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10/24/97 ‘Multiple intelligences’ concept relayed to children’s workers

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–“How smart is your child?”
According to two Southern Baptist Sunday School Board leaders, that’s the wrong question to ask. The better question is: “How many ways is your child smart?”
While leading a session on “Multiple Intelligences” during the Oct. 20-23 National Children/Preschool Seminar in Nashville, Tenn., Tommy Sanders and Beth Cole said experts have identified “eight kinds of smart” or types of intelligence among children. The two, manager and biblical studies specialist, respectively, in the BSSB’s preschool biblical studies section of the Bible teaching-reaching division, shared concepts developed by educational leaders Howard Gardner and Thomas Armstrong.
While Gardner began talking about multiple intelligences as early as 1983, MI remains a “hot topic” in educational circles, Cole said. For example, 13 pages of a recently published educational catalog were devoted to the subject.
“(The concept of) multiple intelligences helps us to observe children, identify and focus on their learning strengths and assist them in areas where they might need a little help,” Cole explained. “It helps us learn to teach in a way so that children can develop to their fullest potential.”
Cole and Sanders shared a description and strengths of each of the “eight kinds of smart” and ways to encourage each intelligence. They included:
1) Verbal/Linguistic (word smart). Strengths include words, listening, memorizing, talking, reading and writing. To encourage and deepen understanding among word-smart children, teachers should: tell or read stories, let the children dictate stories or make stories into a book, listen to and appreciate the child, look at the Bible and talk about its stories and provide good books.
2) Logical/Mathematical (number or logic smart). Strengths include the ability to ask lots of probing and thought-provoking questions; intense concentration and curiosity; problem-solving skills; numbers, ordering and sequencing; and cause and effect. To encourage and deepen understanding among number- or logic-smart children, teachers should: encourage and ask thought-provoking questions, involve the children in creative problem-solving, explain things step-by-step, encourage higher-order thinking skills such as analysis and help them see examples of biblical persons who solved problems.
3) Visual/Spatial (picture smart). Strengths include artistic ability such as drawing and painting; ability to understand more from pictures than words; an active imagination; and the ability to see what something could be beyond what it is. To encourage and deepen understanding among picture-smart children, teachers should: provide a wide variety of art materials, encourage the child’s creative processes and use pictures to enhance Bible stories and apply Bible truths to life.
4) Bodily/Kinesthetic (body smart). Strengths include coordination, good reflexes, ability to learn by moving and make things with their hands.
“This one probably challenges us in church because a lot of us have Sunday school teachers who want children to sit still,” Sanders said. But to encourage and deepen understanding among body-smart children, he said teachers should: channel their energy into positive learning, provide purposeful movement, give them objects to explore through touching, act out Bible stories and provide blocks and other building materials.
5) Musical/Rhythmic (music smart). Strengths include a sensitivity to the emotional power of music and the ability to play a musical instrument, recognize and produce simple songs, imitate tone, rhythm and melody and remember and sing songs after hearing them only once or twice. To encourage and deepen understanding among music-smart children, teachers should: provide rhythm and simple musical instruments, let children make rhythm instruments, sing a variety of songs, play music as children arrive and during some activities, tell stories about music and worship in the Bible and teach Bible truths through songs.
6) Naturalist/Scientific (nature smart). Strengths include the ability to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, recognize various plants and animals, attune to details and categories and take care of pets and plants. To encourage and deepen understanding among nature-smart children, teachers should: go outdoors and explore, provide a wide variety of nature items indoors, play games which include classifying and sorting nature items, provide opportunities for helping care for a pet or plant and encourage the child to thank God for specific good things God made.
7) Interpersonal (people smart). Strengths include the ability to understand and show concern for other people, good communication and leadership skills and the ability to cooperate. To encourage and deepen understanding among people-smart children, teachers should: give opportunities to work and learn in small groups, plan activities that involve helping others, encourage negotiating and solving problems with others and use Bible verses and thoughts to affirm getting along with others.
8) Intrapersonal (self smart). Strengths include self-understanding and a positive self-concept, a realistic sense of one’s strengths, self-motivation, an awareness of one’s feelings and values and a sense of independence.
“This is the one area where Gardner says everyone, children and adults, need help with,” Cole said. “If they don’t develop in this area, they will have problems in all the others.”
To encourage and deepen understanding among self-smart children, Cole said teachers should: allow them to express unique feelings and preferences, give them freedom to pursue their own interests, talk to them one-on-one, offer quiet, reflective activities and encourage prayer and personal quiet times.
The value of understanding multiple intelligences, Sanders said, “is that you learn to interrelate the strengths of each kind of learning style in the learning experience. And if you make children aware of their kind of giftedness, they become more self-directed and self-motivated.”
He said it’s unrealistic for teachers to expect to teach content toward each type of intelligence during each lesson. “A better goal,” he said, “would be to work toward seeing that you cover all the bases during each unit.”
More than 500 preschool and children’s workers from across the country attended the National Children/Preschool Seminar which was sponsored by the board’s church growth group. The theme for the meeting was “Thru the Eyes of a Child.”