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Multiple Intelligences

Communication symbol - two screen beans talking through cans and string
1.  Verbal/Linguistic (V/L):

V/L consists of the ability to think in words and to use language to express and appreciate complex meanings. Authors and journalists are among those that exhibit high degrees of linguistic intelligence. Our culture often defines those with VL as the most intelligent because they often are adept at using language fluently, at manipulating the structure or syntax of language, and/or have a deep appreciation of its meaning.  They can most effectively communicate in words.  

Classroom activities to encourage the development or expression of V/L include:

  • Creative writing

  • Debate

  • Essay tests

  • Journal writing

  • Joke telling about the subject

  • Reading assignments

  • Research Papers

  • Speeches and class presentations

  • Storytelling

  • Vocabulary lists

person with math tables

2.  Logical/Mathematical (L/M):

L/M core components include sensitivity to and the ability to discern logical or numerical patterns, and the ability to handle long chains of reasoning. It is fundamental to scientific thinking: establishing a hypothesis, testing, and then modifying it in light of the results.  Scientists, accountants, engineers and computer programmers apply L/M regularly.  

Classroom activities to encourage the development or expression of L/M include:

  • Home finance planning
  • Calculations
  • Computer programming
  • Deciphering codes
  • Economic data analysis
  • Graphic organization of material
  • Mathematical formulas
  • Numerical sequencing of information
  • Pattern searches

3.  Visual/Spatial (V/S):

V/S intelligence Includes the ability to perceive the visual-spatial world accurately and the capacity to perform transformations on one's initial perceptions. It includes the ability to mold and shape images seen in the mind's eye. V/S provides the capacity to think in two and three-dimensional ways as do sailors, pilots, sculptors, painters, construction workers and architects. 

Classroom activities to encourage the development or expression of V/S include:

  • Active Imagination
  • Cartooning
  • Drawing
  • Model Building
  • Painting
  • Sculpture
  • Set design 

4.  Musical (M):

M includes the ability hear musical tones in one's head, and to create in the mind's ear complex musical sounds including a sensitivity to pitch, melody, rhythm and tone. Research has shown that listening to music can enhance both the creative process and learning as complex melodies support complex thinking.  Information is more effectively remembered when it is associated with music, a fact relied on by advertisers. Those with musical intelligence often rely on their auditory skills in learning new information.

Classroom activities to encourage the development or expression of M include:

  • Musical expressions of all types

  • Rhythmic patterns used for recall of information (rap lyrics for example)

  • Songs relating terminology or concepts

5.  Bodily/Kinesthetic (B /K):

The theory of multiple intelligences supports the ancient view of the mind and body as one and regards purposeful physical activity as an intelligence in it's own right. It includes the ability to move one's body with expertise and the  capacity to handle objects skillfully. Physical competence includes strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, dexterity, expressiveness, coordination and good reflexes and posture.  Surgeons, craftspeople, artists, musicians and athletes all use B/K intelligence.  Our culture often sees B/K intelligence as less important than V/L intelligence, but in non-industrialized cultures it is often considered the most important form of intelligence. 

Classroom activities to encourage the development or expression of B/K include:

  • Athletic competition

  • Dance

  • Drama

  • Exercise

  • Movement around the classroom to demonstrate sides in a debate, places on a graph, etc.

  • Role Playing

two women talking

6.  Social/Interpersonal (S/I) sometimes referred to as Interpersonal (IE):

People with interpersonal intelligence are socially adept and people smart. They have the ability to make fine distinctions in the intentions, motivations, moods, feelings, and thoughts of other people and to relate effectively with others. They often have the  capacity to discover key individuals within a group who can help them meet their goals.  Leaders usually also have high S/I skills.  Current discussions about emotional intelligence reflect the recognition that lifetime success in business and personal relationships is often closely related to S/I.  Often, teachers, political leaders, advertising strategists and sales people have high S/I skills.  

Classroom activities to encourage the development or expression of S/I include:

  • Cooperative learning strategies

  • Collaboration

  • Decision making simulations

  • Group Projects

  • Offering feedback to classmates or the professor

  • Peer counseling

  • Reflecting upon feedback

man on psychiatrist's couch

7.  Intrapersonal (IA):

People with intrapersonal intelligence have a high level of self understanding and access to the "real" self, that inner core that remains the same even as a person grows and develops.  People with IA intelligence effectively use their knowledge in planning their lives.  The clergy, psychologists and philosophers are among those who exhibit high IA skills.  

Classroom activities to encourage the development or expression of IA include:

  • Decision making strategies

  • Discussion of the emotional impact of a field of study

  • Journal writing focused on response to learning

  • In-depth analysis

  • Leadership studies

  • Metacognition Techniques

  • Silent reflection times

drawing of sun and pansies

8.  Naturalist (N):

Those with Naturalist Intelligence show skills in observing, understanding and organizing patterns in the natural environment.  They are sensitive to seasonal and even daily environmental changes.  Biologist, environmentalists and traditional healers often have highly developed N skills.

Classroom (and out of classroom) activities to encourage the development or expression of N include:

  • Field trips

  • Garden experiments

  • Observations of nature including everything from oceanography to astronomy

set of religious symbols

9.  Existential/Spiritual (E/S)

E intelligence is expressed in "capturing and pondering the fundamental questions of existence."  Philosophical thinkers use this form of intelligence.

Classroom activities to encourage the development or expression of E include:

  • Discussion or reading about the philosophical underpinning of a field of study

  • Discussion of ethical behavior in a discipline (This could be anything from what auto mechanics should charge to how doctors and nurses should respond to the dying.)

  • Opportunities to discuss the impact of one's personal philosophy on their relationship to the field of study

Gardner's Research

In order to qualify as a distinct intelligence, Howard Gardner established four criteria that must be satisfied:

  1. Symbolization: ideas and experiences in the various intelligences can be expressed using text, numbers, images, musical notes, typical gestures, expressions and archetypal images.

  2. A relatively autonomous brain system: each intelligence is based on the physiology of brain structure.   Gardener worked as a neuropsychologist with victims of brain injury who had impairments in each of the seven areas. Each intelligence appears to have its own separate cognitive process in terms of memory, perception, and problem solving. Indeed the technology of brain scans has confirmed different areas of the brain are involved in each intelligence.

  3. Culturally valued accomplishments: great writing, art, music, complex equations describing the physical world, accomplished athletes, inspiring leaders represent the best of each intelligence.

  4. A unique developmental profile. Musical genius, such as Mozart's ability to compose symphonies by the age of nine may be the first intelligence to emerge and may last a lifetime, as evidenced by Pablo Casals who performed into his nineties. The parallel play of toddlers comes before social play develops.  Logical mathematical abstract thinking and the ability to be introspective typically emerge later in childhood. Great athletes may be at their best in the late teens through early 30s.

Multiple intelligences may be conceptualized in three broad categories. 

  • Object-related capacities are controlled and shaped by the objects that individuals encounter and interact with in their environments.  These include visual/spatial, logical/mathematical, bodily/kinesthetic and naturalist  intelligence.

  • Object-free intelligences are not shaped by the physical world but are dependent upon language and musical systems (auditory systems).  These include verbal-linguistic and musical.

  • Person-related intelligences including social/interpersonal, intrapersonal and existential/spiritual intelligences reflect our social or interactive abilities.

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