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How do your students learn?

As a mother of four daughters, I have been able to watch and consider the different ways my girls experience the world and integrate information. Larkin is a talker, and she makes sense of new concepts and finds her creativity through conversations and collaborations. Julia tends to find inspiration in quieter spaces, while Clare listens to music, and Cecily draws.

Howard Gardner, a Harvard University researcher, identified seven distinct intelligences (Gardner, 1991). According to his theory, we are all able to know and understand the world through different intelligences, but we have differences in the strengths of these intelligences. Therefore, the more that we understand the distinctive characteristics of the intelligences, the better we can recognize ways to differentiate for learners, honoring the spectrum of learning styles that exist in not only our classrooms, but also our world.

Kelsey Corter and I have been collaborating about ways to incorporate various intelligences into our planning and instruction. We developed the following chart with inspiration and adaptations from: http://tecweb.org/styles/gardner.html

To access the file, click on the picture. You can make your own version by clicking “File” and “Make a copy”. Then, you can personalize it to your own students.

When we consider our students’ learning strengths, we are empowered with ways to teach them more effectively. For example, if we know we have some students who are musically oriented, we might offer them headsets to listen to music as they write. (For other students, music might be distracting and detrimental!) Our kinesthetic learners might benefit from acting out a story before writing it, and we can structure small groups of these students to act their stories out together. Kelsey and I developed the following chart that enumerates some strategies that could benefit various types of learners. We’d welcome any additional ideas!

To access the file, click on the picture. You can make your own version by clicking “File” and “Make a copy”. Then, you can personalize it to your own students.

We have so many things to know and consider as we work with our young writers. My daughters appreciate knowing and understanding their learning strengths, and I’m sure most students will, as well.

Melanie Meehan View All

I am the Writing and Social Studies Coordinator in Simsbury, CT, and I love what I do. I get to write and inspire others to write! Additionally, I am the mom to four fabulous daughters and the wife of a great husband.

7 thoughts on “How do your students learn? Leave a comment

  1. Can you suggest music to play in the background? I teach 4th grade and I haven’t played music in many years and that was in 1st grade.

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    • Experiment! Spotify has various mixes you can create– if you search Peaceful Pianos, for instance, you might find music you really like. It’s fun to ask the kids what music they find the most inspirational!

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  2. While reading this I was able to identify some of the students that fit the different learning styles. I am teaching the same group of students next year so this gives me a headstart on placing them appropriately according to the charts that you and Kelsey so generously shared.
    I can’t wait to see the smile on Joell’s face when I hand him some headphones AND drawing materials in writing workshop.

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  3. It seems like many folks confuse Gardner’s multiple intelligences with learning styles and they are not the same. I think we have also lost the impact of the “arts” as we often “rush” through the deadly tasks that lead us through the language arts. Revisiting Gardner’s work reminds us to slow down and consider how this information can be used to pair students up and continue to build strengths! THANKS! .

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  4. Howard Gardner’s work seems to have disappeared from education in recent years. Yet, it is still relevant and worthy of consideration. Thanks for these charts. My students are gifted, but their giftedness is in different intelligences. As we work together this year, it’s important that I embrace and celebrate the unique people that they are.

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