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Differentiated Instruction And Multiple Intelligences: Helping Children Learn The Way They Learn Best

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Since 1983, people have been talking about “multiple intelligences,” an idea proposed by Howard Gardner, a Harvard developmental psychologist, in his book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligence. By multiple intelligences, we mean that people have different intelligences in different areas. Gardner identified eight such intelligences:

 

  • Musical: deals with sounds, rhythms, and music. People who have high musical intelligence have strong auditory skills and will therefore learn well through lecture.
  • Visual-spatial: encompasses spatial judgment and visualization. People who have high visual-spatial intelligence learn well when reading from a book or notes on the board.
  • Verbal-linguistic: deals with an ease with words and language. People with this intelligence are good at reading, writing, and telling stories.
  • Logical-mathematical: much of this category deals with numbers and abstract concepts. People who have high logical-mathematical intelligence learn best when they understand the connections between different concepts and fields.
  • Bodily-kinesthetic: includes a control over bodily motion and the ability to handle objects skillfully. People who have high bodily intelligence learn best through physical effort.
  • Interpersonal: deals with good “people skills.” Those who have high interpersonal intelligence learn best in groups and when working with others.
  • Intrapersonal: encompasses introspection and self-evaluation. People with high intrapersonal intelligence have a deep understanding of themselves and therefore often learn and work best alone.
  • Naturalistic: includes a connection to natural surroundings. People who have high naturalistic intelligence learn best when surrounded by the outdoors and nature.

 

Now that we know so much about multiple intelligences, it helps us understand why students benefit from learning in different ways. This different learning in educational jargon is called differentiated instruction.

 

What Can Be Modified

In their book, Differentiated Instruction in the English Classroom, Barbara King-Shaver and Alyce Hunter explain that teachers can choose to differentiate their curriculum in three areas of modification: content, process, and product. Content is what a student is to learn; process is how the student will learn the content; and product is how the student is to display what s/he learned.

Content: If the curriculum is flexible, the teacher may modify what texts and concepts the students will study.

Process: Children can be involved in listening, writing, movement, musical, or reading activities. They can then discuss their separate activities in a whole class discussion.

Product: Upon completion of the unit of study, the teacher must determine the parameters for the final product. The teacher may choose to have the students write an essay, create a diorama, write a poem, or work on various other appropriate projects.

 

How Do You Decide to Modify?

Carol Ann Tomlinson, a pioneer of differentiated instruction and a professor at the University of Virginia, explains that teachers should look at student readiness, interest, and learning styles when deciding how to formulate their classrooms and curriculum.  Student readiness represents how prepared or skilled the student is; interest is what a student likes, wants, or loves to do; learning style is how a student learns best.

Starting to assess student readiness, interests, and learning styles at the very start of the school year will enable teachers to better teach in a manner that is appropriate for individual students. Pre-assessment, or diagnostic testing, is a wonderful tool for understanding what a student knows before the year begins. While some might have mastered the sophisticated understandings planned for the year, others might be deficient in precursor skills necessary to become proficient later in the year. A teacher who intends to support success for each learner needs a sense of the learners’ starting points as a unit begins.

Simple back-to-school pre-assessments could include questions such as, “Do you need quiet when you study? What did you do over the summer? What is your favorite subject in school? Would you rather read a book or listen to a tape? Do you prefer Judaic subjects or secular subjects? How much time to you spend on homework each night?”

About the Author: An acclaimed educator and education consultant, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation,, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at rifkaschonfeld@verizon.net. Visit her on the web at rifkaschonfeldsos.com.


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One Response to “Differentiated Instruction And Multiple Intelligences: Helping Children Learn The Way They Learn Best”

  1. “If he cannot learn the way we teach, we had better teach the way he can learn.” That's a very practical approach to education, but most teachers aren't in-tune with their students enough to make the distinctions needed to offer the kid the best education. In fact, most teachers tend to assume if a student has trouble in math or reading, they're automatically an idiot. And for those discerning teachers that have a better understanding of their students, they just don't have the time or resources to tailor the education specifically for each kid – i would almost say that students with similar differentiation needs could be lumped into one class, but that would lead to improper diagnoses, a new sort of class system, and we'd have too many artists and musicians entering a market that can't hire them all. With that said, I think I'd prefer Mrs. Schonfeld's approach that takes these needs into consideration without treating any group as special needs groups is the best option. I'd imagine computer-driven educators will be helpful in the future if we can't hire more teachers to teach to the student rather than teaching at the student. Great article. Parents need to read this.

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