One of the reasons that I’ve been enthusiastically teaching and writing about Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences for the past thirty-four years, is that it is so easy to understand and apply to one’s own personal life. In this post, I’d like to demonstrate this to you by outlining how you can learn just about anything using the eight intelligences that form the core of Dr. Gardner’s theory. The eight intelligences are: Word Smart, Number/Logic Smart, Picture Smart, Music Smart, Body Smart, People Smart, Self Smart, and Nature Smart.
For the purpose of demonstration, I’ll select as an objective learning the Spanish language, but you can do this with just about anything. Keep in mind that you don’t have to follow all of the eight suggestions listed below. In fact, the most effective strategies will probably be related to which of the eight intelligences you are most developed in and/or which ones you most enjoy. Here are the eight guidelines:
- Word Smart: Connect whatever you’re learning to the spoken or the written word. So, for Spanish, you’d want to read books written in Spanish (starting at a very basic level and/or books that have the English on one side of the page, and the Spanish translation on the other). Also, you can expose yourself to the sounds of Spanish by listening to Spanish radio or other media sources.
- Number/Logic Smart: Link what you’re learning to numbers, calculations, statistics, or logical patterns. For Spanish, you might want to pay attention to the logical structure of the language (and the good news is that Spanish is highly logical compared with English). So, for example, you might pay attention to the typical pattern of regular verbs (e.g. ”hablar – to speak”): (I) yo hablo, (you, informal) tu hablas, (he) el habla, (they) ellos hablan, (we) nosotros hablamos etc.
- Picture Smart: Associate your learning Spanish with pictures and images. Watch Spanish TV or videos with English (or Spanish) subtitles, or English TV with Spanish subtitles.
- Music Smart: Connect what you want to learn with music in some way. For Spanish, listen to musical recordings of Spanish songs (with lyrics), especially favorite ones like ”Cielito Lindo” or ”Oye Como Va”. Print out both the English and Spanish lyrics.
- Body Smart: Link whatever you want to learn with your body in some way (gestures, physical motion, drama, hands-on building etc.). There’s a language learning method called Total Physical Response, where vocabulary is learned by acting it out or pointing to a physical thing and saying its word. So for Spanish, you might start jumping up and down on the floor while you say ”piso, piso, piso” (floor) or illustrate the verb ”tocar” (”to play”) by pretending to play the piano (e.g. ”I play” “‘yo toco”).
- People Smart: Learn with other people: e.g. small groups, large groups, one-on-one, etc. In this case, for Spanish, you might do something like take a course in Spanish, hire a tutor, start a support group, or find an environment where Spanish is spoken and spend some time there. As a matter of fact, the single best way to learn any language, is to travel to the culture where that language is spoken and spend a few months there learning in context.
- Self Smart: Relate whatever you want to learn to self-reflection, having emotions, setting goals, or self-directed learning. For Spanish, you might take one of the many online courses that are available (I’m currently taking, for example, the online course DuoLingo for Spanish). In online learning you get to set your own pace, receive immediate feedback, and keep track of your learning progress.
- Nature Smart: Connect what you’re learning to animals, plants, weather, geological formations, and/or other natural phenomena. This one is a little tricky for Spanish, but you might try speaking Spanish to your family pet (you’re almost assured of getting validation of some kind!). You might also start out by learning the Spanish names for things found in nature.
Remember, you don’t have to use all of the strategies listed above – but it’s sometimes fun anyway to see if you can brainstorm learning methods for each of the eight intelligences. You can then pick and choose which method(s) you think will work best for your needs. Try this with anything: scuba diving, studying calculus, fly fishing, learning to type, starting a business, improving your vocabulary, balancing your checkbook, learning a new computer app, the list goes on and on. Many best wishes and successful outcomes to you in your learning adventures!
For general overview and self-help strategies (high school, college, and adult learners): 7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences. New York: Plume, 1999.
For K-12 educators: Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom 4th ed. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2018.
For K-12 educators (focus on literacy): The Multiple Intelligences of Reading and Writing: Making the Words Come Alive. Alexandria, VA: Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development, 2003.
For parents: In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences, New York: Tarcher/Perigee, 2000.
For kids (grades four through eight): You’re Smarter Than You Think: A Kid’s Guide to Multiple Intelligences. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit, 2014.
For kids (kindergarten through third grade): Smarts! Everybody’s Got Them. Minneapolis, MN: Free Spirit, 2019.
This page was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.
Follow me on Twitter: @Dr_Armstrong