Beyond Curriculum #2: A Research Project that Reaches the Multiple Intelligences

Multiple intelligences instruction has the potential to reach and teach vast numbers of students, but incorporating it effectively while still meeting curriculum requirements and insuring that students are developing their verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences is no small feat.

In the first part of this series, I asked the question: How do you effectively incorporate the multiple intelligences, meet the requirements of your school's curriculum, and make sure that your students are developing their verbal-linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences all at the same time?

I also answered the question: you don't 'at least not all at the same time. But some assignments can meet all of these requirements, and better yet, they have the potential to reach all of the multiple intelligences (as opposed to two or three). I use a mini research project as an introductory activity for F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby; however, the assignment would work with any small scale research project. The purpose of the project is for students to gather information about an era (in my case it was the Roaring Twenties), and share that information with each other. Since the goal of the lesson is the communication of knowledge, it doesn't matter how the information is disseminated.

I give students the opportunity to work alone, in pairs, or in groups of three or four. Each student is required to select his or her own topic to research. If students choose to work with classmates, their individual research is to be integrated into one presentation. As preparation for their projects, students brainstorm methods for demonstrating knowledge. The form of the final product is left to the students' discretion. As a result, students can use the combinations of intelligences with which they are most comfortable.

The final products created by my students tell the success story:

One student wrote and presented a first-person narrative of Amelia Earhart's life. Her presentation was accompanied by a freehand drawing of a world map on which Earhart's fatal flight was charted. This student used her verbal-linguistic intelligence to write and speak her narrative and her spatial intelligence to draw the map. She also used her logical-mathematical intelligence to organize her research into a presentation.

Two students wrote a newsletter about sports in the 1920s. They concentrated specifically on Babe Ruth and on the 1919 World Series which was fixed. These boys used their verbal-linguistic intelligence to write their articles, their spatial intelligence to format their newsletter, and their interpersonal intelligence to cooperate. They also used their logical-mathematical intelligence to organize their research into a newsletter.

Two other students wrote and presented a 20-minute dialogue between Bonnie and Clyde. They wore costumes for effect. By selecting this method of presentation, they not only presented the historical and biographical information about the exploits of Bonnie and Clyde, but also managed to examine Bonnie & Clyde's emotional and psychological state. In order to accomplish this, these students needed to draw on their intrapersonal intelligence. These students used their verbal-linguistic intelligence to write and speak their dialogue, their interpersonal intelligence to collaborate together, and their logical-mathematical intelligence to arrange their research into a coherent dialogue.

Three other students found a Benny Goodman radio sketch and acted it out vocally. They also wrote a commercial about fads of the 1920s which was inserted into their sketch. In order to truly communicate the "radio" element of their topic, these students made an audio cassette of their presentation and played it for the class. These girls used their verbal-linguistic intelligence to verbally "act out" their radio sketch, their interpersonal skills to work together, and their logical-mathematical intelligence to organize their research into a presentation.

Another student taught the Charleston to the class, using her bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, while yet another student used his musical intelligence to present the Blues.

Students learn more from this project because they are allowed to express themselves in ways that give them confidence to experiment. Whether they are readers or not, they begin the unit in a positive frame of mind and are more willing to tackle the challenge at hand because of their recent success.

Michele R. Acosta is a freelance writer, a former English teacher, and the mother of three boys. She spends her time writing and teaching others to write.

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