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«Sally Patton UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST ASSOCIATION BOSTON Copyright © 2004 by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. All rights ...»

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• Limit the number of questions children can ask. If a child chronically asks inappropriate questions, tell him or her that only three more questions will be allowed and then remind him or her. For example, “Harold you only have two more questions. Is this question important?” Then let the child make the decision as to whether to continue with the question. In discussion circles, you can also give each child a certain number of cards. When a child speaks, he or she turns in a card. This way, each child has a tangible way of knowing how many times he or she has left to talk. This also works well in making sure that no one child dominates the conversation.

• Get the attention of overly noisy children. Use these three techniques: (1) Turn out the lights. If this custom is established as a time to get quiet, it will be effective for stopping unwanted behaviors. (2) Clap your hands three times and say, “If you can hear me, clap your hands.” Repeat the phrase and clap your hands three 45 Religious Education That Welcomes All Children times, stopping in between, until everyone is clapping with you and no one is talking. (3) Tell all the children to close their eyes.

This will quiet them instantly.

• Get the children to commit to the behaviors you want. Suppose that after the chalice has been blown out and the session has ended, one child, Rachel, always jumps up and runs at top speed to the door and out into the corridor. Instead of saying “Rachel, I want you to walk to the door today” at the beginning of the session, try asking before the final activity “Rachel, are you going to walk or run to the door today?” This will put the responsibility for the behavior on the child. More often than not, the child will choose the desired behavior. Then you can respond with praise.

• Pray or meditate for your children. For the child who pushes all your buttons and remains a constant challenge, try praying or meditating for him or her before each Sunday morning. It is more difficult to see the child’s negative behaviors as purposeful when you are holding him or her in a loving prayer or image. It is also helpful each Sunday morning to reaffirm our Unitarian Universalist Principle regarding the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Teaching to Different Ways of Learning and Knowing In A Mind at a Time, Mel Levine writes, It’s taken for granted in adult society that we cannot all be generalists skilled in every area of learning and mastery. Nevertheless, we apply tremendous pressure on our children to be good at everything. Every day they are expected to shine in math, reading, writing, speaking, spelling, memorization, comprehension, problem solving, socialization, athletics, and following verbal directions. Few if any children can master all of these “trades.” And none of us adults can. In one way or another, all minds have their specialties and their frailties.11 46 Welcoming Children It is important to take into account the different ways of learning and knowing that all our children have. It is also important to remember that we do not expect adults to be perfect or even competent at everything. Ministering to children with special challenges is often the catalyst for more inclusive programming and more creative teaching.

In our Western culture, if you ask someone to name a very intelligent person, he or she will generally name someone who has a high IQ. Given the nature of IQ tests, someone who has a high IQ is very good at language and/or math. Yet according to the New World Dictionary, the definition of intelligence is “the ability to learn or understand from experience; use of the faculty of reasoning to solve problems.” Interestingly, research has shown that while IQ tests consistently predict school success, they fail to predict how individuals will do once they are out of school. One study of highly successful professional people indicated that fully one-third of them had low IQ scores.

Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education, has devoted years to the study of the nature of intelligence. He believes that our society has focused too much attention on the verbal and logical types of intelligence and neglected the many other types of intelligence, which involve a broader range of skills and ways of successfully interacting with the world. In his 1983 book Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Gardner proposes that intelligence is not a quantifiable entity that can be summed up by an IQ score but that there are multiple intelligences worthy of being considered important modes of thought.12 Gardner has now identified eight intelligences, one more than in his original published work (see pages 47–48).

Gardner’s eight intelligences do not operate in isolation but work together, with some dominating others. People use combinations of the different intelligences, and those combinations make each of us unique. Sally Grimes, an educational consultant with a specialization in learning disorders, states that the more fully Overview of Multiple Intelligences

• Verbal/linguistic intelligence allows individuals to communicate and make sense of the world through language. Poets exemplify this intelligence in its mature form. Students who enjoy playing with rhymes, who pun, who always have a story to tell, who quickly acquire other languages (including sign language) all exhibit linguistic intelligence. Amy Tan, Alice Walker, and Will Rogers are good examples of this intelligence.

• Musical/rhythmic intelligence allows people to create, communicate, and understand the meanings of sounds. While composers and instrumentalists clearly exhibit this intelligence, so do the students who seem particularly attracted by the birds singing outside the classroom window or who constantly tap out intricate rhythms on the desk with their pencils. YoYo Ma, Ravi Shankhar, and Leontyne Price are good examples of this intelligence.

• Logical/mathematical intelligence enables individuals to use and appreciate


relations. Scientists, mathematicians, and philosophers all rely on this intelligence. So do the students who are engrossed in sports statistics or who carefully analyze the components of problems (either personal or academic) before systematically testing solutions. Albert Einstein, Madame Curie, George Washington Carver, and Henri Poincaré are good examples of this intelligence.

• Visual/spatial intelligence makes it possible for people to perceive visual and spatial information, to interpret this information, and to recreate visual images from memory. Architects, sculptors, and engineers need a well-developed spatial capacity. The students who turn first to the graphs, charts, and pictures in their textbooks, who like to sketch a map or web of their ideas before writing a paper, and who fill the blank space around their notes with intricate patterns are also using their spatial intelligence. While it is usually tied to the visual modality, spatial intelligence can also be exercised to a high level by individuals who are visually impaired. Nikola Tesla, Frank Lloyd Wright, Maya Ying Lin, and Georgia O’Keeffe are good examples of this intelligence.


• Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence allows individuals to use all or part of the body to create products or solve problems. Athletes, surgeons, dancers, choreographers, and craftspeople all use bodily-kinesthetic intelligence. This capacity is also evident in students who relish gym class and school dances, who prefer to make models rather than write reports, and who toss crumpled papers with frequency and accuracy into a wastebasket across the room. Michelle Kwan, Alvin Ailey, and Tiger Woods are good examples of this intelligence.

• Interpersonal intelligence enables individuals to recognize and make distinctions about others’ feelings and intentions. Teachers, parents, politicians, psychologists, and salespeople all rely on interpersonal intelligence. Students exhibit this intelligence when they thrive on small-group work, when they notice and react to the moods of friends and classmates, and when they tactfully convince the teacher of their need for extra time to complete a homework assignment. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, Fanny Lou Hamer, and Bill Cosby are good examples of this intelligence.

• Intrapersonal intelligence helps individuals to distinguish among their own feelings, to build accurate mental models of themselves, and to draw on these models to make decisions about their lives. Although it is difficult to assess who has this capacity and to what degree, evidence can be found in how students use the other intelligences—that is, how well they capitalize on their strengths, how cognizant they are of their weaknesses, and how thoughtful they are about the decisions and choices they make. Maya Angelou, Mary Oliver, and Carl Jung are good examples of this intelligence.

• Naturalist intelligence allows people to distinguish among, classify, and use features of the environment. Farmers, gardeners, botanists, geologists, florists, and archaeologists all exhibit this intelligence, as do students who can name and describe the features of every make of car around them. Rachel Carson, Jacques Costeau, and Jane Goodall are good examples of this intelligence.13

48 49 Religious Education That Welcomes All Children

developed intelligences can support the less developed ones. “Students with dyslexia, for example, may have strong spatial or bodily-kinesthetic intelligences which can be tapped to enhance the weaker linguistic intelligence.” She thinks that many good teachers have instinctively used aspects of multiple intelligence theory for years.

Project Zero is an educational research group at the Harvard Graduate School of Education that has continued to explore Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. The Project of Schools Using Multiple Intelligences Theory (SUMIT) has studied schools that use multiple intelligences theory in their teaching and reported these outcomes: improved test scores, improved discipline, improved parent participation, and improved teaching of students with learning disabilities.

How can we translate all this information into the religious education setting and convey it effectively to our volunteer teachers without burdensome and extensive training? As Unitarian Universalist religious educators, we have the freedom in our programs to challenge the traditional language-based approach to teaching.

Our ministry is to appreciate and encourage the differences and creativity in all children. Putting the multiple intelligence theory into practice in our religious education programs is one way to honor, appreciate, and teach to the many different ways that children learn.

Another way is to invite teachers to assess their own strengths and weaknesses. In Seven Kinds of Smart, Thomas Armstrong presents an easy questionnaire for assessing strengths and weaknesses according to the different intelligences.14 Once teachers understand themselves, they begin to identify how they learn best. With this awareness, they can more easily understand some of the basic strategies for teaching to each intelligence. Teachers do not have to use all eight intelligences in every session, but they can look for opportunities, depending on the subject matter. Teachers can also use more than one intelligence each session to make sure to involve as many children as possible.

50 Welcoming Children The following strategies provide easy ways to decide which intelligence to use for which lesson in a given subject area. They have

been adapted from Sally Grimes’s workshop materials:

• Using verbal/linguistic intelligence involves reading, writing, talking, and listening. Group teaching activities could include public speaking, playing word games, keeping a journal, reading, storytelling, tape recording oral language, writing poetry or stories, and writing a youth newsletter for the church. Suggested materials are books, books on tape, computers, paper and pencils, blank journals, and a tape recorder.

• Using visual/spatial intelligence involves seeing, drawing, visualizing, and mapping. Group teaching activities could include doing guided meditation; creating charts, diagrams, and maps;

taking photographs; completing visual puzzles and mazes; and painting, drawing, collage, sculpting, pottery, three-dimensional construction, and other visual art. Suggested materials are art supplies, blocks, Lego sets, puzzles, cameras, pictures, and recyclable materials for building.

• Using musical/rhythmic intelligence involves singing, playing instruments, beating rhythms, and listening. Group teaching activities could include playing live music on different instruments;

singing, humming, chanting, rapping, and whistling; playing recorded music; playing percussion instruments; linking songs with concepts; meditating to music; creating art from musical imagery; and making musical instruments from different cultures.

Suggested materials are a tape recorder, a CD player, hymnals and songbooks, and musical instruments, including those from different cultures, such as rain sticks and percussion instruments.

• Using interpersonal intelligence involves teaching, collaborating, interacting, respecting, and acting. Group teaching activities could include peer teaching, mediating conflicts, interpersonal interaction, peer sharing, getting involved in the community, engaging in social justice activities or service projects, people sculpting, playing cooperative games, holding group discussions, and role-playing, performing plays, and other dramatic activities.

51 Religious Education That Welcomes All Children Suggested materials are props for cooperative games and dramatic activities. This intelligence requires fewer tangible materials but more interpersonal interaction.

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