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What Does Multiple Intelligence Use Look Like in Your Classroom?

In 1938, Howard Gardner, a cognitive theorist, published a literary work titled Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. His theory suggests that the human psyche consists of eight (later revised to nine) areas of intelligences that are primal, can be excelled in, and are developmentally affected by growth over time (Amacha). Since his findings during the early 20th century, scientists and theorists have studied and expounded upon his research to create the current Multiple Intelligences Theory that is in use today.

For teachers, understanding and implementing these categories of learning and intellectual development can appeal to all students and address a wide variety of strengths and interests. Using the following intellectual categories and their corresponding activities will create an enriching learning atmosphere and a dynamically skilled classroom of students.

Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence

According to Gardner’s theory, verbal-linguistic intelligence refers to the ability to affluently read, write, and use language. Students that have strong verbal-linguistic intelligence are those that excel in writing, storytelling, and/or reading and can successfully deliver spoken word or memorize oral or literary information (Cherry). Teachers will notice that students who thrive in this category enjoy spelling, writing, and reading and usually have high language arts scores.

To encourage verbal-linguistic growth in classrooms for all students, teachers can provide opportunities for students to read and write and encourage individual reading time. Teachers can also implement partner readings and book groups or periodically read to the class. Teachers should administer spelling and vocabulary tests and assign their students written essays to gain practice. As teachers provide a rich, engaging literary atmosphere that encourages reading, writing, and literary comprehension, teachers will see growth in students’ ability to analyze, read, and write engaging texts.

Mathematical-Logical Intelligence

Mathematical-logical intelligence refers to “the ability to think conceptually and abstractly and the capacity to discern logical or numerical patterns” (Herndon). Students that excel in this area will demonstrate skills in mathematics and understanding of the sciences, such as biology, chemistry, and physics.

Incorporating mathematical-logical intelligence in the classroom involves patterns, equations, and experiments (Cherry). To see mathematical-logical growth, teachers should provide opportunities for students to solve difficult problems or scenarios using math or science. Instructors can also teach principles of addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. Students should learn how to understand and use abstract equations and be able to define scientific principles.

Musical Intelligence

Musical intelligence refers to one’s ability to understand rhythm, beat, and musicality. Students who demonstrate practical skills in this area will enjoy singing, playing instruments, or making up songs. Because music theory is math-based, studies suggest that involvement in music will also help students easily understand mathematical concepts.

While music is not a primary category of public education, teachers can incorporate singing time into their classes. If teachers know how to play an instrument, such as the guitar or piano, they can lead their students in singing. Teachers can encourage students to purchase their own, inexpensive instrument, such as the recorder or ukulele, and teach them how to play a song as a class. Teachers can create short songs about a concept that students can sing to remember a certain principle. Teachers can also digitally stream music from Spotify, YouTube, or Pandora that students can listen to while completing an assignment or studying.

Visual-Spatial Intelligence

This category includes the use of visual representations and images. Students who excel in this area are likely to appreciate and create artwork, understand maps, and excel at interpreting charts and graphs (Cherry).

To encourage and support visual-spatial intelligence, teachers should incorporate pictures or media into their lessons. Teachers can also provide mathematical or scientific charts and graphs that students can analyze.. Additionally, teachers should include projects that involve art, such as drawing or painting, and should incorporate stimulating, enriching pictures and charts around their classroom.

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence refers to one’s agility and ability to move their body or skillfully handle objects. Students who thrive in this area are those who enjoy sports, such as football, basketball, or wrestling. They are likely to excel at running, dancing, swimming, and playing games that require physical activity.

Teachers can incorporate bodily-kinesthetic learning into their classrooms by encouraging recess or break time. Teachers can instruct students in a physical workout or activity each day or can provide or allow students to bring sports balls and equipment for use during recess or after-school hours. Encouraging physical activity will not only appeal to a certain demographic of students, teachers will also promote the health and physical well-being of their students.

Interpersonal Intelligence

Interpersonal intelligence refers to those who academically excel when working with others and who are skilled at creating and maintaining friendly relationships. Students who have interpersonal intelligence are social and talkative and seek to understand situations from another’s point of view (Cherry).

Because these students thrive off sociability and human interaction, teachers can stimulate interpersonal intelligence through group projects and partner work. As teachers implement partner and group work, social students will enjoy classwork and will learn from working with their peers.

Intrapersonal Intelligence

Intrapersonal intelligence refers to one’s ability to understand themselves and examine their feelings through self-inspection. Students who have interpersonal intelligence value quiet time for personal reflection and enjoy daydreaming and deep-thinking (Cherry).

To create an environment that will support and strengthen a class’s intrapersonal skills, teachers can provide quiet time during which students can individually work on assignments or homework or nap or daydream. Teachers can lead their students in organized meditation, prayer, or mindfulness, depending on the school’s and country’s contextual guidelines. Providing personal quiet time for students every day will help students calm down, reflect, relax, and focus on their classwork.

Naturalist Intelligence

Naturalist intelligence includes one’s ability to identify and work with plants, animals, and wildlife (Herndon). Students that have naturalist strengths will likely enjoy being outside, learning about plants and animals, and will enjoy hiking, gardening, or studying specific animal and plant life.

To incorporate naturalist intelligence into their classrooms, teachers can integrate plant and animal studies into their science lessons. Educators can encourage children to spend time in nature, take their class on a walk, or assign them to collect plant life. In areas where appropriate, students can take turns caring for a class pethoused in a cage or tank at the school. Teachers can create a class garden where students help plant and raise their own flowers, fruits, or vegetables. Encouraging students to take an interest in nature will appeal to various learning types, get students outside, and create positive environmental awareness.

Existential Intelligence

Existential intelligence refers to deep, philosophical thinking about life-encompassing questions (Herndon). While not commonly addressed in elementary or younger grades, students that fit into this category will often make probing inquiries, think deeply, and frequently ask questions such as “Why?” or “How?”

Teachers can encourage the growth of exinstential intelligence by encouraging students to ask questions. Students should always feel comfortable asking their teacher questions, and teachers should help provide resources and information for students to reference as they look for answers.

As teachers seek to incorporate these various methods of learning into their classrooms, they will quickly create an organized, dynamic learning atmosphere that appeals to all types of students. Students will find areas in which they excel and learn to develop other skills as they are exposed to various learning patterns and class materials. Importantly, students will also learn to develop a love for learning and will discover how to ask deep, meaningful questions as they attain an education. Not only will students become better learners, students will learn more about their interests, talents, and skills as they prepare to receive further education and determine what contributions they would like to make to society in their future careers.

Amacha, Rima. Atlas, “Using the Multiple Intelligences Theory in a Classroom,” 

Cherry, Kendra. Very Well Mind, “Gardner’s Theory of Multiple Intelligences,” 

Herndon, Eve. Cornerstone University, “What Are Multiple Intelligences and How Do They Affect 

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