How I use the theory of multiple intelligences in the classroom

A brief overview of how Howard Gardner's theory offers better understanding of students' intelligence and greater appreciation of their strengths.

(Illustration by Robert J. Ballantyne)

American psychologist Howard Gardner famously put forward a theory that there is no such thing as singular intelligence — but that there are eight domains of intelligence.

As part of my teaching practice, I always aim to construct lessons and unit plans with Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences in mind.

Body-smart (bodily-kinesthetic)

“Exceptional body control and refined motion that permits skillful expression of ideas and feelings through movement.”

Logic-smart (logical-mathematical)

“Powers of inductive and deductive reasoning in handling abstract relationship and predictions based on numbers and equations.”

Music-smart (musical)

“A special sensitivity to tempo, pitch, timbre, and tone, and an ability to create and express musical arrangements that correspond to emotional experience.”

Nature-smart (naturalist)

“A special ability to grasp the intricate workings and relationships with nature; an instinctive reverence for a connection with animals, plants, minerals, ocean, sky, desert, and mountain.”

Relationship-smart (interpersonal)

“Advanced understanding of human relations and management of feelings.”

Self-smart (intrapersonal)

“A sharp understanding of one’s inner landscape, motivations, emotions, needs, and goals.”

Spatial-smart (spatial)

“The ability to visualize objects in the mind and transfer the information to something concrete, such as designing an airplane or laying out a movie set.”

Word-smart (linguistic)

“A proficient and easy use of words and sensitivity to phrasing and the rhythm of language in poetry, song lyrics, and persuasive speaking.”


1. Jacobsen, M. (1999). The gifted adult: a revolution guide for liberating everyday genius. [Kindle version]. Toronto: Random House, Inc.

2. Gardner, H. (2006). Multiple intelligences: new horizons in theory. New York: BasicBooks.

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