When I did my education coursework many years ago (ugh, it wasn’t that long ago…) one of the buzz terms flung about was ‘Multiple Intelligences’ more easily understood as learning styles – apparently every person has multiple ways of accessing their education. Some children prefer to see everything, others need to hear it, still others need to use their hands, etc. You can go a little deeper and say some sprouts prefer a logical/mathematical or musical approach to learning.
To make matters more confusing, most people don’t prefer one style, but rather a spattering of one or the other or some combination of all of them. With so many approaches to learning, how is a teacher to reach all his students successfully?
Now I adore being a kindergarten teacher… I think that’s rather clear. I don’t mean to suggest teachers of other grade levels are lacking in any way, shape, or form, but what I’ve found is that in kindergarten, we hit upon every learning style in almost every lesson just about everyday. It’s just the nature of dealing with five-year-olds.
- Linguistic intelligence ("word smart") – You can’t begin to think about words until you’ve mastered letters and sounds… something we do almost every second in kindergarten. Using The Three Habits of Highly Successful Reading Teachers, my sprouts have already mastered almost every sound and most of them can read about eighteen sight-words. It’s only the end of October – this is revolutionary word work we’re doing here people.
- Logical-mathematical intelligence ("number/reasoning smart") – It all begins with numbers and counting. We count the numbers of days in school starting on day one. The number increases by one each day, moving us forward at a developmentally appropriate pace. We also sing about writing numbers to help us remember the strokes involved, but we’re not talking about music… yet.
- Spatial intelligence ("picture smart") – A picture really is worth a thousand words. Kindergartners know this better than anyone. Before we’re ready for letters and words, we’re writing complicated stories using nothing but pictures. Staying in the lines is encouraged, but not imperative. Scribbling (i.e. rushing) often turns into careful crayon control as the year progresses.
- Bodily-Kinesthetic intelligence ("body smart") – When you deal with five-year-olds all day long, you learn they don’t sit still for long. We have a motor break, on average, every ten minutes or so. Sometimes we sing, sometimes we dance, and sometimes we move from our tables to the floor or from the floor to the tables. Sometimes we take an extra long way to the cafeteria. Whatever we do, you can bet we’re not sitting still for long.
- Musical intelligence ("music smart") – Sing, sing, SING! We sing and dance all day long. I’ve never actually counted the number of songs we sing and move to on any given day, but my guess would be the total would be somewhere around fifteen. Yes, we could record (a rather long) album of tunes in a single kindergarten day. We don’t all sing in tune, but we ALL sing. We all don’t have amazing rhythm, but we ALL dance. Quite simply, in kindergarten, we love music.
- Interpersonal intelligence ("people smart") – Have you ever watched a group of children navigate the tricky trail of playing with LEGO pieces? When there are only a few treasured wheels in the set, sharing and negotiation skills are developed quickly. Ditto for the dollhouse and the playground.
- Intrapersonal intelligence ("self smart") – There is no more explicit instruction on the identification and understanding of feelings than in kindergarten. We read, write, and talk about our feelings daily.
- Naturalist intelligence ("nature smart") – We go outside at least twice a day (many times more). 'Nature Walks' are standard fare. We use nature to discover symmetry and learn about life cycles.
I’ve only touched on how we hit upon each intelligence in kindergarten here. The examples are numerous and ongoing. The simple fact is, kindergartners are an open book. They are, by nature, divergent thinkers. A kindergarten teacher incorporates all of these styles daily, often many times each day. The energy and spirit of my sprouts demand it and, thankfully, it helps keep me vigorous and young.