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Diversify Your Lessons With Multiple Intelligences

Does your seven-year-old prefer doodling to writing? Does your ten-year-old hum while he works? Is a walk through the woods your teen’s favorite way to unwind? You know that your children are unique. They each have a personality that is like no other. They have different interests and different ways of interacting with others. They also have different ways of learning. When you recognize these differences, you can use them to help each child learn more efficiently and more enjoyably.

Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences

Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist and professor of education at Harvard, proposed a theory of multiple intelligences in 1983 that still holds water today. The theory is a model for intelligence and intellectual abilities that outlines different aspects of cognition, thinking, and learning. Proponents of the theory believe that most people are dominant in one or two of these aspects. The theory has its detractors, but what is well known is that when you help a child learn according to his or her dominant aspect of intelligence, they will learn better and more efficiently.

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Gardner recognizes eight behaviors that make up his theory. A ninth is included by some and not by others. If a child excels in one aspect of intelligence, but not others, they may be traditionally considered less intelligent. However, with Gardner’s theory, a child like this is not less intelligent; rather, they are intelligent in different ways than other children. Below are the eight accepted abilities. The ninth is still somewhat controversial.

  1. Logical-mathematical. People who are dominant in this aspect are considered to be intelligent in the traditional sense of the word. They are good with numbers and logic. They tend to be good at things like chess, computer programming, debate, and scientific thinking.
  2. Linguistic. This is another aspect of the traditional definition of intelligence. Linguistic learners are good with language. They are good at reading, writing, memorizing, and learning foreign languages.
  3. Spatial. Spatial intelligence means being able to visualize things well. These types of learners are good at art, design, and puzzles. They often become architects, artists, and engineers.
  4. Bodily-kinesthetic. Children with this type of intelligence are very aware of their bodies and excel at controlling their movements. They are good at sports, dancing, and acting.
  5. Interpersonal. Those who are dominated by interpersonal intelligence interact well with others. They have a keen understanding and empathy for other people and are good at communicating and working with people.
  6. Intrapersonal. With intrapersonal intelligence, a child is good at introspection and self-reflection. They are good at critical thinking and philosophy.
  7. Musical. Children with musical intelligence excel at anything to do with music. They are very sensitive to rhythm, sounds, and beats.
  8. Naturalistic. Naturalistic learners are in tune with their surroundings. They are good at classifying animals, plants, and other elements of the natural world. Gardeners, farmers, and biologists often have naturalistic intelligence.
  9. Existential. Some followers of multiple intelligence theory believe that spiritual or religious intelligence is a valid aspect. Existential learners are good at contemplating big questions and phenomena.

Using Multiple Intelligences

The keys to using multiple intelligences to benefit your children and their education are to understand each child’s dominant learning behavior and to tailor learning to that strength. Good classroom teachers do this, but they are limited. There is only so much differentiating they can do with a room of thirty or more kids. You, on the other hand, have the flexibility and the time to understand and take advantage of your children’s intelligences.

When you have determined your child’s strongest ability or intelligence, however, you should not ignore the others. A well-rounded and balanced education includes all aspects of learning and intelligence. If your daughter, for instance, excels at problem solving and performing math calculations, she is a logical-mathematical learner. This does not mean that from now on she should only work on math, debate, and logic. But, you can use her logical way of thinking to introduce other topics. You should also encourage her to attempt other intelligences that are not her strong suit. If she struggles with music, you should not cut all music out of her life; rather teach her to accept her strengths and weaknesses and to learn to work with or around them.

  • Logical-mathematical. For your little logicians, use their thinking style in topics other than math. They can compare and contrast ideas, make timelines, and make concept maps to organize facts and ideas. They will also respond well to working on the computer and with other types of technology.
  • Linguistic. Because linguistic learners are good with words, reading, and writing, use them to learn other subjects. Reading about a new topic and writing a summary is an excellent way to take in and store new knowledge. Encourage your linguistic child to write stories about what they have learned each day.
  • Spatial. Use any visuals you can to help your spatial child learn. He will respond to pictures, videos, and computer programs with good visuals. Encourage him to draw pictures when learning and to describe ideas. Use graphs, maps, color-coding, collages, and visual organizers with him in all subject areas.
  • Bodily-kinesthetic. These poor children tend to get in trouble at traditional schools because they have a hard time sitting still. Allow your kinesthetic learner to move around during lessons as long as she is still listening and contributing. Have discussions and lessons while out for a walk. When possible, make learning hands on for her. Do projects, experiments, and crafts to help her learn in all subject areas.
  • Interpersonal. Your interpersonal learner works best with others rather than alone. Encourage group work and group lessons. Get involved with other homeschoolers and have collaborative lessons so he gets to interact with other people. He will be able to learn new subjects best by having discussions, so make lessons a two-way conversation rather than a lecture.
  • Intrapersonal. On the other hand, your intrapersonal child will prefer to work alone. Although you should develop her interpersonal skills by having her work with others from time to time, allow her to be a loner. A journal is a great way for your reflective learner to cement her knowledge. Encourage her to reflect on the day’s lessons with a personal and private diary.
  • Musical. Musical learners are great with rhyming, patterns, and sounds. Let your musical child hum or sing along with work. Have her create songs or raps to remember facts. Put on classical music in the background when she is working on any subject. It will help her focus.
  • Naturalistic. Your nature lover thrives in the outdoors, so whenever weather and conditions allow, take him outside for lessons, studying, and projects. Try to relate lessons on other topics to the natural world. For math, for instance, you can use plants and animals in word problems or for counting.

When you tap into your child’s specific abilities, you will find a powerful resource for thinking and learning. Instead of fighting against your daughter’s need to be outside or your son’s desire to blast loud music, work with it. And remember that your child does not have just one ability. He simply has a dominant type of intelligence. Use it to your advantage, but don’t neglect the others.

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