Creating a multi-intelligent curriculum

Sanjhee Gianchandani

‘Multiple Intelligences’ is a term that has been buzzing around in the space of education, content creation, and curriculum design today. But this is not a new concept; it dates back to 1983 and was theorized by Howard Gardner.

Defining ‘smart’
The eight types of multiple intelligences described by Gardner are briefly listed below:
• Verbal-linguistic intelligence (word smart): This refers to an individual’s ability to analyze the given information and to produce work that involves spoken and written language, such as emails, debates, and stories. Lawyers, authors, and journalists fall into this category.
• Logical-mathematical intelligence (number/reasoning smart): This describes the ability to calculate, analyze, and prove equations and formulae, and solve abstract problems. Mathematicians, scientists, accountants, and people who have the capacity to analyze logical equations, investigate issues scientifically, and solve mathematical problems are considered number smart.
• Visual-spatial intelligence (picture smart): This is the ability to comprehend information presented visually such as maps, signs and symbols, pie charts, and the like. Pilots, architects, interior designers, and artists who can negotiate with fine-grained images fall in this category.
• Musical intelligence (music smart): This enables individuals to create and make meaning of different types of sound. Singers, musicians, and DJs are music smart.
• Naturalistic intelligence (nature smart): This refers to the ability to identify and study the natural world such as flora, fauna, geography, and climate change. Nature smart people are generally botanists, biologists, and astronomers.
• Bodily-kinaesthetic intelligence (body smart): This entails using parts of one’s own body to find solutions to problems or to memorize information. Dancers, mechanics, and athletes are examples of body smart people.
• Interpersonal intelligence (people smart): This encompasses the ability to grasp other people’s opinions, thoughts, motivations, and intentions to work with them effectively. Examples of such people include teachers, managers, political leaders, etc.
• Intrapersonal intelligence (self smart): This refers to people’s ability to understand the nuances of one’s own personality and to be able to ideate what they desire. They can use this information to govern their lives. Psychologists and therapists are examples of self smart people.

Conducting ‘smart’ classes
In a traditional curriculum, word smart and number smart are included but skills such as ecological sensitivity, aesthetic sense, dramatic sensibility, musical expression, and bodily capacity are unexploited. As Gardner states, ‘When one has a thorough understanding of a topic, one can typically think of it in several ways.’ As an educator, it is important to think about innovative ways of presenting and disseminating information instead of pigeonholing students into a certain category of learners and relying on outdated methods of teaching concepts. While designing a curriculum, it is critical to understand the learning styles of your learners as well as provide them with opportunities to use that style to its fullest potential.

Many educators steer clear of experimentation and project-based learning as they feel it may deter their core teaching responsibilities and not reflect the prescribed pedagogical standards. However, it is easy to include all eight intelligences in everyday classes. Let us briefly see how this can be done.

Word smart • Learning the correct spelling of words
• Reading recommended books • Reading self-chosen books
• Journalling
• Writing book reviews, short stories, poems
• Analyzing genres and writing styles

Number smart • Solving questions
• Memorizing formulae and algorithms to solve mathematical problems • Maintaining a budget sheet for personal expenses
• Tracking sleep cycles/weight using a graph
• Figuring out the time, distance, and cost of travelling to a place
• Measuring ingredients for cooking

Body smart • Playing a prescribed sport adhering to competitive rules of play
• Maintaining a notebook on fitness and nutrition • Putting on a play or an improvisation based on a novel
• Creating a sculpture using clay or mud
• Visiting places in the neighbourhood
• Choreographing a dance

Picture smart • Reproducing images for artwork
• Emphasizing the techniques used in various art styles • Taking photographs of nature and make a scrapbook
• Organizing a local art exhibition
• Learning a new style of art such as foam painting
• Making a ‘mood collage’ to represent your daily emotions

Music smart • Playing a prescribed instrument
• Learning the theory of music and writing exams based on it • Curating audio recordings from the community
• Creating a self-made composition
• Writing a song based on an issue you feel strongly about
• Organizing a concert or form a music band

Nature smart • Memorizing the taxonomy of living species
• Going to science labs and conducting experiments under supervision • Designing an experiment to test the quality of water or soil in your area
• Taking care of a plant
• Spreading awareness to stop pollution
• Creating a work of art (poem, painting, etc.) inspired by nature

Self smart • Expressing failures and successes in school
• Understanding one’s results in academics through the traditional scoring system • Writing your autobiography
• Making a weekly goal tracker and track your developmental goals
• Making to-do lists and checking off tasks every day
• Talking about personal growth

Educators should not worry too much if they are unable to incorporate the activities mentioned above due to time constraints. Instead, they should recognize and highlight the regular classroom activities which promote each of these intelligences.

• Reading, writing, narrating – stories, poems, drama, jokes, descriptions, news reports. • Doing oral activities before writing like storytelling, discussing, and interviewing. • Participating in debates, declamations, speeches, and presentations (both prepared and impromptu). • Answering multiple questions related to a text. • Choosing the appropriate word to fill in a gap in a sentence. • Finding synonyms and antonyms.

• Solving word, number, and jigsaw puzzles. • Unscrambling sentences and words. • Making or reading timelines and concept maps. • Brainstorming ideas for a project. • Playing games on the computer.

• Having a good sense of colour. • Being able to read maps and graphic organizers. • Making charts, diagrams, slide shows, craft projects, mind maps, or doodles. • Observing the surroundings well.

• Playing games both in the classroom and outside. • Doing group work. • Doing role plays and theatre. • Going on field trips.

• Reciting poetry, raps, tongue twisters. • Writing songs and music. • Listening to audios. • Practising stress and intonation.

• Learning about different life forms. • Participating in clean-up drives. • Researching and writing articles, poems, and short stories about nature.

• Peer teaching and checking activities. • Interactive games. • Tutoring younger students.

• Doing independent projects. • Understanding and expressing feelings. • Exploring personal interests.

The need for incorporating multiple intelligences and taking charge of one’s learning is a critical input to helping students become an efficient part of the workforce. In the words of Ron Berger, the chief academic officer of Expeditionary Learning (EL) Education, “My time was spent on an academic treadmill of turning in short assignments completed individually as final drafts – worksheets, papers, math problem sets, lab reports – none of which meant much to anyone and none of which resembled the work I have done in the real world. Although I received good grades, I have no work saved from my days in school, because nothing I created was particularly original, important, or beautiful. Yet when we finish school and enter the world of work, we are asked to create work of value – scientific reports, business plans, websites, books, architectural blueprints, graphic artwork, investment proposals, medical devices, and software applications.”

The final word
In the words of Dr Reena Sonawat, Professor SNDT Women’s University and Indore University, “Multiple intelligence is a way of providing children with multiple perspectives towards things, ideas, and concepts. Multiple entry points are different ways of introducing a topic in the classroom. Explaining a topic through different entry points helps make the information more accessible to a range of differing learners, addressing their strengths while challenging their weaknesses. It also makes the material seem more interesting and relevant to the students, encourages a multi-faceted understanding of the topic and helps students keep their minds focused on the material.”

As the world is stepping into the second decade of the 21st century it becomes all the more pertinent to think radically and to begin to view the process of teaching from a different lens. We need to broaden our perspective of what is considered to be ‘intelligent’ and supplement the definition with new and multiple intelligences not only in curricular but also in extra-curricular activities that our children engage with.


The author works as an English language curriculum designer and editor. She has about eight years of experience working as an English language assessment specialist, a writing/speaking examiner for various international examinations, an item writer, and a content developer for the K-8 segment. Additionally, as a consultant editor with various renowned publishing houses, she has edited over 100 books ranging from academic to fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and children’s writing. Her articles on ELT pedagogy and learning strategies have been published in several educational magazines and blogs. She can be reached at

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