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What’s Your Learning Strength? Helping Kids Understand Multiple Intelligences

Children chose their top two learning strengths

Children chose their top two learning strengths

There is so much pressure in our society to be the best and the smartest. We push children academically, we bombard them with tests, competitive sports and after school activities. This pressure to be the best, unfortunately, can lead some children feeling less than worthy or less than “smart”. In an effort to guide children to understand that we all have strengths (things we are really good at) and stretches (things we need to work at), they were introduced to Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences.

Howard Gardner has identified seven distinct intelligences.  According to this theory, “we are all able to know the world through language, logical-mathematical analysis, spatial representation, musical thinking, the use of the body to solve problems or to make things, an understanding of other individuals, and an understanding of ourselves. Where individuals differ is in the strength of these intelligences – the so-called profile of intelligences -and in the ways in which such intelligences are invoked and combined to carry out different tasks, solve diverse problems, and progress in various domains.” (Gardner, 1991)

We explained the seven intelligences, giving the students basic examples so that they could begin to explore the significance of having “many smarts”.  After a brief conversation, they graphed their top two strengths. I shared that my strength was linguistics because reading and writing came naturally to me, whereas visual spatial is one of my stretches because reading graphs and maps is sometimes difficult for me. What was really fun about this social-emotional / graphing lesson was how it was an obvious relief for some little ones to recognize that they were indeed smart in something or other.  Throughout the week, they would ask each other, “What’s your smart?”

We also read several picture books and watched a video that helped continue the discussion that we are all smart, beautiful and amazing in our own unique ways.

The Little Rose: A little rose is teased by the ugly weeds around her. She nearly gives up but learns to accept and love herself for what she really is, a beautiful rose.

Ish: A creative spirit learns that thinking “ish-ly” is far more wonderful than “getting it right”.

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon: Molly Lou Melon is different, but this doesn’t slow her down.

On Back to School Night, we asked parents to graph their learning strengths. This was my favorite part of this lesson because it was so neat to see how similar parents’ strengths are to their children. I also hope it gave parents permission to really treasure their children’s strengths versus solely focusing on what they “need” to improve. My goal is to continue this important discussion in our class for the year to come so that my students truly understand that they are made up of wonderful gifts – and that there is no one else like them!

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