June 1, 2013

Multiple Intelligence Theory for Kids

You're probably familiar with Dr. Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory, but have you thought about teaching your students about these concepts? You might wonder why anyone would attempt to fit this into an already packed curriculum, but after you read this blog post, I’m hoping you’ll decide to give it a try.

Multiple Intelligence Theory suggests that IQ is not one-dimensional and can't be described by a single number. Dr. Gardner proposed that there are at least eight different types of intelligence, each one with a corresponding area in the brain. He used terms like “mathematical-logical,” “bodily-kinesthetic,” and “visual-spatial” to describe these intelligences, but many educators have adopted more kid-friendly terms like "Music Smart," "Body Smart," and "Math Smart." My students really enjoyed learning about the “eight kinds of smart,” and this knowledge helped everyone appreciate each other’s strengths, especially when working in cooperative learning teams. If you'd like to download a free mini poster with all 8 kinds of smart, head over to the Multiple Intelligence Theory and Growth Mindset page on my Teaching Resources website.

Free MI Survey and Video Tutorial
When I set out to teach my students the basics of MI theory, I faced a problem. Most Multiple Intelligence Surveys were long and difficult to read, especially for elementary students. I looked for a survey that was short and included common activities that kids do, but I couldn’t find one anywhere. So - you guessed it – I created my own MI Survey for Kids! It’s not research-based, but enough kids have used it over the years for me to feel confident in saying that it’s an effective tool when presented as a fun activity rather than as a scientific assessment. The survey is pretty easy to administer, but because it appears complicated, I created a video that explains exactly what to do and where to find additional resources on this topic. You can request a copy of this free multiple intelligences survey for kids and watch the video from the Multiple Intelligences page on my website.

Step-by-Step MI Lessons
In addition to the survey, I developed a series of interactive lessons to help my students understand each of the eight kinds of smart. A few years ago, I decided to write a book to share these lessons with others. Multiple Intelligence Theory for Kids: Step-by-Step Lessons and Ready-to-Use Printables includes engaging, cooperative learning activities for students to help them learn about all the ways they are smart.

MI Theory and Growth Mindset
Some educators believe that the recent research about growth mindset means that MI theory is no longer relevant, but I disagree. However, I do understand concerns about praising kids for being smart, so I think it's important to have a full grasp of both theories to avoid fostering a fixed mindset in your students. I updated Multiple Intelligence Theory for Kids to provide information about how to use MI theory and growth mindset research together to empower students. I also developed a two-part webinar during which I shared step-by-step strategies for implementing both MI theory and growth mindset research. Interested? Click over to my TpT store to check out the professional development webinar pack for MI Theory, Mindset, and Motivation.

If you still have a few weeks of school left with your students, this would be a great time to test out the MI Survey for Kids and some of the activities. If you are already out, you'll find this kid-friendly Multiple Intelligences survey to be an excellent way to start off the new school year. It will help your new students identify their own strengths and it will help you get to know them better. Teaching your students how people are smart in many ways can be very empowering, and most students enjoy the process of discovering how they learn best.
Laura Candler

Laura Candler


  1. Hi Laura,

    What a great unit! I am such a big believer in learning styles and that everyone has their own type of intelligence. We don't all fit into the same mold. I think this would be so useful for the way our learning and teaching is heading; especially in Canada where we are really interested in 21st century learning and inquiry learning. This unit would be such a good companion to my Mindful Brains unit. We should join forces and bundle it!

    :) Shelley

    The Perks of Teaching Primary

  2. Hi Laura,
    I agree with what Shelly says. Multiple Intelligence will help pupils of all learning style to learn better. But i would request you to send me a free lesson plan for grade 6 teaching 'History' to understand how to apply multiple intelligence in classrooms.
    Fouzia Shazad
    School coordinator
    Beaconhouse School System
    Karachi, Pakistan

    1. I don't have a free lesson plan to send you, but I do have an ebook that you can purchase. The link to the book is in the blog post above.

  3. Just wanted to give you an update: there are now 9 Intelligence developed by Gardner - the Spiritual intelligence has been added and I am still surprised "mechanical" or "technological" hasn't been considered! Thanks for making the chart to help us remember to respect all learners!

    1. Thanks for the heads up on this! I had heard that he was considering this addition but I didn't know it has officially been added. It's going to take a lot of work to revise the book, but eventually I will get around to it.