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The premise of this article series is to aid in the identification of various types of learners that may be present in the classroom and to provide instructional tips for addressing those various learners. It is the duty of every teacher of every grade level to address the needs of those present in his/her classroom. With the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, it became ever more important that instructors differentiate instruction to accommodate all learners. Even after states received waivers to make adaptations, it's still necessary to address the needs of all students.
Identifying how students learn is one way to ensure learning occurs for all students. But, how do you do that? In truth, there is no one way; but instead, many. Here, you will find a variety of ways to first recognize the multiple intelligences in the classroom and then to address the instructional needs of each type.
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What Are Multiple Intelligences?
Eight different types of intelligences were identified in 1983 by Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard University. They are as follows: linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist.
- The linguistic learner is “word smart," meaning that they are verbal learners.
- The logical-mathematical learner is one who learns through numbers and reasoning. He/She is mathematically-inclined.
- The spatial learner is a visual one, the type that learns through visualization and pictures.
- Bodily-kinesthetic pertains to those who learn through movement.
- Musical learners are closely related to logical-mathematical learners and learn through music.
- Interpersonal learners relate to people and need socialization while learning.
- The intrapersonal learner is often self-taught and very self-aware. They think deep within themselves.
- And, last but certainly not least, the naturalist is very aware of nature and learns through/from it.
Most people are a mixture of the various types but may lean more toward one or two intelligences. For instance, I score equally as linguistic and intrapersonal, but I also show strength as interpersonal and musical. Therefore, I may favor linguistic and intrapersonal, but I am capable of learning the way interpersonal and musical people do. Many students will have a similar experience when taking a multiple intelligence test. Please bear in mind that a variety of tests are available.
Assessing the learning styles of students at the beginning of the year can provide valued information to educators. Sometime during the first week of school, I give my each of my students a multiple intelligence test. We then score the tests and discuss what each learning style means and needs in order to learn. Doing so not only helps me, but also it helps the students. They take ownership of their own learning by providing me with ideas that might aid in their understanding of the content being taught. Many students actually do not realize the vast variety of ways information can be taught.
Stay tuned for ideas on teaching to students’ strengths. In helping the students to understand how they learn, I am able to pull from resources to ensure I am providing the optimal opportunity for each and every one of my students to learn.
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What Is Differentiation?
Since the idea behind this series is to provide instructional tools to educators in an effort to optimize the likelihood that learning occurs in the classroom, I am going to explain the concepts behind differentiation. Differentiation means meeting each student where he/she is from an instructional standpoint. An extended definition would be that teachers provide varied levels of lessons, ones that adhere to the instructional needs of gifted students, special education students, and all other students represented in the classroom. Teachers bear the difficult job of educating students of all levels.
With or without No Child Left Behind, we, as teachers, have a lot of diversity of student learning levels in our classrooms. The challenge is not in teaching in and of itself; it is in finding a way to teach each student, providing challenging curriculum to gifted learners while making sure the students of a lower level do not fall through the cracks. Thus, differentiating instruction is an absolute must on the part of all educators.
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So How Do You Do It?
In differentiating instruction for the various learners represented in the classroom, teachers must take each student’s background knowledge, readiness, languages, preferences in learning, and interests into account. From there, lessons can be differentiated in three areas: Content, Process, and Products.
In differentiating content, instruction is largely dependent upon learning goals, which are typically set by state standardized tests. Rather than focusing on minute details or facts, instructional objectives will be broad.
Differentiating process means allowing students to work together in an effort to learn new skills. This type of flexible grouping is strongly encouraged and enables students to play off each other’s strengths. Organization and caution in selecting appropriate strategies to address curricular goals is absolutely necessary when differentiating instruction. Effective classroom management is also essential to the success of this type of learning.
When teachers differentiate products, they allow students to choose the outcome. Choice is strongly encouraged in the differentiated classroom. When varying products, teachers need to individualize expectations and requirements. Rubrics are a great way to communicate those expectations and requirements. I recommend using RubiStar to find prefabricated rubrics or to create your own rubrics. Provide the rubrics up front, so that each student will have the opportunity to achieve the highest grade possible.
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I will be honest when I say differentiating instruction for each of the multiple intelligences is not an easy task. I will also remind you that it is a necessary one. Since it is our duty to offer adequate opportunity for learning to all of our students, differentiation is the way to go. For more ideas on teaching to the multiple intelligences, read articles 2 and 3 in this series.
How Do Differentiation and Multiple Intelligences Fit Together?
Classrooms are comprised of all types and levels of learners. Teachers must find an effective way to teach each learner present in the classroom. In this series, I combine my personal experiences and the research I've conducted to produce effective ways to teach each intelligence and all levels.