Like most teachers, you're probably familiar with Howard Gardner's theory on multiple intelligences: that there are eight different types of intelligence and that these intelligences guide the way we learn and process information. What you may not be as familiar with is how to apply a multiple intelligence approach to learning in your classroom.

Start with this checklist. Use it to refresh your memory on each of the intelligences and pinpoint learning activities that will appeal to your students based on their particular strengths. To involve students in identifying their multiple intelligences, invite them to complete The Connell Multiple Intelligence Questionnaire for Children. They will find it exciting to see the areas they are strongest in and to understand how these might be affecting their schoolwork.

Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence (Word Smart)

Description: Verbal-linguistic students love words and use them as a primary way of thinking and solving problems. They are good writers, speakers, or both. They use words to persuade, argue, entertain, and/or teach.

Learning Activities and Project Ideas

  • Completing crossword puzzles with vocabulary words
  • Playing games like Scrabble, Scrabble Junior, or Boggle
  • Writing short stories for a classroom newsletter
  • Writing feature articles for the school newspaper
  • Writing a letter to the editor in response to articles
  • Writing to state representatives about local issues
  • Using digital resources such as electronic libraries, desktop publishing, word games, and word processing
  • Creating poems for a class poetry book
  • Entering their original poems in a poetry contest
  • Listening to a storyteller
  • Studying the habits of good speakers
  • Telling a story to the class
  • Participating in debates

Logical-Mathematical Intelligence (Math Smart)

Description: Logical-mathematical students enjoy working with numbers. They can easily interpret data and analyze abstract patterns. They have a well-developed ability to reason and are good at chess and computer programming. They think in terms of cause and effect.

Learning Activities and Project Ideas

  • Playing math games like mancala, dominoes, chess, checkers, and Monopoly
  • Searching for patterns in the classroom, school, outdoors, and home
  • Conducting experiments to demonstrate science concepts
  • Using math and science software such as Math Blaster, which reinforces math skills, or King's Rule, a logic game
  • Using science tool kits for science programs
  • Designing alphabetic and numeric codes
  • Making up analogies

Spatial Intelligence (Picture Smart)

Description: Students strong in spatial intelligence think and process information in pictures and images. They have excellent visual receptive skills and excellent fine motor skills. Students with this intelligence use their eyes and hands to make artistic or creatively designed projects. They can build with Legos, read maps, and put together 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles.

Learning Activities and Project Ideas

  • Taking photographs for assignments and classroom newsletters
  • Taking photographs for the school yearbook, school newsletter, or science assignments
  • Using clay or play dough to make objects or represent concepts from content-area lessons
  • Using pictorial models such as flow charts, visual maps, Venn diagrams, and timelines to connect new material to known information
  • Taking notes using concept mapping, mind mapping, and clustering
  • Using puppets to act out and reinforce concepts learned in class
  • Using maps to study geographical locations discussed in class
  • Illustrating poems for the class poetry book by drawing or using computer software
  • Using virtual-reality system software

Musical Intelligence (Music Smart)

Description: Musical students think, feel, and process information primarily through sound. They have a superior ability to perceive, compose, and/or perform music. Musically smart people constantly hear musical notes in their head.

Learning Activities and Project Ideas

  • Writing their own songs and music about content-area topics
  • Putting original poems to music, and then performing them for the class
  • Setting a poem to music, and then performing it for the class
  • Incorporating a poem they have written with a melody they already know
  • Listening to music from different historical periods
  • Tape recording a poem over "appropriate" background music (i.e. soft music if describing a kitten, loud music if they are mad about pollution)
  • Using rhythm and clapping to memorize math facts and other content-area information
  • Listening to CDs that teach concepts like the alphabet, parts of speech, and states and capitals (i.e. Schoolhouse Rock!)

Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence (Body Smart)

Description: Bodily-kinesthetic students are highly aware of the world through touch and movement. There is a special harmony between their bodies and their minds. They can control their bodies with grace, expertise, and athleticism.

Learning Activities and Project Ideas

  • Creating costumes for role-playing, skits, or simulations
  • Performing skits or acting out scenes from books or key historical events
  • Designing props for plays and skits
  • Playing games like Twister and Simon Says
  • Using charades to act out characters in a book, vocabulary words, animals, or other content-area topics
  • Participating in scavenger hunts, searching for items related to a theme or unit
  • Acting out concepts. For example, "student planets" circle around a "student sun" or students line up appropriately to demonstrate events in a history time line
  • Participating in movement breaks during the day
  • Building objects using blocks, cubes, or Legos to represent concepts from content-area lessons
  • Using electronic motion-simulation games and hands-on construction kits that interface with computers

Interpersonal Intelligence (People Smart)

Description: Students strong in interpersonal intelligence have a natural ability to interact with, relate to, and get along with others effectively. They are good leaders. They use their insights about others to negotiate, persuade, and obtain information. They like to interact with others and usually have lots of friends.

Learning Activities and Project Ideas

  • Working in cooperative groups to design and complete projects
  • Working in pairs to learn math facts
  • Interviewing people with knowledge about content-area topics (such as a veteran to learn about World War II, a lab technician to learn about life science, or a politician to understand the election process)
  • Tutoring younger students or classmates
  • Using puppets to put on a puppet show

Intrapersonal Intelligence (Self Smart)

Description: People with a strong intrapersonal intelligence have a deep awareness of their feelings, ideas, and goals. Students with this intelligence usually need time alone to process and create.

Learning Activities and Project Ideas

  • Writing reflective papers on content-area topics
  • Writing essays from the perspective of historical figures, such as Civil War soldiers or suffragettes
  • Writing a literary autobiography, reflecting on their reading life
  • Writing goals for the future and planning ways to achieve them
  • Using software that allows them to work alone, such as Decisions, Decisions, a personal choice software; or the Perfect Career, a career choice software
  • Keeping journals or logs throughout the year
  • Making a scrapbook for their poems, papers, and reflections

Naturalistic Intelligence (Nature Smart)

Description: This intelligence refers to a person's natural interest in the environment. These people enjoy being in nature and want to protect it from pollution. Students with strong naturalistic intelligence easily recognize and categorize plants, animals, and rocks.

  • Caring for classroom plants
  • Caring for classroom pets
  • Sorting and classifying natural objects, such as leaves and rocks
  • Researching animal habitats
  • Observing natural surroundings
  • Organizing or participating in park/playground clean-ups, recycling drives, and beautification projects


This article was adapted from Brain-Based Strategies to Reach Every Learner by J. Diane Connell (© 2005, Scholastic).