Multiple intelligences icebreakers: Starting the year off right

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    Howard Gardner

    American Psychologist and Educator, Professor Howard Gardner. (Photo/ Harvard Graduate School of Education)

    If you have been in education any amount of time, chances are you’ve run into the name Howard Gardner and his theory of Multiple Intelligences. According to Gardner all human beings have multiple intelligences which can be strengthened or weakened depending on their use and that most people have two or three that they favor.

    In seeking ways to effectively engage and teach our students many of us turn to the intelligences to add variety and reach students through their best “intelligence”.

    Catering to the intelligences can also be a great way to get the school year off to an exciting start. Though most teachers are familiar with the classic, get to know the classes Bingo Icebreaker, here are a few other beginning of the year icebreakers I’ve dug up that are tailored to the various intelligences.

    These activities are fun, but can also give a teacher insight to the special talents and intelligences that make up the classroom body.

    Verbal-Linguistic Intelligence

    verbal-linguistic intelligenceWhat it is: People with strength in this intelligence have well-developed verbal skills and sensitivity to the sounds, meanings and rhythms of words. They have a talent for learning and using languages, including for oral self-expression, or poetically. These people typically use language as a primary means to remember things. Poets, writers and translators are people with high linguistic intelligence.

    Related Icebreakers

    Alliteration: Students introduce themselves with their names and something that they like that starts with the same letter as their names. The person who starts the game states the alliteration; then it’s the next person’s turn. That person repeats what the first person said, then adds his or her name and alliteration and so forth around the circle.” For example, “My name is Gloria and I love green grapes!” The next person in the circle says, “Her name is Gloria and she loves green grapes. I am Susan and I love silly stories.” And so it goes. This icebreaker is lots of fun and sure to get a laugh.

    First day of school mad lib: Prepare a generic story on transparency or whiteboard about ‘The First Day of School in Mrs. ____’s Class’. You will need to include some strategically placed blanks. Without telling students what you are doing, ask for nouns, verbs and adjectives. Encourage students to use descriptive, exciting words. Begin filling in the mad lib, without the students seeing it. When you finish, reveal the mad lib, or ask a volunteer to read it aloud. Kids love this activity and are sure to ask you to do it again!

    Mathematical-Logical Intelligence

    Mathematical-Logical IntelligenceWhat it is: People with this intelligence strength have the ability to think conceptually and abstractly. They are good with logic, sequences, patterns and numbers. Scientists and mathematicians are some examples of people with high logical-mathematical intelligence.

    Related Icebreakers

    Stringing together conversation. Cut string or yarn into pieces of different lengths. (Each piece should have a matching piece of the same length. There should be enough pieces so that each student will have one.) Give each student one piece of string, and then tell them to find the other student who has a string of the exact same length. Once matches are found students take a moment to get to know each other and introduce their “match”.

    First day name puzzle: Take a large piece of poster board, and mark out lines that can be cut into pieces. Make sure that the puzzle will have enough pieces for each student to have one. Gather on the floor and have each student write their name on the blank side of the poster board. The teachers name should be in the middle.

    Cut the board into puzzle pieces and the next day allow the class to find the spot where their puzzle piece belongs. Tape the puzzle together and post it on the wall in the classroom. This is a great lead in to a lesson on how each member is important and the class is not complete without each and every one of them.

    Musical Intelligence

    Musical IntelligenceWhat it is: People with a strength in this intelligence have the ability to produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch and timber in music and beats. Often become musicians or poets.

    Related Icebreakers

    Who’s singing my song? Give each student a slip of paper with a song title on it, with about four or five people receiving the same song. They don’t show their song to anybody. Instead, they hum their song, walking around the room trying to find other people humming the same song. For younger students, put the name of an animal on their paper. They can walk around making their animal’s noise until they find others making the same noise.

    Musical hand shakes: Prepare some music ahead of time for this activity. Explain to the children that when the music starts they must walk around shaking hands with one another. When the music suddenly stops, they must partner up with the person they are shaking hands with and ask a question. The question could be anything they can think of or to make it a little simpler the adult could shout out a question for the children to ask. If you really want them to interact and get to know each other you could go around and ask each child what they found out about the group after the game has finished.

    Visual-Spatial Intelligence

    Visual-Spatial Intelligence  What it is: People with this intelligence like to think in images and pictures, to visualize accurately and abstractly. Typically these children are artistic and like to daydream.

    Related Icebreakers

    Silhouette collage: Stock up on old magazines. (Your school librarian might have a discard pile you can draw from.) Invite students to search through the magazines for pictures, words, or anything else that might be used to describe them. Then use an overhead projector or another source of bright light to create a silhouette of each student’s profile; have each student sit in front of the light source as you or another student traces the outline of the silhouette on a sheet of 11- by 17-inch paper taped to the wall. Have students cut out their silhouettes, and then fill them with a collage of pictures and words that express their identity. Then give each student an opportunity to share his or her silhouette with the group and talk about why he or she chose some of the elements in the collage.

    Hands-on activity. Have students begin this activity by listing at least 25 words that describe them and the things they like. Ask each student to use a dark pen to trace the pattern of his or her hand with their fingers spread apart. Provide another sheet of paper that the student can place on top of the tracing. Direct students to use the outlines as guides and write their words around it. Provide students a variety of different colored pencils or markers to use as they write. Then invite students to share their work with the class. They might cut out the hand outlines and mount them on construction paper so you can display the hands for open house. Challenge each parent to identify his or her child’s hand.

    Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence

    Bodily-Kinesthetic Intelligence  What it is: People with this intelligence have the ability to control body movements and to handle objects skillfully. They have the ability to use mental abilities to coordinate bodily movements. Some examples of people with high bodily-kinesthetic intelligence are carpenters, seamstresses and chefs.

    Related Icebreakers

    Pop quiz: Ahead of time, write a series of getting-to-know-you questions on slips of paperone question to a slip. Then fold up the slips, and tuck each slip inside a different balloon. Blow up the balloons. Give each student a balloon, and let students take turns popping their balloons and answering the questions inside.

    Action: Use little beanbags and go outside. Students stand in a circle at tossing distance. For the first round, someone tosses the beanbag to a student; the person has to tell his or her name. The second round is favorite food, the third round, their favorite sport.

    Snowball activity Students write on a piece of paper three things about themselves. Then they crumple the paper up into a ‘snowball’ and have a one minute snowball fight. At the end of the minute, everyone grabs the closest snowball and has to try to find the person who wrote it. They then introduce that person to the rest of the group, sharing the three facts.

    Interpersonal Intelligence

    Interpersonal Intelligence  What it is: People with this intelligence are in the truest sense, “people” persons. They have the capacity to detect and respond appropriately to the moods, motivations and desires of others. These people usually end up working as social workers, teachers, Sales people and other service related jobs. (Just about any icebreaker will suit this intelligence so I just added a couple favorites of mine.)

    Related Icebreakers

    A tangled web: Gather students in a circle sitting around you on the floor. Hold a large ball of yarn. Start by telling the students something about yourself. Then roll the ball of yarn to a student without letting go of the end of the yarn. The student who gets the ball of yarn tells his or her name and something good about himself or herself. Then the student rolls the yarn to somebody else, holding on to the strand of yarn. Soon students have created a giant web. After everyone has spoken, you and all the students stand up, continuing to hold the yarn. Start a discussion of how this activity relates to the idea of teamwork (for example, the students need to work together and not let others down). To drive home your point about teamwork, have one student drop his or her strand of yarn; that will demonstrate to students how the web weakens if the class isn’t working together.

    Cooperative musical chairs: This activity is a take on the familiar musical chairs game. Set a circle of chairs with one less chair than the number of students in the class. Play music as the students circle around the chairs. When the music stops, the students must sit in a seat. Unlike the traditional game, the person without a seat is not out. Instead, someone must make room for that person. Then remove another seat and start the music again. The kids end up on one another’s laps and sharing chairs! You can play this game outside, and you can end it whenever you wish. Afterward, stress the teamwork and cooperation the game took, and how students needed to accept one another to be successful. Reinforce that idea by repeating this game throughout the year.

    Intrapersonal Intelligence

    Intrapersonal Intelligence  What it is: People with strength in this intelligence are extremely self-aware, in tune with their inner feelings, values, beliefs and thinking processes. These students are comfortable with who they are and know what they want to do with their life. Leaders, high achievers and entrepreneurs often fall in this category.

    Related Icebreakers

    Personal boxes: In this activity, each student selects a container of a reasonable size that represents some aspect of his or her personality or personal interests (such as a football helmet or a saucepan). Ask students to fill that object with other items that represent themselvesfor example, family photos, CDs, dirty socks (because their room at home is always a mess), or a ballet shoe and bring their containers back to school. Students can use the objects in the containers as props as they give a three-minute presentation about themselves. This kind of activity often gives the other students a deeper insight and appreciation for their classmates, unique characteristics.

    People poems: Have each child use the letters in his or her name to create an acrostic poem. For example, for Bill:





    Tell students they must include words that tell something about themselvesfor example, something they like to do or a personality or physical trait. Invite students to share their poems with the class. This activity is a fun one that enables you to learn how your students view themselves.

    Multiple intelligence wheel

    Multiple intelligence wheel (Photo/ MyBrightBox)

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