and facilitate the language learning process.

Additional reasons for exposing children to early English as a foreign language learning are:

•  Children growing up learn to speak at least 2,000 basic words by the time they are four years old.

•  Simple observation of how babies learn to talk proves that they are natural learners.

•  During the first six months of life, babies babble using 70 sounds that make up all the languages in the world.

•  They will then learn to talk using only the sounds and words they pick up from their environment most importantly from their parents and caregivers.

A baby's brain will then discard the ability to speak in languages he or she does not hear (Kotulak, 1996).  Therefore, if children hear English before they discard this ability, the learning process will be natural and proficient.

According to Ronald Kotulak (1996), author of Inside the Brain mentioned that Preschool years are vital years:

“During this period and especially the first three years of life, the foundations for thinking, language, vision, attitudes, aptitudes, and other characteristics are laid down".

 

Therefore, it would be a waste not to use a child's natural ability to learn during his most vital years when learning a foreign language is as easy as learning the first one. The 50 percent of the ability to learn is developed in the first six years of life; the other 30 percent by the age of eight.

For this reason, early childhood development programs should provide the opportunity to encourage early foreign language learning and development.

It does not mean, however, that the 50 to 80 percent of one's intelligence and cognoscitive reasoning is formed during early childhood. It simply means that during the first few years of life, children form their main learning pathways in the brain (Bloom, 1964).

There are six main pathways to the brain. They include learning by sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, and work (Dryden & Vos, 1997). Later in life, what an individual learns from the information gained during these early years will grow. According to Harry Chugani, (1998) a pediatric neurologist, foreign language teaching should begin when children are in preschool: the time when teachers can maximize their willingness and ability to learn.

By the time a student reaches high school, the optimum learning period is lost. Infants can learn by listening, seeing, imitating, and practicing. Let us so talk to them from the beginning. Let us tell them what we are doing. Let us introduce them to rhymes, songs, games. Let us provide them with plenty of tapes. We could even consider boarding foreign guests to our classroom. Most importantly, let us teach them with fun.

Following our proposal to reach these goals and the findings from the qualitative study conducted in our research.

TO SEE: The Research Field, our entrance to the process.