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Teaching Kids Using All Their "Smarts"

What is the worst method of teaching? The one you use over and over and over. When we lock in to teaching at only one smart, then we become ineffective. That’s really easy to do, because leaders have their strong smarts also, and that’s where they’ll gravitate to in their teaching approach. If our goal is to increase a child’s understanding of God’s Word, then incorporating different smarts into the presentation of a concept is the best way to go.

When a variety of the multiple intelligences are used in a session, the boredom issue will greatly diminish as well as the discipline issues. Why does that happen? When multiple intelligences are routinely used in the teaching approach, kids naturally come to understand that “She may not be doing something that I really like right now, but I know the good stuff for me is coming.”

A logical goal for any session is to incorporate four or five of the multiple intelligences. Hitting all eight is too much of a challenge and would require more time than you probably have. Keep track of the ones you use though, so that as you plan future sessions you can make choices about activities that will rotate through all eight smarts. It’s important for kids to have fun when they’re learning; fun means relaxing in a child’s language, and learning takes place better when you’re relaxed. Adults tend to think that kids are having fun when there’s lots of noise and running. Once you understand multiple intelligences, though, you realize that noise and running are not fun for the child who has a weak body smart. If a child’s strength is self smart, then fun is getting to do something on their own in their own space. If a child’s strength is music smart, then the game really becomes fun when music is added. A grasp of multiple intelligences can really help you redefine “fun.”

Well, let’s take a closer look at these eight smarts and give you some ideas of how each one can be utilized in a lesson.

Word Smart

This smart uses written, spoken, and heard words effectively, and the child thinks in words. They retain information because of explanation and communication.

These kids like to read, write, tell stories, and play word games. They are the ones who actually enjoy a search-and-find or crossword puzzle and are attentive when you read a story to them. One of the things that will thrill them is having a variety of writing implements and interesting paper products. Writing e-mails to missionaries, keeping a personal faith journal, or debating evolution will spark their interest, because it’s words, words, words.

Math Smart

Probably the most misunderstood of the multiple intelligences, it goes way beyond working math problems. This smart enables easy detection of patterns, analyzes problems through reasoning and deduction, and involves sequencing.

You may be baffled with how to include math smart in a Bible lesson. These kids love to experiment, calculate, question, sequence, and figure out logical puzzles. Does that give you some ideas? When you relate science experiments to scripture, you are including a connection to the math smart. These kids will thrive when using manipulatives or when challenged to strategize. Putting different scenes of a Bible story in the correct sequence, deciphering codes in a puzzle, or putting the books of the Bible or people of faith in categories are all good exercises to use the math smart.

Music Smart

With this smart, there is an appreciation for sounds, a recognition of rhythms, and an emotional reaction to sounds.

This is probably one of the easiest smarts to incorporate into children’s ministry because of the worship time. But think beyond singing songs. Whistling, humming, tapping feet, clapping hands, and banging sticks together are all part of music smart. These kids will enjoy writing their own raps or chants, and calm down when there is background music playing. People who play the radio while working are usually high in music smart, because the music actually relaxes them to be able to take in information.

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After 33 incredible years in children’s ministry within the local church, Tina is now part of the KidzMatter team as Executive Editor of KidzMatter Magazine and Senior Publications Director, writing the This iKnow kids’ church curriculum. With great enthusiasm, she gallivants all over the country to train those who share her passion for reaching kids for the Kingdom. Tina has authored 12 books, one of which is used as a textbook in some universities (but it’s not boring, really).