Tag Archive for multiple intelligences theory

The Value of Pineapples

Pineapple Pic

Over the last couple of decades or so, high stakes standardized testing has become part of the American classroom status quo. There is talk of increased “academic” time, academic achievement goals, and adequate yearly progress. Several times a year teachers and administrators gather together to pour over their data and try to decipher those numbers into meaningful classroom experiences. As hard as they may try not to, it’s pretty much guaranteed teachers will peek over their own reports and ask about their neighbors’ scores. After all, this is serious stuff. Not too different from their student counterparts, they’ll nervously ask, “What’d you get?”

What scores are they referring to? Their overall classroom math and reading scores.

Frequently a teacher’s scores may be a bit lopsided. Their overall reading scores may be vastly higher than their overall math scores. It may be that they have a class full of students who naturally lean toward the verbal side of things rather than the mathematical. Perhaps the teacher is a bit shy of math themselves and isn’t completely comfortable teaching the material. Maybe math is taught at the end of the day and by the time they get to it the kids are exhausted and tuned out. Or maybe it’s vice versa? Maybe the overall classroom scores are biased towards math and reading scores are lacking? Worried for job safety, feeling defensive over all the work and love they poured into their students, and maybe a bit of dented pride – the cry of “but how can I be accountable for both scores? Math and reading are like apples and oranges. I can’t be held responsible if they don’t get both subjects!”

So much emphasis on apples and oranges. Maybe some apple fritters and orange juice. Fried apples and orange sherbet. But what happens if you’re a pineapple?


I like to imagine a time long ago, when humans lived communally in tribes and each was assigned a responsibility based on their natural gifts and inclinations. Maybe there were warriors, shamans, healers, gatherers, farmers, textile workers, and caretakers. Someone had to be leaving behind all those artifacts right? There must have been artists, dancers, scientists, musicians, and problem solvers. I’m sure there were those responsible for diplomacy and social justice as well. In a time when you HAD to rely on each others’ innate talents for the benefit of the tribe as a whole, every members’ gifts were valued and utilized to their maximum capacity.

Fast forward in time and we still have people who perform those functions. But we put limits on who can participate. We devise hoops and hurdles to jump through. And then there are only so many available “spots” open for those who make it through the obstacle course. From our earliest experiences, our five year old selves learn quickly that only apples and oranges are valued. High praise for those who are reading in kindergarten. Kudos to those who can “carry the one” with ease. But if you’re a pineapple, and your skill is of the visual/spatial variety – you can replicate pieces worthy of the Louvre and you quickly understand that your talent is less valuable. That’s “fluff.” Crayons are for “free time.”

What about pomegranates? You may be able to brush the strokes of heaven with your musical talent, but you quickly learn that “we don’t sing songs past second grade.” Music class? That was deemed unnecessary in lieu of practicing how to fill in bubbles, because we all know “musician” isn’t a real job. Whether we want to recognize it or not, our classrooms are filled with pineapples, pomegranates, blueberries, even a mango or two. Our beloved apples and oranges come in other flavors as well; there are Pink Ladies, Galas, Clementines, and Kumquats each with their own unique perspective to share. What I fear, is that our exotic fruits are beginning to believe they hold no value. They have nothing to contribute because when they look in the mirror, they see neither an apple nor an orange.

When you make a fruit salad, letting the flavors chill and mingle in the fridge for a few hours makes it so much yummier. THIS is why many of our overall classroom scores are lopsided or failing all together. In our rush to achieve health, we have forgotten that we need those extra bioflavonoids that come from a varied diet. If we continue with this dichotomous course we truly run the risk of losing a piece of our humanity. Most of our game-changers would have been classified in the exotic section of the grocery store and some of them would have had to have been special order. Albert Einstein? The Indian Custard Apple. Mozart, Kurt Cobain? Pomegranates. Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla? Boysenberries. And I’m pretty sure Leonardo da Vinci was a Rambutan.


…And the little boy who grew up believing he had no value, whose talents weren’t recognized or cherished because they didn’t translate well on a Scantron sheet, he’s a Pineapple.

A beautiful, bright Pineapple that stops our fruit salad from becoming dull and predictable. Please know I see you, and I value you. And as long as you can remember to value your own Pineappleness, you’ll be a game-changer too.

Multiple Intelligences Theory

Multiple Intelligences Theory was pioneered by Dr. Howard Gardner, a psychology professor from Harvard University. Essentially the idea behind MI is that we have more than one type of intelligence and our “IQ” in each of these intelligences can vary. Originally there were thought to be seven types of intelligences, but each year there seem to be a few new ones added to the list. For our purposes, we will concentrate on those first seven:

Verbal/Linguistic – rhyming, letter/sound/word recognition, phonetic awareness, storytelling, listening comprehension, expression, vocabulary development

Visual/Spatial – painting, puzzles, play-dough, sculpting, drawing, daydreaming, designing, decorating, making mental pictures, video, pictures, photos

Logical/Mathematical – problem solving, volume, puzzles, quantity, sorting, patterns, predict, analyze, “how and why,” board games, games with rules

Musical/Rhythmic – rhyming, pitch, rhythm, timbre, tone, singing, playing instruments, listening to music
Bodily/Kinesthetic – fine and gross motor skills, body awareness, pinching, throwing, kicking, grasping, crossing the midline, dancing, recognizing body sensations, dramatic play, “dressing up,” expressing emotions through the body
Interpersonal – understanding others’ emotions, making friends, empathy, recognizing body language, understands others’ perspectives, cooperation, communication

Intrapersonal – understanding own emotions, labeling feelings, daydreaming, setting boundaries, solo play
One of the main differences between this theory and the traditional sense of IQ is that there are so many more ideas of what it means to be gifted. Michael Jordan might be considered gifted in his bodily/kinesthetic intelligence, Nelson Mandela gifted in his inter and intrapersonal intelligences, and Johnny Cash within his musical/rhythmic intelligence.

As with ANYTHING, especially in education, there has been some grumblings regarding this theory. First of all, “the academics in charge” don’t like the word theory. So for our intents and purposes we will view the word theory as “idea.” There has also been contention around the word intelligences itself, the difference between M.I. and Learning Styles, as well as whether or not brain scans have entirely discounted the theory altogether. But here’s the thing: Any teacher who has been doing this for awhile will tell you that when we present information in many different ways it “sticks” better, for which I have coined my own term: The Folder Theory. But since no one knows this theory but me and a handful of parents I’ve told about it, we’ll stick with Dr. Gardner. His list is a handy way for us to make sure we’ve presented new information in a well rounded manner, stimulating different aspects and perspectives of thinking. In addition, I’ve seen it work firsthand. A student doesn’t get it, still doesn’t get it, wait…what did you say?, Nope don’t get it. Has the exact same information from before but this time sings it…oh! Now I get it!

We seem to naturally have a preference for one or two intelligences from birth. Since we will tend to do more of what we are good at, because it feels good to excel, those one or two intelligences tend to become stronger and the other areas, if not exercised, may “weaken.” Those of us who have a natural inclination towards verbal/linguistic or logical/mathematical usually do well in traditional academic settings. However, if our tendencies lean more toward the visual/spatial or musical/rhythmic there is a POSSIBILITY of struggling in a classroom setting. This is not because there is anything wrong or lesser with these areas, only that the traditional classroom is filled pretty much solely with verbal and mathematical opportunities. We need to think of our primary intelligence as our learning language. It is through this language that we can translate other areas.

I have seen more times than I care to remember bright and enthusiastic children, who are very capable of learning, labeled with disabilities simply because their primary intelligence didn’t fit into the box of a traditional classroom. Instead, we should act as translators and travel guides, interpreting what we see along the way in a language they can understand. For instance, if our child’s learning language preference is visual/spatial we must find visual ways (without words) to explain math concepts, etc. If I only speak English and I attend a trigonometry class taught only in Mandarin, it does not mean that I am learning disabled because I didn’t understand the trigonometry. I needed someone to translate the lesson into a language I can understand.

However, the more early experiences that encompass ALL of the multiple intelligences may prevent such a lop-sided experience altogether. Our goal as parents and teachers should be to provide our children with varied and engrossing sensory adventures that stimulate EVERY learning language they are born with!