PAIVA, V.L.M.O. Making learning meaningful.Newsletter da APLIEMGE. Vol. 5, n.4, dez. 2000. p.5


Vera Lúcia Menezes de Oliveira e Paiva

Learning becomes meaningful and effective if students are given the opportunity to link their school activities to real-life experience. According to Westwater & Wolfe (2000:49) information that the brain determines is important is much more likely to be attended to, stored, and later retrieved than that which the brain decides is meaningless or of little consequence. I invite English teachers to think about that whenever they plan their classes and select the activities to be performed by their students.

Avoiding the study of isolated language forms represents a first attempt towards more meaningful learning. Language is better learned when students use the language to learn it. I urge teachers to trash lists of decontextualized sentences and introduce meaningful tasks to teach English. What about forgetting those lists of sentences to be put into the negative form and use one of the tasks below?

1. Make up some wrong statements using the content of the other subjects in school and ask your students to correct them by using negative statements. In order to select the statements you can ask teachers in your school to give you suggestions.

Ex. The Amazon River flows from northern Colombia across northern Brazil.

The Amazon River does not flow from northern Colombia across northern

Brazil. It flows from northern Peru across northern Brazil.

2. Ask your students to interview their parents in order to find out things they do not do, eat, like, want, etc. Students can afterwards compare their results in order to find out what their fathers and mothers have in common.

3. Ask pairs of students to draw pictures of their bedrooms. Afterwards, ask them to use negative forms to talk about the differences between them.

Other two aspects of learning that should be taken into account are learning styles and multiple intelligences. Silver et al (2000:25) divide learning styles into four main categories made up of a combination of thinking, sensing, feeling, and intuition. They are: Mastery (sensing-thinking); Interpersonal (sensing-feeling); Understanding (intuitive-thinking); and Self-expression (intuitive-feeling). Gardner´s intelligences are: verbal-linguistic; logical –mathematical; spatial; bodily-kinesthetic; musical; interpersonal; intrapersonal and naturalistic.

We can provide students with activities that fuse multiple intelligence and learning styles in a meaningful and practical way aiming at "integrated learning" (Silver et al, 2000). We can also integrate several intelligences and styles to develop different language skills. In the examples below, you can find: (1) a combination of Mastery style, Spatial and naturalistic Intelligences to develop vocabulary. (2) a combination of interpersonal style, intrapersonal and naturalistic intelligences to develop writing. (3) a combination of understanding style, verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences to develop reading. (4) a combination of self-expressive style, verbal-linguistic and musical intelligences to develop speaking.

(1) Draw a flowering plant and label its parts.

(2) Suppose you are a river and write a text describing how you feel when people pollute water.

(3) Compare ads and try to match the ones which employ similar textual formulae.

(4) Create a rap song to make up a recipe for a better world.

Use your imagination, try out other combinations and send your suggestions to our Newsletter.


SILVER et al. So each may learn.Alexandria: ASCD, 2000.

WESTWATER, Anne & WOLFE, Pat. The brain-compatible curriculum. Educational Leadership.Alexandria, v. 58, n. 3, p. 49-52, Nov. 2000.