Friday, June 30, 2006

Mario Rinvolucri's food for thought

Published: 06/23/2006 12:00 AM (UAE)

What sort of thinker are you?
By Robert L. Fielding

UAE University lecturer, Robert L. Fielding, participates in a workshop on multiple intelligences and comes away with fun tasks that tell you what your brain is good at

Clarity of thought and the ability to draw upon different facets of one's intelligence is vitally important when it comes to making decisions that affect the country, and as today's undergraduates may well become tomorrow's professionals, leaders, and captains of industry; their ability to think critically and realise their full potential is indeed vital.

UAE University General Requirements Unit (UGRU) is embarking on courses designed to develop students' critical thinking ability. In this context Mario Rinvolucri's workshop gave 30 teachers plenty to think about.

Eight intelligences
Drawing upon the work of Dr Howard Gardner, and applying it to teaching situations, Rinvolucri illustrated the eight intelligences proposed by Dr Gardner through animated, highly instructive and enjoyable activities. The eight intelligences proposed are:

1. Linguistic intelligence ("word smart")
This 'intelligence' is the one traditionally tested at schools, colleges and universities. Typically, students write essays or complete grammar exercises to indicate their ability in English or their mother tongue.

Task: 'Mexican wave' sentences
Each person has to be a word, a punctuation mark or a phoneme (like the 's' on third person singular verbs - 'She likes ice cream.') Everybody stand in a row in the order of the words in a proposed sentence. When it comes to your bit, speak, act, or do both. Now think about how you can improve your language. What happens to word order in questions?

2. Logical-mathematical intelligence ("number/reasoning smart")
Here, a student's ability to solve mathematical problems is tested, and it is this intelligence together with linguistic intelligence that are used to determine whether, for instance, a student progresses from high school into higher education. University entrance examinations the world over test students in these two areas.

Task: 'Meet you in the middle'
With a partner, count in turns down from 100 and up from zero - in twos, then in threes, fours or whatever you can manage. Feeling your way around numbers is one way not to be intimidated by them. Now invent similar games with other lists - words in well known nursery rhymes or poems. Find out what you have a flair for, what your student is brilliant at.

Spatial intelligence ("picture smart")
If a child shows some ability to draw pictures, or manages to find his way round shopping malls without help, he might be gifted in spatial intelligence. Parents and teachers would do well to look out for students who show aptitude in this area.

Task 1: 'Let your eyes remember'

Now draw something to represent each word you hear. Do it quickly and alone. After you finish, compare your drawings with those of other people. You will be amazed to find you have a lot in common, but some drawings will be yours and yours alone.

Task 2.
After you have compared your sketches, put the piece of paper away for three days. Now try to recall the words - think of the pictures you drew to help you if you can't remember every word. This list of seven very different words will be hard to remember - remember the shapes you drew, and you will recall the words. Use your spatial intelligence in a conscious way. Everybody uses theirs unconsciously every day - if we didn't we wouldn't last out the day.

Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence ("body smart")
Ballet dancers, gymnasts, footballers, horse riders - all sorts of people who have the ability to be graceful in their movements may possess this sort of intelligence. We speak, for example, of being "touched," "taken," "gripped," "led," "held."

We "grapple" with difficult subjects, and have "gut wrenching" experiences. Our stomachs turn. Our hearts leap. Our breathing quickens. These responses are rooted in kinesthetic experience.

Task: Answer by demonstrating

I learn a skill by doing it.
I can't sit still long.
I like to move around when I am learning something.
I like activities that involve movement.
I like the rides at amusement parks.
I like to do things that are physically active.
I like to touch things.
I mimic other people's gestures accurately.
I am well coordinated.
I am animated and expressive when I talk.
These statements indicate kinesthetic intelligence.

Task 2: Rank the statements in order of importance to yourself. Compare your rankings with others. Who appears to be more kinesthetically intelligent? How can you tell?

Write down some of the ways this type of intelligence is demonstrated:
By yourself
By people you know well
Compare your findings - what do they tell you about yourself?

5. Musical intelligence ("music smart")
If Mozart had not been encouraged in his supreme musical ability, the world might have been deprived of a true genius. Who knows how many gifted people have been thwarted in their ambitions because either a teacher or a parent did not say the right thing at the right time?

Task: 'Take up your instruments, ladies and gentlemen!'
This activity will help cure your inhibitions - they could be preventing you from discovering who you really are. Do it with your eyes closed first. Imagine you are about to perform a piece of music you know and love.

Close your eyes and begin - beat those drums like Ringo Starr, play the violin like Yehudi Menhuin, dance like John Travolta, conduct an orchestra like Sir Simon Rattle, do anything - nobody's looking - enjoy the feel of the music guiding your movements - come alive - feel your power to enjoy music, movement and expression.

6. Interpersonal intelligence ("people smart")
The ability to communicate with others is vital, especially in a world in which communication is everywhere and in everything. This ability is one that everyone can quickly and easily use, can still improve upon and excel in.

In today's world, success is driven by this ability perhaps more than any of the others. It makes sense to encourage everyone to talk to each other, to express themselves and to realise who they truly are or are capable of becoming. And communicating well is fun too.

Task: 'You're talking - I'm talking - Hey, we're getting on so much better now!'
Send half the group out of the room - when they return, engage them in conversation and speak at their pace rather than your own. Feel their speed and speak at the same rate - feel how close you both have become.

This is largely an unconscious exercise for one of you, but even for the one who knows what is going on, it will have unexpected results. You will feel different about that person. Agree with the man who once said: 'I never met a person I didn't like.' Try it with people you are not quite as friendly as you would like to be.

7. Intrapersonal intelligence ("self smart")
The ability to know yourself, to know who you are, what you are and what you want and are capable of is the key to unlocking the other intelligences within you. Health, both physical and psychological, is improved and maintained through self-knowledge - through the intelligence that allows us to instinctively know when things are going well and when things are otherwise with us.

Task: 'Be where you want to be!'
Stand up. Close your eyes. Imagine you are looking out over a vista. Where is it? What is it? You decide - smell the salty air of the Atlantic - the chill of the snowfields half way up Everest, the heat of the Kalahari Desert - the sounds of London's Piccadilly - your own secret garden only you have the key to. Imagine what you see, hear, feel. Who you meet - what you become - what you achieve there!

8. Naturalist intelligence ("nature smart")
This type of intelligence is demonstrated by a child's ability to use the world of nature. Showing an interest in animals, for instance, would indicate that a child has this form of intelligence.

Children possessing this type of intelligence may have a strong affinity to the outside world or to animals, and this interest often begins at an early age. They may enjoy subjects, shows and stories that deal with animals or natural phenomena.

Task: Hopping and naming
For this activity, you will need plenty of space - it's best done outside where no one can get hurt. Place large circles on the ground (within hopping distance) - one person at a time hops and counts as they hop - then names an animal as they hop.

Others can cheer on the participant as they wait for their turn. Watch out for the person who completes the task easily and quickly, taking little time to think up the name of an animal before they hop to the next circle.

Those watching can count and keep a check on the time it takes each person to get through the circles. This could easily be made into a team game - spontaneity is the thing to watch out for and encourage here.

Conclusion: Many ways of teaching
In effect, Mario's main point throughout the workshop was that there are other ways of teaching any subject. In conventional schooling, people who learn in ways other than linguistically and logically are not always catered for in recognised teaching methodologies and testing tools.

To illustrate points made, Mario demonstrated teaching techniques that utilise the ability from the other six intelligences. Forms of irregular verbs, for example, were taught using body movements instead of words on the board, and it became clear that otherwise drab lessons on uninteresting subjects can be livened up to make them more.

In conclusion Mario urged teachers not to use symbols and learning devices and mnemonics that are culturally unacceptable or which fly in the face of conventional logic.

Everyone at the workshop almost certainly came away knowing something more about themselves and how they best learn, and how to use this to teach in ways that exploit the multiple intelligences that may or may not be dormant in all of us. I know I did.

Try it
The Rogers Indicator of Multiple Intelligences at:-


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