Any IQ score or standardized test result can address the question, How smart are they? Yet most of us who hope to awaken brainpower in our students, agree that mere numbers say little about their real capabilities. On the other hand, if you want to ensure students actively master a lesson topic at deeper levels, then ask instead, How are they smart? Why so?
The latter question requires visible evidence that students can implement content and concepts in real life situations. Multiple intelligence tasks show what they know, and help them to demonstrate an ability to use that knowledge in varied situations. They can even help to create the
How do we know what they really know?
Unlike general intelligence represented in a fixed IQ score, fluid intelligences become visible, through in-class tools that actively grow and develop diverse understandings with daily use.
Students expand their understanding of a topic, as they awaken different intelligences to probe and articulate their investigation of facts. We identify what they know, by observing what they do to implement lesson-related facts in authentic takeaways. How so?
Let’s say a student shows evidence of excellent writing skills, yet may be less proficient in logical skills, or musical composition. Then guide that student to complete a task (such as a step-by-step plan to teach the topic to a grandparent or elder friend) that uses writing skills to develop logic and musical skills related to lesson content. Current research shows evidence that multiple intelligence tasks not only demonstrate what learners know on any specific topic, these brain based activities also introduce on-going mental skills that can continue well beyond senior years. Not a bad return for your high school lessons shared with a favorite elder!
Start small to build enthusiasm for varied views
You may wish to introduce one or two new intelligences only at any time, to avoid overwhelming your students. Rather than fear extra work, collaborate with students through fun ventures so these active building tasks become central to every lesson. Once they help build a task, they are well on their way to completing it with gusto! Simply stated they show what they know!
My students love to consider the new question, “How are you smart? They team up to shape their unique mix of intelligences into interactive tasks designed to offer evidence. And in that designing task process, they also learn specific skills and can apply these to address real life problems.
For instance, they use multiple intelligences (as illustrated below) to solve a fear related problem such as war – by proposing a robust peace plan related to courage. Or they might create innovations that capitalize on their ability to address a narrow-minded incident by engaging diversity through articulating valid opposing views with supportive evidence.
Engage intelligences actively to stretch mental domains
Interestingly, we now know that because of amazing plasticity (or the brain’s ability to change itself), dendrite brain cell extensions develop and literally grow with use in each intelligence. In teams, students each contribute from an area of strength, and they mentor one another to strengthen weaker areas.
Two-footed questions awaken multiple intelligences
Ask informally at first, to stir student interest through discussion:
1. Do you solve problems well, use logic, organize your time, and handle finances well? What specific tasks in these areas would help to ratchet up your logical mathematical intelligence? Jot down their responses so that all can see, and ideas for tasks in this domain will begin to perk.
2. Have you read a great book lately, discussed political or religious concerns without emotion, completed crossword puzzles, or contacted a person you respect to discuss new ideas? Each of these areas show your verbal linguistic intelligence, and each can be further developed with practice in a task that ….
3. Do you frequent musical performances, compose new lyrics, play background music to sustain creativity, or notice music’s keen influence on yourself or others? Music changes moods and shifts brain waves so that those who are musically intelligent tend to find innovative cadence to understand and express knowledge through rhythm. Which areas of today’s lesson topic would be developed best with a musical task – and how so?
4. Do you use images to communicate, read graphs well, or engage visual portrayals to know and express ideas at the peak? Have you taken an art course? Could you help us to discuss one use of visuals or graphic designs? How would you engage your brainpower to retrofit your wardrobe or work space? Brainstorm these questions and you have already begun to connect dendrite brain cell extensions for more spatial or visual intelligence tasks.
5. When was the last time you built a prototype of something? Or when did you move to music? Or have you engaged lately in a new or favorite sport? All of the above tasks generate and grow bodily-kinesthetic intelligence which is far more useful to problem solving and mental fitness, than many suspect. What tasks might we build together to address key problems from today’s lesson on ..?
6. Do others seek you out for fun friendship or for serious interactions? Interpersonal intelligence enables you to both teach and learn facts related to … from many different people. Others look to you for your ability to respond well to moods, as well as motivate and inspire a group to search out solutions in ways that help and support one another. A task to do this well might be …
7. When was the last time you enjoyed time alone, took yourself out to a special event, or planned a reflective day to think, plan, or create? Intrapersonal intelligence taps into your self knowledge, ethical choices, and intuitive well being. Sometimes termed common sense, this intelligence too can expand your understanding of a lesson topic, with related tasks that engage deeper reflective domains of your brain. What if you logged your personal thoughts over a few day – on a controversial lesson topic with a goal to risk change?
8. Does walking in a park appeal to you, as a way to think through lesson related problems? Do you see real solutions for a team, framed in issues of sustainability or naturalistic growth? If it’s no surprise that you’d draw on patterns and designs in nature as a way to grow naturalistic intelligence, then you likely have sizzling ideas to help us build a task that draws on naturalistic IQ.
Speaking of surprise, can you see how intelligences have evolved to include many more areas of the human brain? Would you agree that your intelligences can provide evidence in multiple intelligence tasks, to respond to the question, How are you smart?
Practice using each intelligence weekly, as a surefire way to keep more brain areas alive and well, far beyond your senior years. It’s also a way to hold many mental weaknesses at bay in secondary school. Have you seen it happen?
Students love to help design active tasks, that double as tests to show authentic outcomes impacted by lesson content and driven by their interests and capabilities to use that content to solve problems or create quality products.
Or if you prefer tasks that are student ready to copy and go, you may wish to start with the MI resources below at my TpT site.
Two-footed questions – Question with Two Feet to Spark Curiosity
Intelligence-fair rubrics co-created to show what they really know – Bundled test-prep resources for the entire year