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It’s All in Your Head (The Brain) #1: Ways We Are Smart

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Lesson Overview:

This is a “tuning-in” lesson in which we build off the students’ new understanding of the Theory of Multiple Intelligences developed by Howard Gardner.  Make sure that the children have a basic understanding of different kinds of intelligence.  With that basic idea and an armful of easy biographies, you are all set for an exciting lesson on multiple intelligences hiding within the collection.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To understand that there are different kinds of intelligence and that the library collection features each of these kinds of intelligence in its collection.  (AASL 1.2.3, “Demonstrate creativity by using multiple resources and formats.”)

Suggested Time:

35-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

Working together, the class will create list a biographies that matches one of the types of intelligence in Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask the children to tell you what their new unit of inquiry is about.  Ask them to tell you different ways in which people can be smart.  Their answers should include:

  1. Word Smart (Verbal)
  2. Numbers Smart (Logical/Mathematical)
  3. Body Smart (Bodily-Kinesthetic)
  4. Music Smart (Musical)
  5. Picture Smart or Art Smart (Spatial)
  6. People Smart (Interpersonal)
  7. Self-Smart (Intrapersonal)
  8. Nature Smart (Naturalistic)

Your teachers may use different terminology, so please be sure to check with them so that the language you use is consistent with the language used in the classroom.

2. Main:

Explain to the children that today they will find out about the biography collection and how the biography collection matches the kinds of intelligence they are learning about.

Ask the children if they know what a biography is.  If they don’t know, teach them that a biography is the record of a person’s life story.  It might be told in writing, or on film, or in a recording, or even in a series of still photographs.  But, the record of a person’s life story is a biography.

Spread the biographies out on tables, windowsills, or a large carpet – anywhere the children can see them.  Ask each child to select two biographies.  Give the children about ten minutes to skim/scan the biographies for a few simple facts about the lives of the people whose biographies they are holding.

Come back together as a class.  Scribe for the class as you work through the multiple intelligences and books/biographies that may be a match.  Here are a few that match up in my library:

  1. Word Smart:
    1. The Right Word: Roget and his Thesaurus by Jennifer Bryant
    2. Dav Pilkey by Jill C. Wheeler
    3. (Any biographies about authors, and we have lots! Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling, Michael Morpurgo, etc.)
  2. Number Smart:
    1. The Librarian who Measured the Earth by Kathryn Lasky.
    2. On a Beam of Light: a Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne
  3. Body Smart:
    1. Jackie Robinson Plays Ball by Robyn O’Sullivan.
    2. Young Pele: Soccer’s First Star by Lesa Cline Ransom
    3. (Any biographies about athletes, both historical and modern.)
  4. Music Smart:
    1. Before John was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane by Carole Boston Weatherford.
    2. Play, Mozart, Play! By Peter Sis.
    3. (Any biographies about musicians, composers, or conductors.)
  5. Picture Smart or Art Smart:
    1. Vincent Van Gogh: Sunflowers and Swirly Stars by Joan Holub.
    2. An Eye for Color: The Story of Josef Albers by Natasha Wing.
    3. (Any biographies on artists, sculptors, photographers, graphic designers, etc.)
  6. People Smart:
    1. Mother Teresa: A Life of Kindness by Ellen Weiss.
    2. Barack Obama: Voice of Unity, Hope, and Change by Libby Hughes
  7. Self-Smart:
    1. Anne Frank: The Young Writer Who Told the World Her Story by Ann Kramer.
    2. Rosa Parks, My Story by Rosa Parks with Jim Haskins.  (Teach the concept of autobiography if the students do not already know it.)
  8. Nature Smart:
    1. The Watcher: Jane Goodall’s Life with the Chimps by Jeannette Winter.
    2. The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino.

Challenge the children to look further into the biography collection and try to find resources on people who are smart in each of these ways.

3. Conclusion:

Emphasize to the children that we are all smart in different ways, and that we have great examples of multiple intelligences right in our own library. Challenge the children to read a book about a person who is smart in the same way that they are smart, and smart in a way that they are not!

Send the class work to the homeroom with the kids.  It is a great extension to the concept of multiple intelligences with a literary theme.

  1. At least 50 of the school’s biographies, preferably picture books or easy biographies (about two per child).
  2. Flipchart Paper
  3. Markers
  4. Yellow sticky notes (optional)

One effective way to change this lesson would be to use yellow sticky notes so that the children could put a note on each biography indicating the ways that that person was/is smart.  If you do this, then the kids can easily sort the books and find the ones they are most interested in.

Be sure to check the middle school collection.  Quite often, Middle School has biographies that are appropriate for Upper Elementary Students.

Recommended books for this lesson:

A wide assortment of biographies.

Key Terms:

Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner, Biography, Biographies