Monday, May 07, 2012

Growing EV's & AA's intelligences

Image: nattavut /
On 15 Apr, I had the privilege of attending a parents' workshop on Growing Your 8 Intelligences, by Victoria Carlton (Director, International Centre for Excellence, Perth) at KKH, co-presented by Danielle Manning (Principal, International Centre for Excellence). It is based on Harvard University professor Howard Gardner's theory of learning.

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences was introduced by Gardner in his book Frames of the Mind in 1983. His model identified eight intelligences, or different ways that people learn. An individual may show strengths and preferences in certain areas, which explains why some of us are great at reading maps and art (spatial intelligence) or mathematics (logical-mathematical intelligence). By understanding and recognizing what these different intelligences are, we as parents can better meet the learning needs of our children. In fact, as adults, shared Vicky, we can also improve certain of our own intelligences if we desire. Say, if we want to improve our musical intelligence, then we take up music lessons to develop ourselves in that area.
Image: Formula Mom
The 8 Intelligences are:
- linguistic (word smart)
- logical-mathematical (maths-logic smart)
- spatial (visual smart)
- bodily-kinesthetic (body smart)
- musical (music smart)
- intrapersonal (self smart)
- interpersonal (people smart)
- naturalist (nature smart)

A ninth intelligence, that of existential intelligence was also identified. This is the sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about human existence, such as the meaning of life, how did we get here and so on. While Gardner did not commit to this, he did suggest that this intelligence is useful.

So back to the Vicky's workshop. It was an enjoyable and interactive session, that saw Vicky and Danielle explaining to us each of the intelligences and giving advice on what as parents we can do to ignite these intelligences in our children. And when we seemed a little bored, Vicky and Danielle had no qualms about getting us up to do exercises to wake us up. Exercises such as rubbing the ear lobes to give ourselves a brain boost, or cross crawl exercise where we touch our left knee with our right elbow and vice versa. These activities, according to Vicky, will help in focus and concentration. Vicky also tested our understanding of phonics, by asking us to 's-i-t', and 'j-u-m-p' (saying the phonics sound instead of the words).

Here are some of the tips that Vicky & Danielle shared for each intelligence:

Word Smart
The sound of words is what these children love. They love to play with words, or even invent their own playful language. They simply adore reading stories and will ask for a favourite story to be read over and over. General enhancers for this intelligence include reading to children on a daily basis, which I think most parents are doing these days. Vicky also suggest activities to further develop this area as the children get older, such as discussing the stories and grammar and decoding the words (phonics) when reading. Word games are also useful, such as the 'I spy with my eye' game, the 'beginning with/end with' game (eg, I'm thinking of a word ending with 'at'), or the 'I went to the shop and bought xx' game which is good for word memory. One interesting activity which I like is to write notes to the child and leave it in their lunch boxes or on their bed. Though EV still can't read, I can introduce writing to her and read the notes to her, and well, it'll be something special that we share. Then gradually, she can write her own notes, or even stories, to me! As she grows older, two must-haves are definitely a good dictionary and thesaurus.

Maths-Logic Smart
Kids with this intelligence have the ability to understand details as part of a general pattern, and they like order. They like a time table and know what is coming up next, and will ask many questions, including many hows and whys. These kids enjoy board and card games that involve number and logic. Real-life situations can be used to teach maths, eg, when it's someone's birthday, ask how many years is there to 70 (or any other number)? Or looking at a calendar, ask how many days to National Day? Visit museums and even have the kid classify their belongs and keep them in an orderly way.

Visual Smart
These children have wonderful imaginations and love to escape into their own worlds. They love drawing and painting, and often soothe themselves in this way. They are also good at map making, sculpting, navigation and games such as chess, jigsaws or Pictionary. It is good to do lots of art and crafts. Keep scraps such as wrapping paper and old buttons in a special 'making things' box or provide clay and play dough. Pictures and posters are good stimulations and when reading, imagining and visualising the narrative, characters and scenarios will help in creativity. Different colours can be used to learn spelling, maths and science facts.

Body Smart
This is the ability to use one's body to express emotions and ideas, and children who are body smart are always on the move, hopping and running, exploring the world with their bodies. They love sports and cannot sit still for long periods. They learn best with hands-on learning. For literacy, they would enjoy dramatizing their favourite parts of the story, while tips such as mind-mapping and practicing spelling using different colours could help. For maths, activities such as jumping or throwing a ball to count to solve sums can be done. Or make 'human counters', with family members as the counters.

Music Smart
These children are often foot tappers. They seem to move to an invisible rhythm, and respond well to many types of music. They learn best with music playing in the background to help them 'stay centred'. So if EV is learning about animals, I can play songs about animals to her, or we can write songs and raps to help remember facts, or tell her her favourite story in a self-composed song. As music has a pattern, it can also be used to teach maths, like noticing the rhythms and beats, or using percussion instruments to make beats. It's good also to listen to as many types of music as possible.

Self Smart
Everyone likes to be alone sometimes, and children are not different. It is important to give children sufficient reflection time, or 'thinking time' they will develop into deep thinking and sensitive individuals. It's about asking 'what am I doing', 'how do I feel' and so on. According to Vicky, this is an especially important intelligence because it helps a child understand their own feelings. So it's good for parents to talk about our own feelings regularly so that our children learn that it is OK to do this. Children can also keep a journal where they can write words or draw pictures to express their feelings and ideas. This will help in their literacy too. This self smart intelligence is helpful in maths as well, as children need to learn to reflect and choose the correct method to solve problems. They also need time to check on their work in order not to make careless mistakes.

People Smart
These children love being around people. They are usually popular, emotionally intelligent and have lots of friends. It's an important intelligence as it's about understanding the people around us, their feelings and emotions, both verbal and non-verbal. Like when you look at someone and sense that something is not right? That is being people smart. It also about managing one's feelings of sadness or anger so it doesn't affect relationships at home or in school. We can demonstrate what it means to 'get over it' by creating an imaginary line on the ground and have our children physically jump over it, or use puppets to create scenarios and discuss the feelings that our children are feeling. Book that explore character development is helpful, or get the children to work together to solve problems. Self Smart and People Smart together makes up Emotional Intelligence, introduced by psychologist Daniel Goleman.

Nature Smart
These children are happiest when they're outside, and they should visit parks regularly and be involved in caring for plants or animals. They may form deep connections with pets. Vicky suggested having a 'naturalist' table in the home where a flower or shell can be placed, for the children to appreciate and learn about it. We can also go on listening walks to hear to sounds of nature - this also develops phonemic awareness. During these walks, it's possible to also point out the mathematical patterns in nature, such as the lines on leaves, or the round shapes of rocks. We can do a game of 'walking around and initiating animals actions', or when cooking, talk about the taste, ingredients and where they come from.

This was really a great workshop, and gave me huge insights in what I can do at home to help EV and AA learn in ways that best suit them. Like what Gardner said, 'It's not how smart you are, it's how you are smart.'

Thanks to KKH Parent Education Centre and September 21 for organising this insightful workshop.

Interested in reading up more on Multiple Intellgences? 

Disclaimer: ToddlyMummy paid for this workshop out of her own pocket. This post is neither sponsored nor paid for.

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