Tag Archives: Multiple Intelligences

How can instruction be engineered to benefit the entire class?

Stephen M. Shore, Ed.D. is a clinical assistant professor at the School of Education at Adelphi University. As a child, Dr. Shore was nonverbal and diagnosed with “atypical development and strong autistic tendencies.” His parents rejected institutionalization and instead opted for intensive early intervention and support. Today Dr. Shore is an internationally renowned professor and author on issues pertinent to students with disabilities, particularly autism.

In a workshop hosted by School Leaders for Change, Dr. Shore gave a presentation and shared autobiographical experiences to illustrate how schools and teachers can develop and use educational accommodations in inclusion settings to support all students in the classroom.  Participants learned about curriculum modifications and their appropriate usage. Shore’s discussion focused on educating students by employing their strengths.

Do you remember the pictures in Highlights Magazine where there are two pictures and you have to spot the differences between the two images?


It is a visual perception exercise and Dr. Shore was making the point about how we perceive disabilities. We need to reframe how we view the students in our classroom who are on the spectrum. We want to look at the whole spectrum. Move from deficient model to a strengths model. Autism brings challenges but how can we use their strengths so these students can succeed in our classrooms? For example, a child who is judged to be learning disabled, hyperactive, dyslexic can also be considered learning different, a kinesthetic learner, a spatial learner (For more see Turning Lead Into Gold by Thomas Armstrong, 1989).

When addressing student challenges do the following:

  1. Indicate how you would go about determining the functions behind these behaviors,
  2. Suggest a plan that would help this student keep him/herself properly regulated
  3. Describe what you might do as the teacher to implement this plan

Everyone has strengths and challenges. Rather than looking at students on the spectrum from a deficient model, look at strengths and match their special skills with the curriculum or find something closely connected. With all learning differences, how do we make it work? Think about size, time, levels of support, input, difficulty, output, participation, alternatives, and substitute curriculum when modifying and implementing special ways and techniques for all students to succeed.

For example, maybe a student needs the size and quantity of information reduced. You might even think about having students complete five questions early in the week and then five more questions when everyone else is taking the test to chunk the test into more manageable parts. Thus, the student it still completing the same amount of work, it is just broken down over the week to support their accommodation.

Think about time and the executive function of time management, teachers can create a timeline that is posted on the bulletin board or Google Classroom for all students to post where they are in the writing process and monitor the requirements of the assignment. A teacher might even employ students to help out in this situation as peer buddies and teaching assistants to monitor that students are completing the steps of a multi-step assignment.

Teachers have to adapt the way instruction is delivered to the learner (Input). The more ways we differentiate, the more students we can reach. Utilize Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and go beyond functional math and reading intelligences. Teachers need to help students process and express information (Output). Think in other modalities. Allow students to demonstrate mastery in other ways. We want to undo any barriers that get in the way of students showing their learning and understanding — these are merely extensions of good teaching practice.

The second part of Stone’s presentation was on sensory issues and having participants experience and understand sensory processing disorders to we can rethink the classroom environment to be a more sensorially friendly place.

Overall, there were so many takeaways from the morning. Throughout the presentation we addressed easy to implement, practical solutions for including children with autism and other special needs into the regular education experience. The key idea is that everyone can learn and with the right modifications, all students can succeed.


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Literary Postcards

lit postcard 3

This summer my 8th grade students read Warrior’s Don’t Cry, Melba Pattillo Beals’ memoir detailing the emotional and physical abuse she endured as one of the nine students to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, AK in 1957.  This personal story, from a teenager’s perspective, offers insight into Beals’ struggles between being a “normal” teenager and a freedom fighter for racial integration.

I had read about a writing and art activity in an article written by Linda Christensen for the Zinn Education Project called Literary Postcards.  Christensen’s article details the variety of activities she employed in her classroom to help her students’ read deeply and understand the historical impact Beals’ experience had on American history.

I had my students complete Literary Postcards and I was in awe of their writing and drawing abilities.  Using oversized note cards, students drew pictures of significant scenes from the book on one side of the “postcard.”  Then, on the other side of the post card the student wrote a poem, letter, diary entry or monologue from one character to another explaining what happened in that moment. The written part is not meant to retell the scene, but to understand the scene from an personal perspective.  Below are some of the postcards my students created.

lit postcard 2lit postcard 4

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A Little Drama

Drama: (n) the performance of an imaginary or real life situation that involves a plot, theme, characters, some sort of conflict, and usually some sort of resolution.

What is Drama?

Acting         Stage-Work         Theater          Taking-Risks         Storytelling

Pantomime    Cooperation    Pretend      Tragedy       Comedy

Imagination     Characterization    Exaggeration       Expression         Creativity

Improvisation      Movement      Concentration       Dialogue

The word “acting” is taken from a Latin term meaning “to do.” Thus, an actor’s primary job is to do something, to show, to use the body with its versatile actions to convey a thought, a mood, or a message.

Drama and acting fit well in a any classroom setting.  Drama taps into Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences and supports kinesthetic learners.  Here are eleven activities to try with your students and add a little drama in your content area.

Tableauxs – Students create a frozen picture to convey a person, place, or things.  Other students try to guess what the tableaux is.  In Art class students can create tableauxs to recreate a painting or photograph.

30 Second Challenge – Volunteers are give a topic and they must speak nonstop, without repeating themselves, for 30 seconds. In Social Studies class students can talk about historical figures or topics students are studying. This can also be adapted into a writing activity.

Tableauxs Brought to Life – Students act out a tableaux.  Students become the characters in the frozen picture.  In Social Studies, a teacher can post a picture on the SMARTBoard and ask volunteers to stand similarly to the people in the picture.  Students then act out a scene based on the photograph.  This allows students to step into the shoes of other people and make inferences about this time period.

Story Theater – The teacher can read aloud a scene from a text.  Students come to the front of the class and act out the scene.  In English class this is a great way to visually summarize or introduce a specific scene in a text.  For example, the teacher reads aloud a summative speech from Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet and students then act out the various points in the story Friar Lawrence addressed in his monologue.

Walking – Students walk around as the teacher calls out different emotions. As students head each new emotion, they try to convey it in their walk.  The teacher can also call out characters in a text.  Students picture themselves as the character, walk some more, and then, in character, stop and talk with a nearby classmate.

Envisioning – Students close their eyes and, with prompting from the teacher envision an object or action.  This is a great activity to do in a science class room because it allows students to visualize an object or process and then share their interpretations the large class.

Role Play – Students are handed out a slip of paper that either reads, “for,” “against,” or “undecided.”  On the other side of the slip of paper a specific role is described: “captain,” “solider,” or “wife.” (Think Social Studies during Revolutionary or Civil War.) These specific roles indicate who students are and where they stand on a controversial topic.  The teacher facilities the town meeting. This role play allows for students to think about an issue from perspectives different from their own.

Story Circle – The teacher puts a variety of artifacts in the center of the classroom related to a specific text or unit of study.  Students sit around the artifacts and share what each artifact reminds them of in relation to the text or unit of study.  Bringing artifacts into the classroom gives another visual context.  Students can use the artifacts to act out a scene or situation relevant to the text or unit of study.

Talk Show – Students break up into groups. Each group is assigned a character from the text or unit of study to discuss.  Each group then picks someone to be that character on a talk show role play in which the students question the characters. Students must answer questions as their assigned character in relation to the text.

Picture Plays – Each pair gets a different painting (Norman Rockwell, Chagall) and writes two copies of a six line dialogue based on the painting. Each group practices their dialogue to act out. The second copy is then given to a different group to act out without seeing the original painting. For the performance each group performs their own picture, then performs the dialogue for the picture they haven’t seen.  Writing dialogue forces students to look closely for visual clues in the painting to bring it to life. The two performances of the same dialogue show how different people can interpret the same words. Seeing how people translated the paintings into words gives insight into what people saw in the paintings.

Monologues – Students write an interior monologue to act out or read. The student takes on a character from the text or a historical figure and writes a monologue about a turning point or conflict.  In science class students can even use personification and write a monologue from the perspective of one of the elements on the Periodic Table.  The monologues can be serious or funny.

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