In order to get free shipping on Amazon, I decided to buy a book about the multiple intelligences since they are so related to arts integration, and it turned out to be a very good move.  Thomas Armstrong’s Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom is a great read and I am learning and reflecting a lot (which is quite typical of a highly intrapersonal person – which I am, apparently.)

Today, I’m reflecting on a few ways to help identify students’ MIs and I could paraphrase something that Armstrong says, but he says is so well, I’ve decided to add it verbatim here.  (The bold text is from my notes.):

The single best tool for assessing students’ multiple intelligences, is probably readily available to all of us: simple observation.

I’ve often humorously suggested to teachers that one good way to identify students’ most highly developed intelligences is to observe how they misbehave in class.  The strongly linguistic student will be talking out of turn, the highly spatial student will be doodling and daydreaming, the interpersonally inclined student will be socializing, the bodily-kinesthetic student will be fidgeting, and the naturalistically engaged student might well bring an animal to class without permission!  These students are metaphorically saying through their misbehaviors: “This is how I learn, teacher, and if you don’t teach me in the way that I most naturally learn, guess what?  I’m going to do it anyway!’  These intelligence-specific misbehaviors, then, are sort of a cry for help – a diagnostic indicator of how students what to be taught.”

He goes on to suggest that “choice time” in class is a great indicator of a student’s MI.  As students are given autonomy over how to use their time (both inside and outside of school), their behaviors and choices (reading, talking on the phone, building with Legos, etc.) will be a good indication of their more highly developed intelligences.

But let’s go back to the idea that we can learn a lot about students from their MISbehaviors…  I find this really interesting and yet so true!  Our school systems are so embedded in a couple of the intelligences: linguistic and logical-mathematical, that we can sometime see all other behaviors  as non-important, a waste of time, as MIS!  AHHH! Are you kidding?  What are we doing??

So, honestly, what would my reaction be to a student who brings a frog to school?  “Ahh!  Get that outta here!”  (Can’t help it.)  As you may have seen in the last post, the Natural Intelligence is my weakest… although I love getting and growing flowers!!!  😉  I do however, teach with a teacher who is extremely strong in the naturalistic intelligence.  A student actually did bring in a frog she found on the way to school and my teacher-friend, cleaned up an old aquarium she happened to have and there – science class for the day!  The kids loved it!

Point is, we naturally cater to those who have the same MIS, I mean intelligences, as we do.  This can be a problem if we don’t recognize it.  After all, not all our students are specifically chosen to be in our classes because of their intelligences.  Not all my students are music lovers, but they get exposed to great music.  I do however, try to bring in other arts-based and MI based experiences into my classroom as much as possible: time for independent work, time for collaboration, time to get up and move, time to sing, time to visualize our learning and time to get outside and explore.

And sometimes those times are not my forte and I have to trust that some of my students will take the lead and get to show the ways they are smart.  I am reminded of a post I wrote about Facing Your Fears of Arts Integration.

Now let’s look at how Armstrong refers to these misbehaviors as “a cry for help.”  Wow again!  The initial reaction of so many educators is to “correct” misbehavior.  You act out, talk out of turn, don’t pay attention, doodle on your work – you’re in trouble!  But looking at these behaviors as a way for students to communicate how they really want to work and learn- well that is an eye-opener (or more like a slap in the face) to me!

I think I’m a pretty accepting teacher of students’ needs to work how they need to, to learn in various ways, but I do get frustrated from time to time (or more) when students can’t keep up with me or don’t seem to focus well enough.  In the last few weeks after first reading this passage, I have been able to remind myself that students don’t all learn like me and when they are “misbehaving” it’s my JOB to figure out how better to reach them.

So when I see “Johnny” talking with “Joey”, I take that as a sign that those two could work later on a project together.  Or when I see “Lisa” doodling on her desk, I take that as a sign that she can further her understanding of what she is reading by drawing a sketch first and then writing out her answer.  (After, of course, erasing her marks on the school property.)  At the least, these types of observations are a way to start a conversation with my students so that we can both better understand how they learn best.

How might you now interpret misbehaviors? ~EMP

Book Review for ME!
The Doodler - A Lesson in Identifying Multiple Intelligences

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