colorful diagram of a mind mapWhile many parents are opting to use the school’s or the Internet’s learning programs with their kids during the COVID-19 outbreak, some parents are using this time as an opportunity to engage their children and teens in unique learning adventures and experiences.  If you find yourself in that latter category of parents, I want to give you a simple lesson planning tool that will help you come up with learning strategies around whatever it is your child happens to want to learn.

The basis for this method comes from Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, one of the most solidly grounded theories of learning in education.  Gardner believes that the traditional definition of ”intelligence” is far too limited and leaves out a broad range of other abilities.  He has come up with eight different intelligences:  Word Smart, Number/Logic Smart, Picture Smart, Body Smart, Music Smart, People Smart, Self Smart, and Nature Smart.  All kids have all these intelligences, but in different ways (see my post on identifying which intelligences your child might be most developed in).  By keying into your child’s most developed or preferred intelligences, you can craft an approach to learning that will keep him engaged.

The way this lesson planning tool works is through the use of mind-mapping (see graphic above).  Take a sheet of paper (as large as you can get), and put a circle in the center, and inside the circle, put exactly what it is that you’d like your child to learn (or that he himself chooses to learn).  Then, make eight ”satellite” circles around the center circle, each one labeled with a different intelligence (e.g. ”Picture Smart” etc., see mind-map below).  Once you’ve done that, then ask yourself a set of structured questions about how your child or teen might go about learning the central objective in the center of the map.

  • Word Smart:  How can my child or teen learn this skill or topic through the written or the spoken word;
  • Number/Logic Smart: How can my child or teen learn this skill or topic through numbers, calculations, statistics, logic, scientific concepts, or heuristics;
  • Picture Smart: How can my child or teen learn this skill or topic through images, visualization, art work, photography, drawing, doodling, color, or visual thinking;
  • Body Smart:  How can my child or teen learn this skill or topic through the use of hands-on projects, drama, role play, sports, dance, or physical movement;
  • Music Smart: How can my child or teen learn this skill or topic through the use of recorded music, sound effects, percussion instruments, a formal musical instrument (e.g. piano), singing, composing, or by setting key phrases into a rhythmic or melodic framework;
  • People Smart:  How can my child or teen learn this skill or topic through one-to-one tutoring, small group learning, peer-to-peer learning, or collaboration; create a plan for how you can assist them remotely;
  • Self Smart: How can my child or teen learn this skill or topic through self-reflection, goal setting, emotional expression, self-assessments, or self-regulation strategies;
  • Nature Smart: How can my child or teen learn this skill or topic by going outside into nature, by bringing some aspect of nature into the house, or by integrating an ecological point of view into the objective.

Naturally you’re not going to use all of these intelligences and the strategies listed, but it’s good practice to get into the habit of brainstorming ideas for all of them at the start.  Later on, you can focus your attention just on those intelligences that are most highly developed or that your child is most interested in.

You might ask: ”What about focusing on the least developed intelligences?”  My answer:  this is not the place to start, since you want your child or teen to become excited about what they’re learning.  You can make as your central objective something that your child has difficulty with, but then you’re going to look at ways in which they can use their strengths, talents, and abilities to master this difficult skill or topic.

Now let’s do an example.  Since it’s topical, why not use the COVID-19 pandemic as our central focus in creating a project or set of learning activities for your child or teen.  I’m going to go through the questions above and see if I can’t come up with some solid strategies.  Again, keep in mind that you won’t have to use all of them, but if you brainstorm more strategies than you’ll actually need, you have a lot of options to choose from.

  • Word Smart:  read online newspapers, listen to news about the pandemic, read histories of past pandemics, learn the definitions of new words generated by the crisis (e.g. social distancing)
  • Number/Logic Smart:  study graphs and charts giving the latest statistics on new cases and deaths, and understand what an exponential curve is, and what ”flattening” means;
  • Picture Smart: watch videos showing pictorially how the virus (or a similar virus) works to disable the workings of the respiratory system (see, for example, the You Tube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4Xiow30bGo);
  • Body Smart:  build a hands-on model of a human cell (perhaps with clay or pipe cleaners) and then by studying the Picture Smart video, show how the coronavirus invades the cell and then infects others;
  • Music Smart: find music files online that include raps, songs, or other musical selections that relate to the coronavirus in some way (e.g. songs for kids on hand washing, public service messages in social distancing etc.)
  • People Smart:  watch videos of people working on the front lines of the outbreak as health providers, or videos of people who have gone through hardships as a result of the pandemic;
  • Self Smart: make a list of things you’ll do personally to avoid becoming infected with the coronavirus; keep a journal that records the feelings that come up for you as you live through this pandemic;
  • Nature Smart:  learn about the animal(s) suspected of starting the pandemic in China, and how a virus can spread from animals to humans; explore the impact that weather (hot or cold, wet or dry) might have on the spread or demise of the coronavirus.

These are just a few of the possibilities that can be generated for what you might structure as a learning unit on COVID-19.  Here’s one version of what it might look like:

 

But you can use this mind mapping tool for countless other learning goals including:  multiplication, grammar, reading comprehension, history, science concepts, spelling or handwriting skills, learning to type, social studies topics and/or geography (e.g. learning more about your community), learning how to draw, how to play the piano, how to read music, other topics in public health, and much much more!  Have fun with this planning tool and the learning experiences it generates!


For more information on using this mind mapping tool to generate learning strategies, see my best-selling book Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, 4th Edition (over half a million copies in print in all editions).

This page was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.

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I'm the author of 19 books including my latest: If Einstein Ran the Schools: Revitalizing U.S. Education - https://amzn.to/2KAxT8F.

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