Friday, March 07, 2008

Lots of Ways for Kids to be Smart but Does It Help

All kids are smart. We call it individual differences.

Just because Jason doesn’t read very well, doesn’t mean he’s dumb. After all, he’s really good in art. His drawings are exceptional for his age.

Susan’s flunking her academic classes but she’s great on the girls varsity softball team. So, as the reasoning goes, Jason and Susan are smart.

In good classrooms, teachers honor these differences. In the best classrooms, teachers are encouraged to teach to these differences. And it’s not easy.

This year we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of Howard Gardner’s groundbreaking book. “Frames of Mind.” Gardner, a developmental psychologist at Harvard, identified seven intelligences in his book, “Frames of Mind.” Our standard academic classes including literature and writing, math and science, music, art, and P.E. correspond to the first five intelligences.

In Gardner’s terms, the intelligences include linguistic, logical-mathematical, musical, spatial (art), and bodily-kinesthetic. The other two include interpersonal (I understand you) and intrapersonal (I understand myself). Gardner later added more intelligences to his list.

Gardner’s work eventually made its way into the classroom as teachers developed Multiple Intelligences curriculum for K-12 with books like Thomas Armstrong's Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom and Kristen Nicholson-Nelson's Developing Students' Multiple Intelligences.

Don’t get me wrong. Yes, we need to honor all children and their individual strengths.

But does labeling a child “bodily-kinesthetic” or “spatial” help this youngster get on in the world? Once she’s got that label, does she assume she’ll never be able to develop linguistic or logical-mathematical abilities?

What if Sarah wants to go to an elite college. She won’t make it if
she doesn’t have good grades in all subjects, participates in sports,
plays in the school orchestra, and includes extracurricular activities,
esp. community service.

That means she needs proficiency in all the intelligences. In other words, well-rounded.

And what of overlapping intelligences? If Sarah chooses to major in music, she’s probably excellent in math. And she wrote a terrific application essay to get into that elite college. So, she’s got great language skills too.

If we’ve taught to a child’s individual difference, do we help them get on in life? How does a non-reader find the driver’s license bureau in the phone book? How does an artist figure out the best ways to invest their earnings from their sculpture?

So how can we honor all children while encouraging proficiency in all intelligences?
Brain-based learning, whole-brain learning, movement-based learning, and Brain Gym offer answers. Kids really can become proficient in more than one intelligence because the brain isn’t hard-wired!

Want to check your intelligence? Take this fun quiz—just don’t take it too seriously.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how we get these intelligences. (It’s not all inborn, by the way.)


P.S. Discover how Brain Gym can help you (not just your kids) lower stress and focus on a difficult task you’ve been putting off. Download the handouts and listen to the free audio. Then sign up for Brain Gym Basics. Starts March 11. All you need is a phone to learn enough Brain Gym to see immediate results at home and in the classroom.

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