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Teaching Kids Using All Their "Smarts"

You are about to experience a crash course on a subject that is critical for you to understand and utilize in your ministry. So, hold on, here we go! Understanding the theory of Multiple Intelligences proposed by Howard Gardner in 1983 is a monumental help in teaching—children or adults—and in dealing with relationship issues. Most likely, many of you have learned about multiple intelligences along the way, but engraining this theory into your thinking and planning it into your teaching can mean the difference between reaching a child for Christ or not. This understanding is a vital tool and it provides the power to open doors that seem to be jammed shut.

Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences proposed that every person’s brain has many intelligences or many ways of taking in information. Some people still refer to these different pathways as “intelligences,” but most now simply call them “smarts.” The seven smarts that Gardner recognized were: math smart, picture smart, music smart, self smart, people smart, word smart, and body smart. Since his initial proposal, nature smart has been universally recognized as the eighth smart.

Every person has all eight smarts—that’s important to understand. We are different, though, in that each person’s smarts have a degree of strength or weakness. Some kids come alive when crayons and markers are put in their hands. That’s because their picture smart is strong. That same child may lose total interest when asked to sing, probably because music smart is one of their weaker smarts. It’s encouraging to know, though, that a weak smart can be strengthened simply through experiencing it. This tells us, then, that we do a child an injustice by avoiding their weak smart, because using it makes it stronger, which in turn makes them a more well-rounded learner. It also tells us that if the child is having difficulty understanding a concept or needs to get past a particular hurdle to move on in their learning, the child will more likely master the difficult concept if it’s presented in one of his strongest smarts. In many people, it seems apparent what their strong and weak smarts are, but taking a multiple intelligence inventory may have surprising results. Inventories require about 10 minutes to take and can be easily found on the Internet.

Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences is very helpful information for anyone who teaches children (or adults, for that matter, but that’s a whole different magazine). God has wired us in such a way that we can experience His Word and His presence through eight different pathways or smarts. In the past, we’ve limited the teaching of His Word to mainly one smart—word smart. We read words, and we listen to words. The problem with that is if a child’s word smart is one of his weaknesses, then he’s struggling constantly, and he quickly becomes bored (and you know what that means—discipline problems).