Maximize Student Potential with Multiple Intelligences

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Part two in a three-part series on MI

Children's talents are only potentials…
In the last article, How to Use Multiple Intelligences to Reach Every Child, we defined multiple intelligences as a way of identifying the natural strengths or styles of learning (intelligences) each one of us possesses. As conceived by Harvard educational theorist Howard Gardner, these intelligences include: logical/mathematical, visual/spatial, naturalist, bodily/kinesthetic, musical/rhythmic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and verbal/linguistic.

Intelligences are best viewed as potentials that are either realized or not realized, depending on the context in which they are found. Professor Gardner provides the example of chess master Bobby Fischer to demonstrate this idea. Clearly, Fischer had the innate potential to be a great chess player, but if he had been born in a culture without chess, that potential might never have been realized. Thus, intelligences are always an interaction between biological tendencies and the opportunities for learning that exist in an environment.

...Until they have the right tools and environment
So, once you identify your students' strengths, how can you create a learning environment to maximize their potentials?

A starting point is to recognize that every child possesses at least one "island of competence" – one area that could be a source of pride and accomplishment. Providing students with activities that allow them to achieve mastery in their areas of natural interest and skill can produce a positive "ripple effect" in which they may be more willing to face challenges in other domains. This is a solid building block in the foundation of a healthy sense of self-esteem.

Following are some additional tips to help you create a learning environment supportive of multiple intelligences.

Musical/rhythmic: Enjoys listening to music

Teaching tip: Create discographies: Supplement bibliographies with lists of recorded music relating to class material. Also, as part of a homework assignment, have students select music that best demonstrates lesson themes.
Fun activity (grades 4-6): Play unusual or difficult-to-recognize sounds and ask students to imagine what they might be.
Fun activity (grades 6-8): Some students can more easily memorize information if they listen to a teacher's lesson against a musical background. Baroque and classical music can be particularly effective.

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