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Aspects of Development and Functioning of the Brain

The human brain is a complex formation that is undergoing constant research and triggering multiple theories concerning its development and functioning. Inter alia, an attempt to explain the brain phenomenon was made by Howard Gardner who developed a theory of multiple intelligences in 1983. Gardner states that to explain the complexity and variety of the human brain, IQ testing is not enough. Instead, he suggests eight types of intelligence reflecting a broad range of human talents. Appealing to all types of intelligence can make education more efficient, increasing the learning capacity of students (qtd. in Armstrong 1994). The following table represents the possible instructional activities that correspond to each type of intelligence when learning new vocabulary during foreign language lessons:

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Type of intelligence Activities
Linguistic reading the text which contains new lexical units guessing words from context
completing vocabulary exercises finding descriptions and definitions for new words
Logical-mathematical drawing a concept map including the new vocabulary into it together with the familiar one
finding antonyms and synonyms to new words
Spatial matching new words with the pictures
finding metaphors for the new words
Bodily-kinesthetic giving each student a letter of the alphabet, then naming a new word and making them spell it with each student standing for one letter
guessing the new word shown in signs by one of the students
Musical singing a song that includes new vocabulary
associating each new word with certain music
Interpersonal engaging students in dialogues using new vocabulary
organizing a round-table discussion on the topic which involves new lexical units
Intrapersonal remembering a personal experience connected to new vocabulary
associating each word with personal emotions or feelings
Naturalist identifying places in the world where the object designated by a new word can be found
creating a scheme that classifies the new words into ones designating objects of nature and those referring to abstract notions

As a rule, the traditional reading and writing activities develop linguistic intelligence, which helps the child to recognize, classify and summarize the world around. In order to optimize the effects of the brain, it is advisable to involve other types of intelligence in reading and writing tasks, e.g. writing an essay about a piece of music one has listened to also develops musical intelligence.

Early brain development comprises two major stages: prenatal (initial brain formation) and postnatal (first 3 years of life). Brain development is actually a process of learning the brain, “creating, strengthening, and discarding connections among the neurons” (Child Welfare Information Gateway 2001, p. 3), involving it in thought and thus, via stimulation, enlarging it. Certain sensitive and critical periods are singled out which determine further development of the brain throughout the whole life. That is why it is of vital importance to create a caring and manifold environment to stimulate brain development in various directions.

Prolonged stress can bear crucial effects on the human brain. Resulting from it can be chronic anxiety and fear, focusing brain resources on survival (Child Welfare Information Gateway 2001). Other parts of the brain, responsible for complex thinking, memory, and cognition are thus rarely used and become hard to activate when necessary.

In the process of cognition, a key role is played by reading and writing skills as they develop abstract thinking and are closely interwoven with language acquisition. Failure to gain such skills can be a signal of deeper-going problems, such as dyslexia.

On the whole, the brain is a complex multi-layer structure characterized by development and the ability to learn. Research shows that early stages are crucial for further healthy functioning, thus it is of great importance to create a favorable learning environment starting from very early childhood.


  1. Armstrong, T. (1994). Multiple Intelligences: Seven Ways to Approach Curriculum. Educational Leadership.
  2. Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2001). Understanding the Effects of Maltreatment on Early Brain Development. Web.

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