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Thursday, November 13, 2008





Different shades of intelligence




REACH FOR THE SKIES: Actors Aamir Khan and Darsheel Safary who starred in the film Taare Zameen Par. It showed how a sensitive teacher could help harness the true potential of a child with special educational needs

   Iam not intelligent, I lack aptitude — this is a general feeling with which a child lives within our Indian classroom where comparison and competing against one's peer is a norm. Our educational system is geared towards achievement. Whether it is the curriculum or the teacher, it operates on the fundamental principle of giving facts and enabling children to learn better and reproduce the same in exams. Fun, creativity, sensitivity to nature, music and drama are blanketed under the co-curricular section and hold less importance over reading and writing. However, what we as educators and parents fail to see is that these are different ways in which children express themselves and learn. 
   Sir Howard Gardner's research on `multiple intelligences' (MI) is quite relevant to understand children. He proposed that all children have different strengths termed as `intelligences' that get manifested in varying degrees. The entire framework of multiple intelligences is based on discovering and harnessing the potential in each child. Let' s look at some classroom examples: 
   Rahul is learning to read and write. However, he is drawn to nature and is fond of collecting feathers, insects and leaves and loves to share his observations with his peers. He is confident while talking about his findings in a group and can even handle tough group situations. His strength lies in learning from nature and he also displays 'interpersonal intelligence'. 
   Similarly, Naman participates in sports and dramas and is a good orator. He is good at interpreting graphs, charts and visual information. However, he struggles to understand the rhythm in poetry and songs. He displays 'body kinaesthetic intelligence' and 'visual-spatial intelligence.' He perhaps has less manifested 'musical intelligence.' 
   Likewise, Sukalp is an avid reader but prefers to work alone. She can create new things and interpret texts while reading on her own, but shies away from group presentations and public speaking. She is reflective and learns best when working on her own. Therefore, she displays 'linguistic intelligence' and 'intra-personal intelligence.' 
   Sir Howard Gardner talked of eight such intelligences, which need to be nurtured in a classroom. For a teacher, it is very important to be aware of the learner's nature, interest and strengths. S/he must critically observe the learner in a variety of settings like during reading and writing tasks, role-play, sports, poetry, presentations, nature study and many other informal learning situations. The table (right) helps in identifying different kinds of intelligences in a classroom. 
   Most teachers find it difficult to give individual attention to students to identify and nurture multiple intelligences in a classroom, given the huge teacher-student ratio and low budgets. Below are some ways to do so: 
   Establishing learning corners like a reading corner stocked with a variety of children literature will be great for a linguistic learner. Setting up a corner for inquiry with collection of flowers, leaves, seeds, stems or specimen of animals can give ample scope for discussing living stuff to a naturalist learner. Similar engaging corners having drama props, puzzles can cater to diversity in a classroom. 
   Spaces within a classroom should have charts, graphs, maps, personal letters from teachers and the students, graffiti space for children to write, spaces for displaying children's work in form of charts, clay models, sculptures, art. 
   Flexible grouping according to learner's needs and strengths and self-target setting for children can be good. 
   It is important to provide flexibility of expression to children. A teacher needs to observe the process of learning, the way different children approach, represent and solve a same problem rather than defining the way and output for them. For example, while learning about family a child can either share something verbally, present a skit, sing a song, compose a poem, use natural objects to describe his/her family, reflect on memorable moments, frame riddles, make a collage, etc. There lies diversity in our classrooms and we need to kindle it. 


Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


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