Your child is much smarter than you think. But have you ever wondered in what ways your child is smart? Psychologist Howard Gardner presented the Multiple Intelligences back in the 1980s, and this way of thinking is changing our traditional view of intelligence.
The Multiple Intelligences approach teaches us that we are all smart in many different ways.
The Multiple Intelligences, or “Smarts” as teachers often call them, have influenced the way many teachers respond to their students and, in turn, how students approach learning. Education professionals use the Smarts in more schools today, yet many parents and teachers are not aware they exist. With a better understanding, teachers and parents can help students become more self-aware and empower them to take ownership of their learning.
The American education system has historically catered to students who are visual and auditory learners. For example, the teacher writes notes on the board and the students copy it on paper. Or the teacher lectures on a topic and expects the students to take notes based on what they hear. However, many students don’t necessarily learn best in these ways. So what becomes of the kids with a different style of learning? Often, these students develop a negative attitude toward school – and educators label many with behavioral issues.
Many Ways to Be Smart
According to Gardner, there are eight Smarts and everyone has all of them. The Smarts are as follows: Body, People, Math/Logic, Music, Picture, Self, Word, and Nature. Many people from older generations were often forced to become verbal or mathematical-logical learners, as teaching methods used in the past were mostly aligned with these two learning styles.
In contrast, teachers scolded students who doodled in the margin while the teacher lectured. We now know, however, these students were demonstrating their Art smart. And the child who was always up and out of her seat? Don’t assume she had A.D.H.D. – she likely needed to channel her energy because she was Body smart.
Teachers who use the Smarts in their classrooms are aware that each child is unique, arrives with different learning needs, and has a Smart that is stronger than the others. But, just because a child has a strong Music smart, for example, doesn’t mean she can’t work on developing the Smarts in which she is weaker. Students in a Multiple Intelligences-friendly classroom become aware of their strengths as well as weaknesses.
So what does a classroom using the Smarts look like? First, teachers who use this approach understand the Smarts are not a curriculum, nor do they attempt to replace an existing curriculum. The Smarts are tools that help teachers nurture the whole student.
When a teacher sees a child who loves to identify and classify animals or other objects in nature, she observes this child may show a Nature smart. Further, when a student shows she is in touch with her beliefs, values, and ways of thought, then maybe she has a strong Self smart. The teacher knows how each student learns best and offers activities and testing opportunities that reflect the characteristics of the different Smarts.
Here are sample activities for each Smart (activities will vary by grade level):
- Body: Acting out plays, dancing, hands-on experiments
- People: Peer editing, sharing, group work
- Math/Logic: Solving puzzles, using money, using manipulatives
- Music: Rhyming, singing, rapping
- Picture: Creating charts, illustrating a story, using graphic organizers
- Self: Independent reading, personal goal setting, journaling
- Word: Storytelling, debating, process writing
- Nature: Reading outside, going on a nature walk, identifying/classifying insects, plants, etc.
The Smarts and Common Core
Some critics of the Smarts express concerns that this approach doesn’t support the Common Core, the new nearly country-wide standards adopted by 45 states. However, the Smarts can peacefully co-exist with the Common Core. The common ground here is critical thinking.
Creators designed the Common Core to promote critical thinking and the Smarts offer students a variety of ways to reach this goal. So if the standards require a teacher to teach students about the solar system, why not let them sing a catchy tune about it? Remember the dreaded book report? The Smarts allow students to respond to a novel by drawing a picture or acting out a scene. The key is teaching students about the Smarts and helping them understand the ways they learn best will vary – and that each is valid.
Multiple Intelligences and Your Child
Check in with your child’s teacher and find out if she is aware of how your child learns best. Together, parents and teachers can encourage children in all areas of growth. To learn more about Howard Gardner and the Multiple Intelligences, check out the resources below.© Copyright 2013 Julie Lemming, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Parenting