Multiple Intelligences

Bookmark and Share

Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences


Gardner has produced the most widely used books on what he calls 'multiple intelligences' or learning styles (sometimes called 'smarts') He coined the phrase, the 'multiple chance theory' of learning, which I like very much, as it suggests to me that all of the pupils walking into my class have varying multiple intelligences and should therefore be given an equal opportunity to learn. If we simply look at the idea of the left and right hemispheres of the brain (as discussed in relation to mind maps); when you go to school, which side of your brain is being stimulated by exercise books that have lines and margins where you have to write in portrait rather than landscape? The left side, of course. How many teachers would encourage you to turn your book sideways pick up a pencil and some colors and make a colorful mind-map of what you are learning? Well, perhaps they should. Here are a few of the key ideas relating to the use of learning styles and multiple intelligences in your teaching:

• We all have one or more ‘preferred learning style’ although we may not realize it throughout our lifetimes unless we are made aware of it.

• Learning how to ‘get the facts to suit yourself’ can radically improve your performance as a learner because for example, you can mind-map a page of a text book to make the ideas appeal to your visual sense, or you can record ideas and play them back to yourself if you are an auditory learner.

• Kids love thinking about which style they might be (meta-cognition, or 'thinking about thinking') and in small doses, they also like thinking about learning, so teach them about multiple intelligences!

• Most people are either: Visual (I need pictures, diagrams or movies before I can learn), Auditory (I learn by listening) or Kinaesthetic (I need to do and feel it first). Try working out which your dominant style might be and in your own work, see if you can 'get the facts to suit yourself'.

• Gardner describes seven intelligences, and we all have the following additional ones; Musical (Can I rap or sing it or have music playing while I learn), Inter-personal (I need to teach someone else or discuss it), Intra-personal (I need to sit quietly and connect this to what I already know) Mathematical/Logical (I need to find the logical steps behind this).

• In my own experience, visual learners can also be described as visualizers. See the section below on learning spellings for one possible use of visualization. I have found visualization to be an incredibly useful tool for both presenting and assimilating information. Teaching students to record information in their visual memory is an extremely useful way of learning spellings, mind maps, etc.

The implications for lesson planning here, should be obvious. Vary the activities and the learning styles targeted and your lessons really will offer 'multiple chances for your students to learn with their multiple intelligences.

Student Motivation and efficiency


Leading students down a meta-cognitive path and getting them to 'think about thinking, will help to motivate them to learn in general. However, teachers also need to be aware of the concept of 'What's in it for me?' or the WIIFM of their subject and of each of their lessons. A WIIFM can be expressed in a variety of different ways, both implicitly and explicitly. Beginning a lesson by simply saying: 'by the end of this hour, you will be able to....' is far better than simply starting. However, the WIIFM is not to be confused with setting out lesson aims or objectives. It is rather more intangible, as it has more to do with marketing than formal teaching. Advertisers are literally spending millions trying to attract young people to their products by answering that question for them, whilst stimulating their multiple intelligences. Whilst we may not be able to compete in quite the same way, we owe it to our students and to ourselves to attempt to communicate our passion for our subject in as many lessons as possible. This may take the form of adapting degree level work that particularly inspired you to your classroom. It may simply come in the form of a true story from your life that relates to the material. Occasionally students will surprise you when you ask the question: 'why are we learning this?'

If answering the WIIFM injects passion into your teaching, then a quick shot of the

Pareto Principle, will help to make your lessons relevant and focused. This principle, is often referred to as the 80/20 principle, which states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. There are many applications of this rule to learning:

• Look for only the 10 - 20% of key words in each paragraph that you read, that carry the meaning of a text and turn those into mind-maps, rather than make longhand notes, which use more words.

• When revising, reduce your notes down to the vital 20% of information that you need in order to understand.

• Modify your lesson planning by isolating the key 20% of information in each lesson that your pupils need to understand, then allow 80% of the actual lesson time for students to use and remember it, using their multiple intelligences.

• As a result, reduce the amount of ‘busywork’ or filler in your lessons.

• Apply the principle to time management by remembering that only 20% of the things you do during each day really matter.

Multiple Intelliences make spellings fun


How do I get kids to love learning their spellings and to explore their multiple intelligences?

Get them to visualize and spell them backwards!

You are teaching photosynthesis and need your students to spell it correctly for their test. First explain visualization as a spelling technique.

Here’s how I do it.

1. “Watch where my eyes go when I picture my front door” (they will tend to go up and to the left)

2. “Try it with a partner. Have them picture their pet or their room and watch where their eyes go.”

3. “Now everyone look up left and picture a dog. Tell me what colour is yours?”

4. “I won’t hurt the dog but I’m going to spray paint the word D-O-G in silver onto it. What’s your colour?”

5. “Now read the word backwards to me. Its G-O-D. We read it backwards so you actually have to see each letter”

6. “Now lets try a four letter word. Picture a fish” (Repeat the process)

7. “So what about long words? Well we chunk them down” (PHOTO/SYN/THE/SIS)

8 “Isn’t it weird how each small word is easier to see up and to the left?”

9. “Now spray paint each chunk up there, maybe in a different color”

10. “Now for a credit who wants to come up to the front and recite the spelling backwards?”

Kids go crazy for this. There is no writing for them as you write up the chunks. If they can spell it backwards that means they can truly visualize it, which means they can spell it forwards.

And they get a prize each time they get a word right!

Here's how this technique works. It comes from something called the visual spelling strategy, which was originally 'discovered' by NLP practitioners, who were examining the concept of multiple intelligences. The strategy was popularized by the UK based company

'Seeing Spells Achieving'. It uses the NLP concept of

eye accessing cues and the fact that we tend to store remembered images up and to the left.

Bookmark & Share

Click here to return from multiple intelligences to learning styles, To return home, click here.

How useful did you find this site?

Please note that all fields followed by an asterisk must be filled in.

Please enter the word that you see below.


New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave me a comment in the box below.