One of the reasons why tutoring is so entertaining is that we get to savor the whole range of pre-teen individuality. It’s a truism that every student is different and every student has individual learning needs. At the same time, the practical necessities of public school life mandate a common curriculum aimed at the ‘average child.’ Sometimes a mismatch occurs between individual learning needs and the standard curriculum, so learning becomes a rocky road.
The familiar sixth grade crunch often occurs because the middle school curriculum suddenly becomes more abstract and academic compared to elementary school. Another way of looking at this issue is to say that the middle school curriculum shifts toward rewarding students endowed with two particular types of intelligence: verbal / linguistic and logical / mathematical. In contrast, during the elementary school years students had a greater variety of learning opportunities, such as hands-on projects, art, music, and classroom skits. These supported natural variation in intelligence types and learning styles, so everyone had a chance to shine.Multiple intelligence theory was developed during the 1980s by Dr. Howard Gardner of Harvard University. It’s quite practical in the classroom, because it helps us recognize typical patterns of academic strength and weakness. All students have at least one of the seven types; some have two; a few have many.
1. Verbal / Linguistic Intelligence: ability to use words and language.
- Highly developed auditory skills, fluent speakers.
- Think in words rather than pictures.
- Good at understanding and remembering verbal information, easily absorb spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and punctuation, good writers. Enjoy wordplay, jokes, puns.
- Learn by reading, remember what they read, and can re-phrase main ideas from reading in their own words.
- High grades in language arts and social studies; grades may be low or middling in math and science.
- Student sub-culture: official smart kids.
2. Logical / Mathematical Intelligence: ability to use reason, logic and numbers.
- Highly developed computation skills.
- Think conceptually in logical and numerical patterns.
- Make logical connections among pieces of information. Interested in cause and effect.
- Enjoy problem solving, classifying and categorizing information, experiments, performing complex mathematical calculations, and working with geometric shapes.
- Patient and thorough with analytical assignments.
- Learn by reading and analyze what they read, but often miss the point in literature and poetry.
- High grades in math and science; grades may be low or middling in language arts and social studies. May feel bored and annoyed by long, wordy novels full of detailed descriptions and emotional scenes. Usually despise poetry! Often read science fiction for fun.
- Student sub-culture: official smart kids, math / science / computer geeks, ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ players.The remaining five intelligences tend to be somewhat downgraded by schools as mere ‘talents’ or ‘interests’, suitable for extracurricular activities but definitely not at the center of the academic universe. In contrast, out in the ‘Real World’, all intelligences are respected and valued, provided young adults succeed in finding their pathways into suitable occupations.
3. Visual / Spatial Intelligence: ability to perceive the visual.
- Naturally think in pictures. Sensitive to colors and shapes. Visual learners.
- Need to create vivid mental images to retain information.
- Good at understanding maps, charts and graphs, sketching, painting, manipulating images, constructing, fixing, designing practical object.
- Find it difficult to learn through reading long, dry textbooks. Often look at textbook illustrations to orient themselves in the vast trackless wasteland of prose. May do well in geometry but struggle in advanced arithmetic and algebra. Grades may be low or middling in all four core academic subjects, with excellent grades in art.
- Student sub-culture: junior bohemians, arty types.
4. Bodily / Kinesthetic Intelligence: ability to control body movements and handle objects skillfully.
- Good sense of balance and eye-hand co-ordination. Physically strong and active. Tactile learners.
- Good at sports, hands on experimentation, crafts, acting, using their hands to create or build, expressing emotions through the body.
- Often feel physically trapped in school.
- Need to move overwhelms interest in learning through reading or computation / analysis.
- Student sub-culture: jocks.
5. Musical / Rhythmic Intelligence: ability to produce and appreciate music.
- Think in sounds, rhythms and patterns. Auditory learners.
- Intense emotional and intellectual response to music.
- Good at singing, playing musical instruments, composing music, remembering melodies, understanding the structure and rhythm of music.
- Often pursue a ‘real life’ outside of school, centering on music.
- Some research shows links strong music skills with natural math aptitude.
- Grades in core academic subjects can be anywhere from high to low, but music comes first!
- Student sub-culture: junior bohemians, arty types.
6. Interpersonal Intelligence: ability to relate and understand others.
- Empathetic and intuitive: able to sense other’s feelings, intentions and motivations.
- Visual learners.
- Great organizers, although they sometimes resort to manipulation.
- Good at co-operating with groups.
- Often have high verbal / linguistic intelligence as well, so reading and writing come naturally. May find math and science too dry and impersonal.
- Student sub-culture: student government, leadership positions.
7. Intrapersonal Intelligence: ability to self-reflect and be aware of one’s inner state of being.
- Inward-oriented: Enjoy reflection and self-analysis, reasoning with themselves, understanding their role in relationship to others. May seem over-sensitive.
- Often have high verbal / linguistic intelligence as well, so reading and writing come naturally. Insightful comments on motivation of characters when reading novels. May become good writers. These students often actually enjoy poetry!
- Attracted to religious faith and social causes.
- Grades more likely to be better in language arts and social studies than math and science.
- Student sub-culture: community service volunteers, wallflowers.