Incorporating multiple intelligences into follow-up activities in teaching American Literature to the 4th-year students at faculty of English, Hanoi national university of education

Abstract. The author investigated the possibility of incorporating multiple intelligences into post-reading activities in teaching American Literature to senior English language majors studying at the Hanoi National University of Education. The research consisted of a time period in a Literature class which begins by introducing the short story, “The Story of an Hour.” A follow-up assignment was given Following a variety of while-reading exercises, a follow-up assignment was given that required the students to reveal what they understood about the text, which helps the teacher access their levels of comprehension. The result indicated that incorporating such ‘multiple intelligences’ in this way enabled the students to interact with the literary work and at the same time raised their confidence and interest in exploring the text

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE 2013, Vol. 58, No. 6B, pp. 12-17 This paper is available online at INCORPORATING MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCES INTO FOLLOW-UP ACTIVITIES IN TEACHING AMERICAN LITERATURE TO THE 4TH-YEAR STUDENTS AT FACULTY OF ENGLISH, HANOI NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION Do Thi Phuong Mai Faculty of English, Hanoi National University of Education Abstract. The author investigated the possibility of incorporating multiple intelligences into post-reading activities in teaching American Literature to senior English language majors studying at the Hanoi National University of Education. The research consisted of a time period in a Literature class which begins by introducing the short story, “The Story of an Hour.” A follow-up assignment was given Following a variety of while-reading exercises, a follow-up assignment was given that required the students to reveal what they understood about the text, which helps the teacher access their levels of comprehension. The result indicated that incorporating such ‘multiple intelligences’ in this way enabled the students to interact with the literary work and at the same time raised their confidence and interest in exploring the text. Keywords:MIs, post reading activities, American Literature. 1. Introduction An American Literature course was designed for fourth year students in their 7th semester of an eight semester ELT course. It was a fifteen-week course which provided students with an overall view of American literature that was to provide basic information on its development, factors that affected this development, some major trends, and certain prominent American writers that represent different stages and trends in literature. While desiring to increase English major students’ proficiency in English and encourage them to read more, the syllabus developers also expected that the selected texts would lead to personal development and encourage an appreciation of creative language. The fulfilment of these goals would result in an integration of cultural, language and personal growth models of teaching literature (Carter, R & Long, M. 1991) and would not Received July 29, 2013. Accepted September 12, 2013. Contact Do Thi Phuong Mai, e-mail address: maidtp@hnue.edu.vn 12 Incorporating multiple intelligences into follow-up activities in teaching American Literature... only improve language proficiency but would also enable students to make a connection between the texts and their personal lives. Literature is, therefore, viewed as a source of facts or information and the literary text as a product (Sidhu, 2003.) However, there arose a problem, and that was the emphasis the examination placed on language learning. Additionally, English language teachers usually do not encourage students to interact and respond to the texts, purportedly because students have different levels of language proficiency and different aptitudes. Therefore, reinforcement and follow-up activities are essential. 2. Content 2.1. The sample - “The story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin The story is about an hour in the life of the main character, Mrs. Mallard. Mallard is a woman who is afflicted with a heart problem. That is the reason why her sister Josephine and Richard, her husband’s friend, broke the news of her husband’s death to her as gently as possible. Surprisingly, Mrs. Mallard reacts to the news with excitement. Even though it was thought that the news would be heartbreaking she feels that she is finally free from the depressing life she was living. She is happy because she doesn’t have to live for anyone but herself now. Unfortunately, her husband, Mr. Mallard, is still alive and knows nothing about the supposed accident. When the husband did come home, Richard tried to block Mr. Mallard’s view of his wife but they could not. The doctors told Mr. Mallard that his wife died of a heart attack, "of a joy that killed her." When I first introduced the story to my students, it got a very enthusiastic response from students of all English language proficiency levels due to the appealing theme and its short length. Thus, despite the fairly wide variation in language proficiency among the students, the warm up activities, which included brainstorming for possible meanings and interpretation of the terms and phrases, managed to elicit a wide range of spontaneous responses from the students. The warm up and following sessions facilitated the students’ general comprehension, familiarized them with difficult words and gave them an insight into the possibilities of the story. The questions and comments they made reflected their interest in the story. In order to allow every student an opportunity to interact with the story in a way that was most meaningful to them, I drew upon the concept of multiple intelligences (Howard Gardner, 1983) which proposes that students will benefit more from a more diverse vision of education and the use of different methodologies, exercises and activities as a framework for post-reading activities. As a follow-up activity, students were given the assignment of interpreting the story any way they wanted, either in groups or as an individual activity. Suggestions were made to help students have some idea about what they were expected to do. They were given one week to prepare their presentation. 2.2. Results and discussion Visual representation 13 Do Thi Phuong Mai Group 1’s pictures Group 2’s pictures Two groups of students, with four members each, visualized the story in the way they think it should happen. As their teacher I realized that these students were limited in their verbal linguistic skills, and it could be said that they were ‘slow learners’. Even if they found it difficult to express themselves verbally they could still understand what was happening in the story and relate to it. Perhaps the visual representation was over simplistic; however, it did mean something important to the artist. In this case, their visual intelligence far exceeds any other type of intelligence they might exhibit. 14 Incorporating multiple intelligences into follow-up activities in teaching American Literature... The journals About one fourth of the students chose to make journal entry responses to the story. Of these, most had a higher level of English language proficiency than the others and they occasionally wrote their thoughts and reflections in their own diaries, too. The following are extracts from two of these journals, written in English. Extract 1 What a great story! When I first read it, I feel sad because the woman has just lost her husband. Then I feel astonished but excited and happy when she starts to say "Free!" thinking of all the things she is going to do now that she does not have a husband that prevents her from doing things. And finally when she gets out of the room to express her happiness, her husband is at the door and alive and she dies.How ironic it is! It is like a person just won the lottery prize and after he screamed and jumped of excitement he really realized that he didn’t win in fact. Extract 2 Reading the story, I have a feeling that Mrs. Mallard is like a person who was “dead” long before her physical death. Her physical death was described as “the joy that kills.” What’s about her so-called “real” death? When hearing that her husband was dead, she celebrated her new life. The scene in which she was living prior to learning about her husband’s “death” could not have been thought of as really living. If her sole desire was to be free of her marriage, which is supposedly lifelong, then what type of life was she truly living? The journals reflected intrapersonal intelligence, which involves introspective and self-reflective capacities. Multiple Intelligences theory categorizes people with intrapersonal intelligence as intuitive and typically introverted and skilful at deciphering their own feelings and motivations. Although the students who had chosen to do the journal entries were not typically introverted, they were the ones in the class who usually wrote essays that reflected a deeper understanding of the self and their own emotional reactions. Found poem One group of five students summarized the story and then they wrote a prose passage and underlined words and phrases that struck their interest or that related to the theme of the passage. After that was written, with the help of the teacher they took these images and "found" a poem. They were free to add new words or change words if they seemed cumbersome, but the base of the poem was the actual words and phrases from the original text. The poem reflected the students’ verbal/ linguistic intelligence and their interest in literature as well. Here is the poem: Brently Mallard’s name Leading the list of killed In a railroad disaster Hearing the 15 Do Thi Phuong Mai news She wept at onceWent to her room alone Facing the open window, a roomy armchair She sank, Then sat motionless There was a dull stare in her eyes And an intelligent thought What was it? “Free, free, free” Absolutely Free! Body and soul A long procession of years to come Would belong to herself And she carried herself Like a goddess of Victory Drama One group chose to do a small drama based on the story. It was a seven-minute play with the main character being Mrs. Mallard since she heard the news of her husband’s death. This form of genre adaptation involved Gardner’s Interpersonal-linguistic intelligence, which has to do with interaction with others. The drama added another dimension to the story and the creation of characters, script and setting seemed to bring it to life in the language classroom. The students seemed to be great actors and actresses! Mind-mapping and Timeline One group of students drew a timeline of the story; all the main events in the story are given in a logical and easy-to-understand way. This group of students seemed to be logical in their thinking and illustrated their ideas very clearly. Setting Time and place: At the Mallard house Characters: Mrs. Louise Mallard Mr. Brent Mallard Josephine – Louise’s sister Richard – Mr. Mallard’s friend Chain of events The beginning events that initiate the actions Mrs. Mallard has heart trouble but she survives when hearing the news of her husband’s death. Internal response and goal/ problem She cries a lot and wants to be by herself in a locked room. Attempts and outcome While alone, she does some thinking and she knows that she’s happy when her husband dies, because now she’s free “body and soul” to live for herself. Climax As soon as she leaves the room, she sees her husband and she is deeply shocked. Resolution Mrs. Mallard dies. 3. Conclusion The idea of incorporating multiple intelligences into follow-up activities in the EFL literature classroom brought many interesting results. First, despite the fact that there was a lot of overlapping among the different ‘intelligences’, students generally chose to interpret the story in the way they felt most comfortable and best at doing. Each of 16 Incorporating multiple intelligences into follow-up activities in teaching American Literature... them had a personal entry point into the story and for many this proved to be a first-time experience of interacting with a literary text on their own terms. This also gave them a sense of empowerment and helped build confidence and enthusiasm to explore other texts. It provided even students with very limited language proficiency with an avenue to enjoy and appreciate literary texts that might previously have seemed unattainable . As the language teacher, I recognized that if students are unable to express themselves eloquently through words alone, they may be quite confident in exploring the text in other ways. REFERENCES [1] Beach, Richard, 1993. A Teacher’s Introduction to Reader Response Theories. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. [2] Carter, R & Long, M., 1991. Teaching Literature. Longman [3] Gardner, Howard, 1999. Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century. New York: Basic Books [4] Glasgow, 1997. Utilizing our Multiple Intelligences Reader Response Activities. Battlecreek 103.weekly.com [5] Holland, N, 1968. The Dynamics of Literary Response. Oxford University Press. [6] Rosenblatt, L. M, 1938, 1978. Literature as exploration. New York: Aplleton Century [7] Rosenblatt, L. M, 1938, 1978. The reader, the text, the poem: The transactional theory of the literary work. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press. [8] Sidhu,G.K, 2003. Literature in the Language Classroom: Seeing through the eyes of learners. In Ganakumaran Subramaniam (ed.), Teaching literature in ESL/EFL contexts, Petaling Jaya: Sasbadi. 17
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