Understanding basic definitions of each intelligence in place is important, but not as important as the working understanding of how the intelligences work with one another. After all, if these different paths to learning always act in consort, we're really not providing for the full potential of this model unless we look at all of the intelligences in operation together.

This can be difficult to do, because once you begin observing a specific child the intelligences become very fluid and free flowing. What might be easily recognizable in isolation becomes much less clear when observing the intelligences in action holistically.

In presenting Gardner's theory to educators, teachers always come up with questions about this overlapping of intelligences. We are so used to theory that nicely packages teaching and learning into neat compartments, we tend to cling to the individual integrity of each intelligence. It's hard to let go and accept the fact that, since Gardner's theory is based on the way these intelligences actually function within human cognition, it's a little less easy to compartmentalize and parcel out in tight, tidy packages. Once teachers get past the traditional definition of intelligence, there are powerful new possibilities for learning in the classroom.

The Wheel of MI Domains serves as an organizer for understanding the fluid relationship of the intelligences. In this organizer, I have grouped the intelligences into three regions: the interactive, analytic, and introspective domains. These three domains are meant to align the intelligences with familiar learner attributes teachers routinely observe in the classroom.

By referring to the wheel of domains when planning for instruction, teachers can plan lessons and units which effectively address all of the intelligences in the classroom. Here are two strategies for utilizing the wheel:

To Balance Intelligences:

In planning a lesson, a teacher may wish to select one intelligence from each domain in order to provide for a well-balanced accommodation of the intelligneces.


Mrs. Reed 's lesson on iambic pentameter may benefit from using the verbal (interactive), rhythmic (analytic) and existential (introspective) intelligences. By tapping into all three of these ways of knowing she can accommodate learners across the spectrum in her classroom.

It might look like this:

Objective: Given a sonnet, the learner will recite the sonnet with proper meter and interpretation of its content.


Verbal - recite of the sonnet

Rhythmic - experience the sonnet's meter

Existential - interpret the sentiment expressed in the sonnet

To Target Intelligences:

In planning instruction for a learner or group of learners, a teacher may wish to target all the intelligences of a specific domain to provide for experiences that strengthen that particular domain.


Mr. Esposito realizes that his class needs to improve their critical thinking skills in order to be prepared for Spring standardized testing in Biology. In dissecting earthworms, he wants to emphasize the analytical nature of the task. He decides to map to the logical, musical and naturalist intelligences in this lesson:

It might look like this:

Objective: Given an earthworm to dissect, the learner will follow specific step-by-step instructions, categorizing organs by body systems and identifying patterns found within those systems.


Logical - follow body systems throughout the organism

Rhythmic - identify patterns within and between body systems

Naturalist - categorize organs and body systems by function


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