The Eight Intelligences

The Eight Intelligences

Let’s look at each of the eight intelligences, according to descriptions by Gardner (1999), Checkley (1997), and Armstrong (2000). At the same time, teaching strategies that promote learning in each intelligence will be discussed.

Linguistic intelligence, the use of language, is seen in the ability to read, write, or talk to others. This intelligence is highly valued in schools. A primary focus in the early years of elementary school is literacy development, which demonstrates linguistic intelligence. Storytelling is a teaching strategy that allows the caregiver or teacher to weave in concepts, details, or goals that are appropriate to the children. Storytelling has been used for centuries and in many cultures as a medium to share knowledge.

Logical-mathematical intelligence refers to logic and mathematical ability. The ability to use numbers, understand patterns, and exhibit reason are the key characteristics of logical-mathematical intelligence. Certainly, mathematical learning is valued, as evidenced in school curriculum. Categorization, for instance, is a teaching strategy that is developmentally appropriate for young children and supports logical learning. Children as young as 3 and 4 years old enjoy sorting materials according to categories, some that they create and others created by those around them. A 4-year-old might sort items by color, then by size, and then according to use. Older children could also record their findings, creating charts and displays of their categorization findings.

Spatial intelligence is the ability to create a visual image of a potential project or idea and then act on this visualization. Think of bridge engineers or interior decorators who must be able to “see” their ideas before creating them. Visualization is a powerful teaching strategy in spatial intelligence. A kindergarten teacher might ask a young child to close her eyes and see a gingerbread man running from the fox before she begins to draw a picture to represent the scene. Visualization can also be used to rehearse the steps or sequence of a task before starting the activity.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence refers to the ability to use one’s own body or parts of the body as a medium of expression or to solve a problem. A ballet dancer and an Olympic athlete are examples of people who have refined their bodily-kinesthetic skills or intelligence. The use of manipulatives in teaching math is an excellent example of the combination of bodily-kinesthetic intelligence with other intelligences. Many young children touch their fingers as they count, using their own teaching strategy for learning the sequence of numbers.

Musical intelligence is the ability to perform musically or to produce written music. People who are highly skilled in musical intelligence think in music patterns or see and hear patterns and are able to manipulate these patterns. Do you remember singing your ABCs? This is an example of a teaching strategy that helped you learn the alphabet. Songs for counting, colors, names, and other familiar objects promote learning through musical intelligence.

Interpersonal intelligence is the sensitivity one has toward others, along with the ability to work well with other people, understand others, and assume leadership roles. Sharing is a way for young children to learn from each other and use their interpersonal intelligence. All ages benefit from sharing and interacting—children can share with peers as well as with children older or younger than them. Depending on the age of the child, caregivers or teachers should adjust their amount of involvement in the directions and guidance of the sharing situation.

Intrapersonal intelligence is the accurate understanding of one’s self (who one is, what one wants, and a realistic sense of what one can do) and the ability to act according to this knowledge. Modeling true-felt emotions with young children provides an avenue for children to observe the range of emotions of others. Once a child reaches school age, curriculum is often presented in a neutral format, with little emotion shown by the teacher. Expressing joy, passion, disappointment, or other emotions sends a message that emotions are part of learning and are welcome in this setting.

Naturalist intelligence is used to discriminate among living things, such as plants or animals, as well as an understanding of other features of the natural world, such as weather or geology. Farmers, botanists, and hunters are examples of roles where this intelligence is used. Spending time outside on a regular basis facilitates naturalistic intelligence. Touching, seeing, and smelling plants outdoors is far different from looking at pictures of the same plants. Asking questions about the differences and similarities between the plants is appropriate for children as young as age 3 or 4. Young children are very observant and can use their categorization or classification abilities with the abundance of natural materials outside their setting.

Armstrong (2000) outlines four key points in MI theory: (1) People possess all of these intelligences, (2) most people have the potential to develop further in each of the intelligences, (3) the intelligences work together, and (4) there are numerous ways intelligence can be interpreted within each category. Gardner’s work with multiple intelligences led educators to a new way of looking at intelligence and learning.