Learning About Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences: Applying Them to Your Students

Multiple Intelligence & Howard Gardner Basics

Howard Gardner has been called a “paradigm shifter." He turned the psychometric and behaviorist world on its ear in 1983 when he

Frames of Mind Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner

shared his Multiple Intelligences (MI) theory in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. The second edition was released ten years later.

He questioned Piaget and the idea that intelligence can be derived from a single assessment, such as IQ tests. He believed that children can be at different stages of development at different times in their lives.

Reasons to Give MI a Try

Some criticism and questions surround Gardner's ideas. However, Mark Smith believes that they are still worthwhile to use in the classroom. "For example, Mindy Kornhaber and her colleagues at the Project SUMIT (Schools Using Multiple Intelligences Theory) have examined the performance of a number of schools and concluded that there have been significant gains in respect of SATs scores, parental participation, and discipline (with the schools themselves attributing this to MI theory)" in Smith's article, “Howard Gardner, Multiple Intelligences and Education” on the Infed website.

Gardner's Multiple Intelligences theory distinguishes between eight main types of intelligence:

  • Verbal-linguistic intelligence (word smart): using language to store, process and transmit information
  • Logical-mathematical intelligence (number smart): using patterns to think and reason logically
  • Musical intelligence (music smart): using music and rhythm to learn
  • Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence (body smart): using the body or physical activity to learn
  • Spatial intelligence (picture smart): using visual sources to interpret information
  • Interpersonal intelligence (people smart): able to interact with others, understand them, and interpret their behavior
  • Intrapersonal intelligence (self smart): able to understand self: strengths, weakness, reactions and emotions
  • Naturalist intelligence (nature smart): able to use patterns to connect to nature

A more in-depth explanation of the eight intelligences is on The Education Coalition website, which is directed by Dr. Carla Lane.

Practical Uses of Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom

Students learn differently. They may be strong in one of the Multiple Intelligences and average in a few others. Teachers can use to this to their advantage and try to teach content through a variety of activities that incorporate all of the intelligences or at least a few. The key is not

Using MI in Language Arts Class

When trying to use the MI, try to incorporate them into existing lessons. Here are basic activities for a novel in a language arts class using MI.

  • Linguistic and interpersonal: Read key passages in pairs or small groups and discuss the meaning
  • Musical: Choose music that would reflect the mood for various passages or scenes in the novel
  • Bodily-kinesthetic: Stand and dramatically read a passage or act it out
  • Interpersonal and Spatial: Make a scrapbook or poster using photos, drawings, quotes or poems to represent a character, the setting or the novel as a whole
  • Intrapersonal and linguistic: Reflect upon an analysis that the student wrote about a character or passage. Students should focus on positive and negative.
  • Spatial, Musical, Interpersonal, and Linguistic -Create a multi-media presentation about the novel in small groups
  • Logical-mathematical, Spatial, and Linguistic– Craft a game or puzzle for the novel

An easy way to incorporate MI in any lesson is to have students complete mutli-media presentations. Additional idea for MI in the classroom and how to manage MI activities in the classroom can be found on the Brighthub website.


Lane, Carla. (n.d.) 'Gardner's multiple intelligences',the distance learning technology resource guide, https://www.tecweb.org/styles/gardner.html.

Smith, Mark K. (2002, 2008) 'Howard Gardner and multiple intelligences', The Encyclopedia of Informal Education.