Skip Discover Education Main Navigation
Skip Discover Education Main Navigation

Home> Teachers> Free Lesson Plans> Multiple Intelligences

Multiple IntelligencesMultiple-Intelligences

  • Subject: Technology
  • |
  • Grade(s): 9-12
  • |
  • Duration: Two class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will:
1. understand Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences;
2. compare the theory of multiple intelligences with traditional theories of intelligence; and
3. explore the implications of the theory of multiple intelligences for schools and society.


The class will need the following:
Computer with Internet access (optional but very helpful)
Copies of Classroom Activity Sheet: Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences
Copies of Classroom Activity: Short Biographies of Eminent People
Copies of Take-Home Activity Sheet: A Personal Look at Multiple Intelligences


1. Begin the lesson by giving about 5 minutes to write about the traditional definitions of intelligence. You may prompt them with the following questions:
  • What does it mean to be intelligent in our society?
  • What abilities do schools value and promote?
  • How do we measure a person's intelligence?
2. Hold a class discussion about students' ideas. These ideas may come up:
  • Intelligence is a single, general capacity that everyone possesses to some extent. It's what you are born with and there's little you can do to change it.
  • Schools value having a good vocabulary, the abilities of analyzing reading material and solving complex math problems, strong memories that retain much information, and the ability to find solutions to problems quickly.
  • Tests can measure intelligence, such as the IQ Test and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).
3. Introduce Howard Gardner's theory using the Classroom Activity Sheet: Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences. With the students, read the descriptions of different intelligences. Discuss which of these intelligences students think are most valued by schools and society. Is it possible for an individual to have more than one intelligence? Students will probably suggest that schools value linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligences the most, as evidenced by the emphasis placed on the core subjects of English, social studies, math, and science. Further evidence is the type of assessments, both teacher-generated and standardized, usually given to students. Students will likely agree that most people possess all of the intelligences to various degrees and that it is possible for an individual to excel in more than one area.
4. Pass out copies of the Classroom Activity Sheet: Short Biographies of Eminent People. Have students read through the biographies and determine the types of intelligences manifested by each person. If students have trouble, ask them to consider what value the intelligences of these people have in society. They might also consider how these intelligences match traditional ideas about intelligence.
5. Take a few minutes to discuss students' responses. Do these people fit the traditional definition of intelligence? Point out that Gardner's multiple intelligences do not necessarily fit those traditional definitions. Ask students if they can think of any other people that they consider intelligent who do not fit the traditional definition. Finally, ask students if they have changed their ideas about intelligence. If so, how?
6. Invite students to consider the implications of multiple intelligence theory in a school setting. Divide the class into small groups of four or five and give them about 15 minutes to discuss the following questions, which you may wish to write on the board or display on an overhead projector:

If schools recognized multiple intelligences, how might the following activities be revised?

  1. activities in the classroom
  2. classroom assignments
  3. graduation requirements
For additional information about Gardner's theory, refer students to the following Web site:  
7. Ask each group to share one or two main ideas from their discussions. Students might conclude some of the following:
  • Classroom activities would be more varied, allowing students to learn using all areas of intelligence that are appropriate to a subject.
  • Students would be given more options for showing what they know, understand, and can do. For example, building a model might be a reasonable alternative to taking a written test.
  • Graduation requirements might give more emphasis to coursework that addresses areas of intelligence other than linguistic and logical-mathematical.
8. For homework, have students consider the personal implications of Gardner's theory by completing the Take-Home Activity Sheet: A Personal Look at Multiple Intelligences. If time permits, discuss students' ideas during the next class period.

Back to Top


Begin the activity by asking students to think about the ways they are smart. On the board, list students' responses, which may include the traditional (reading, spelling, solving math problems) and other types of intelligence (working a jigsaw puzzle, fixing a broken toy, determining the easiest way to get from one location to another). Introduce Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences. Work as a class to come up with examples of how each intelligence may be manifested in an individual. Conclude by working on the Take-Home Activity Sheet as a whole-class activity.

Back to Top

Discussion Questions

1. Traditionally, people have defined someone who is intelligent as an individual who can solve problems, use logic to answer questions, and think critically. But psychologist Howard Gardner has a much broader definition of intelligence. Compare the traditional idea about intelligence with Gardner's. How have his ideas changed the way we assess the strengths and weaknesses of people?
2. Why are linguistic intelligence, emphasizing sensitivity to the meaning and order of words, and logical-mathematical intelligence, stressing ability in mathematics and other complex logical systems, more valued than other intelligences? Are they really more important forms of intelligence?
3. One criticism of Gardner's theory is that he classifies talents as a type of intelligence. Critics might say that a talented dancer or chess player is not necessarily smart. How would you reply to this criticism?
4. Does it matter if we call special abilities "talents" or "intelligences"?
5. Gardner suggests that schools must develop assessments that better represent what people will have to do to survive in society. For example, rather than writing an essay about urban development, students studying structures might be assessed in their group work determining what kind of building is most appropriate for an urban, residential area. Give an example of an assessment that could be used to evaluate what students learn about the civil rights movement or the deforestation of rain forests.
6. How does an understanding of multiple intelligences change how you view your own abilities?

Back to Top


Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work:
  • Three points: Students actively participated in classroom discussions, thoroughly completed the Classroom Activity sheet, worked cooperatively in their groups to develop ideas about how schools would be organized in light of multiple intelligences theory, and completed the Take-Home Activity Sheet with thoughtful, complete answers.
  • Two points: Students took some part in classroom discussions, partially completed the short Classroom Activity sheet, worked somewhat cooperatively in their groups to develop ideas about how schools would be organized in light of multiple intelligences theory, and completed some of the Take-Home Activity Sheet.
  • One point: Student participated a little in classroom discussions, completed one part of the short Classroom Activity sheet, had trouble working cooperatively in their groups to develop ideas about how schools would be organized in light of multiple intelligences theory, and completed one question on the Take-Home Activity Sheet.

Back to Top


The Origin of Multiple Intelligences Theory
Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences has been evolving since 1983, when he proposed it. Have students research how his theory has evolved since then. For example, have the number of intelligences changed? Have Gardner's ideas about how to implement his ideas in educational settings evolved? The following Web sites will help students with their research: curr/curr054.shtml

Design a New School
Based on what students have learned about the theory of multiple intelligences, have them design a school that makes use of these theories. Have students consider the layout of the school, how students are grouped, how the main subjects are taught and assessed, and the strengths the teaching staff should have. Suggest that students sketch the school and write a paragraph describing it.

Back to Top

Suggested Readings

Living With Our Genes: Why They Matter More Than You Think
Dean Hamer and Peter Copeland. Doubleday, 1997.
How much of who we are is controlled by our genes and how much from what we experience? By examining a range of human behaviors from worry and anger to hunger and aging, the authors explain how research helps clarify how both control our lives. This is a lengthy, satisfying investigation that uses many case-study examples.

Entwined Lives: Twins and What They Tell Us About Human Behavior
Nancy L. Segal. Dutton, 1999.
This is a fascinating study of the results of research on twins and the role that genes play in human development. Chapters on different kinds of twins explore gene influence on the individual. Other chapters address twins raised apart, conjoined twins, the loss of a twin, triplets, and other multiples. A glossary and extensive notes add to this rich source of information.

Back to Top


Definition: The capacity to learn, reason, and understand and the demonstration of such capacity
Context: Howard Gardner's definitions ofintelligencetake specific abilities into account.

Definition: Existing or happening between persons; of or pertaining to a relationship between persons.
Context: Professions such as teaching, counseling, and sales attract people with stronginterpersonalabilities

Definition: Pertaining to the position and movement of the body through stimulation of the nerves in muscles, joints, and tendons
Context: Teachers may usekinestheticactivities that allow students to manipulate materials.

Definition: Of, relating to, or occurring in space
Context: Tests asking students to imagine how a flat piece of cardboard would look folded into a box assessspatialrelations abilities.

Definition: A natural ability or aptitude
Context: Gardner asks whether Leonardo DaVinci's painting ability is atalentor intelligence.

Back to Top


This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level: 9-12
Subject area: Behavioral Studies
Understands that interactions among learning, inheritance, and physical development affect human behavior
Understands that differences in the behavior of individuals arise from the interaction of heredity and experience

Back to Top


Lisa B. Green teaches English and Theory of Knowledge in the International Baccalaureate program at Robinson Secondary School, Fairfax County, Virginia.

Back to Top