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Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences

Much has been written about the nature of intelligence. In 1927, Charles Spearman was one of the first to claim that there were specific abilities that supplemented general intelligence. This, he said, was why certain people performed better on different tasks.

However, it was J.P. Guilford and Howard Gardner who were the psychologists who put forth the theory of multiple intelligences the way it is understood in education today. There are eight types of intelligence: linguistic, musical, spatial, logical/mathematical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist. Some argue the addition of existential intelligence.

1. Linguistic Intelligence

Students with linguistic intelligence are great at language. They can hear the sounds and rhythms of words. They love language, whether it's reading, writing, or speaking. These are the future writers, poets, journalists, and public speakers of the world.

2. Musical Intelligence

These students are the ones who drum on the desk or are always humming a tune. They hear music in everything and love to produce music in whatever way they can. These are the future musicians, composers, producers, and symphony conductors of the world.

3. Spatial Intelligence

Students with spatial intelligence are the ones who can learn the layout of their new school in under a day. They understand how things are put together and have amazing memory for them. These are the future sculptors, tour guides, and navigators of the world.

4. Logical / Mathematical Intelligence

These are the number whiz kids. They can easily pick up the patterns and long chains of reasoning necessary to succeed in mathematics or logic puzzles. They are the world's future scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

5. Kinesthetic Intelligence

That kid that can't sit still? You can't manage to get him to learn math but when you see him on the soccer field, he's a champ and a leader for his team. This is the kinesthetic learner – a future athlete, dancer, or choreographer.

6. Interpersonal Intelligence

Students with interpersonal intelligence understand other people. They can pick up on your mood before you've even noticed it yourself. They understand why people act the way they do. These are the future teachers, therapists, and salespeople of the world.

7. Intrapersonal Intelligence

You might call these students the introverts. They have a deep understanding of who they are and who they want to be. They recognize their feelings and motivations at a level much more advanced than your other students. These are the future philosophers and writers of the world.

8. Naturalist Intelligence

He's the one keeping your classroom plants alive after you nearly killed them. Naturalists have an innate relationship with plants and animals and understand the balance of nature. These are the future farmers, hunters, and landscapers of the world.

What Do I Do with Them All?

You will most likely have all of these students in your classroom. Don't make the mistake of trying to incorporate all the intelligences in every lesson. Look through your objectives and apply activities that hit the intelligences that are most appropriate. Remember that playing music during study time is not going to help students with musical intelligence. Nor does interpersonal intelligence mean group learning projects.  Also keep in mind that you can't grade all students on an activity focused on one intelligence. It's just not fair.

Use multiple intelligences as a way to cultivate your students' hidden talents. Some students might struggle to write a poem about types of fish, but another might realize that she has a talent with poetry that she never realized before. Use multiple intelligences as a way to introduce variety into your classroom assignments. For example, if you're learning about pyramids, some students will learn more from building a pyramid out of sugar cubes rather than writing a paper about how to build a pyramid.

Students who have choices feel empowered about their education and are more likely to take it seriously. Give them a way to shine in the way they shine best and they will not only learn, but love you for giving them the opportunity to do so.


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