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So Each May Learn

by Harvey F. Silver, Richard W. Strong and Matthew J. Perini

Table of Contents

Chapter 6. Teaching Learning Styles and Multiple Intelligences to Students

Many teachers who use learning styles and multiple intelligences in their classrooms wonder how important it is for students to know about these models. Experience has taught us that students who understand the models are better able to understand their own learning profiles, to develop flexibility and adaptability in their thinking, and to set realistic goals about minimizing learning weaknesses and maximizing strengths. In fact, research on the importance of metacognitive thinking supports the notion that instructional approaches that help students reflect on their own learning processes are highly beneficial to their overall learning and tend to stimulate motivation to improve as learners (Brown, 1989; Marzano et al., 1988).

When students engage in this kind of “thinking about thinking,” they become more self-directed and are able to select appropriate strategies for particular learning situations. In Libertyville, Illinois, where high schoolers take a course in style-based metacognition, course instructor Sue Ulrey explains, “We want students to understand what sorts of learning styles there are and how to interpret their own behavior in learning. This leads to greater self-awareness.” (Caccamo, 1998, Section 5, p. 3) Because models of learning can be taught rather easily to children as young as 1st grade (Armstrong, 1994), many teachers teach students about learning style and multiple intelligences so they can better understand themselves as students and as people. Of course, students—and teachers—must understand that styles and intelligences are not simply categories of identification; any description of a learner is an approximation. Both models are useful ways of helping us to understand our own strengths and weaknesses as learners so that we may grow and become more balanced. This chapter will show you a compendium of methods some teachers use to teach both models to their students..

Teaching Students About Learning Styles


Barb Heinzman of Geneva, New York, led her students through the following hands-on “Apple” demonstration to teach them about perception and judgment:

“Apple” Demo

Everyone uses four ways to learn. Today we will learn how we use our four functions to learn about an apple. [Barb has apples in a bag, one for each student in a group.]

One way to learn about something is through your five senses: your eyes, ears, nose, touch, and taste. Your senses tell you what something looks like, tastes like, feels like, and so forth. Select an apple and use your senses to describe your apple.

Another way to learn about something is to use your sixth sense. This is called intuition. It helps you to learn about things that you can't see, touch, taste, or smell. It helps you to make guesses or to use your imagination. Imagine what your apple might taste like or imagine where it comes from. Intuition also helps you to symbolize things. What are some things your apple might symbolize? Some examples might be good health or New York City. Use your intuition to come up with a new idea of what an apple might symbolize.

Still another way to learn about an apple is to use your thinking. Your thinking helps you to understand the purpose for things. For example, thinking helps you to understand the parts of an apple and what their functions are. Identify some of the parts of your apple—stem, skin, seed, pulp—and think about what each part does.

The last way to learn about something is to use your feelings. Feelings tell you if you like or dislike something. Do you feel you will like your apple? Discuss what you like or dislike about it.

Now, put your apple back in the bag. With your eyes closed, try to find your apple using all of your senses.

Questioning in Style

Another way to teach students about the four learning styles is to have them experience activities or questions in each of the four styles and then ask them to reflect on the thinking they used to answer the question or complete the activities.

For example, after reading a story, Barb Heinzman asks her students questions about what they remember (Mastery), questions that require explaining and proving (Understanding), questions that require the use of their imagination (Self-Expressive), or questions that invite students to reflect on and share their feelings (Interpersonal). Barb used the questions in Figure 6.1 to help students comprehend and hook into the first chapter of the historical novel My Brother Sam Is Dead.

Figure 6.1. Questions in Style—My Brother Sam Is Dead

What is happening in the story? Who are the characters and what are their traits?

Which character do you relate to the most? The father, Sam, or Tim? Whom do you agree with, Sam or his father?

What is the meaning of the story? Why are the characters arguing?

What do you imagine Tim is thinking during this argument? How is a colony like a child?

Note: See Collier, J. L., & Collier, C. (1989). My brother Sam is dead. New York: Scholastic Paperbacks.

Barb reinforced that the Mastery style focuses on remembering; Understanding style, on reasoning or explaining; the Self-Expressive style, on imagining or creating; and the Interpersonal style, on relating or feelings. She then asked her students to stop after answering each question and to think about which type of thinking they used. By the end of the day the students understood the four learning styles. Next, she asked her students to pay attention to which styles of thinking they enjoyed the most; which they found difficult to do; and which they wanted to get better at. Soon the students were able to analyze activities and diagnose their own learning styles and profiles.

Of course, four-style questioning can be used at any grade level. With primary students, it is important to use words that are easy to understand. A 1st grade teacher made her presentation on styles particularly memorable by using a visual organizer of a face and by using simplified words, rather than abstract style categories (see Figure 6.2).

Figure 6.2. Head Organizer

Similarly, four-style questioning is also effective with secondary students. Figure 6.3 shows an activity a high school English teacher used in conjunction with Robert Frost's poem “The Road Not Taken” to help her students become more aware of style, as well as better readers of poetry.

Figure 6.3. Questions in Style—Secondary Level: Poem “The Road Not Taken”

What is happening in the poem? Who is speaking? Identify the rhyme scheme.

Do you relate to this poem? Tell about a hard decision you have made.

What is the meaning of the poem? What is meant by “And that has made all the difference?”

What do you imagine the poet was thinking when he wrote this? How is a decision like a fork in the road?

Or, rather than developing questions in style, you may assign students tasks in style. This method asks students to complete four tasks while simultaneously reflecting on their style preferences and dislikes. One particularly effective way to use tasks in style is to assign tasks that have to do with learning styles as content. This way, students are deepening their own understanding of learning styles while they are becoming more aware of who they are as learners. Figures 6.4 and 6.5 provide elementary and secondary examples, respectively, of tasks in various learning styles.

Figure 6.4. Tasks in Style—Elementary

Mastery Make a List

Relating The Helping Hand

  1. Write your name on four pieces of paper.
  2. Write the name of one learning style on the top of each page.
  3. Trace the correct icon on the bottom of each page.
  4. List three facts about each learning style on the four pages.

Trace your hand. In each finger, write or draw something that tells a friend about yourself as a learner.

Understanding Explain

Self-Expressive Picture This

Compare your learning style to that of a classmate or relative. Include the strengths and weaknesses of the two styles you are comparing.

Pick four animals to represent each of the learning styles. On separate pieces of drawing paper, draw and color each animal. Then explain why you picked it to represent a particular learning style.

Figure 6.5. Tasks in Style—Secondary



Write the name of each learning style. Under the name, write three facts about that learning style. Then, pick a character who represents that style.

Develop a lesson plan for teaching learning styles to an elementary school student.



Write a brief essay that compares your learning style to that of a classmate or relative. Include the strengths and weaknesses of the two styles you are comparing.

Pick four symbols to represent each of the learning styles. On separate pieces of drawing paper, draw each symbol. Then explain why you picked it to represent a particular learning style.

Reflecting in Style

Similar to questioning in style, reflecting in style asks students to think back on work they have done and to use the four styles to develop a deep awareness of how they think and work (see Figure 6.6). The goal of this task is to determine how the lessons learned about the self might be applied to the next project.

Figure 6.6. Reflecting in Style

What did you do to complete the project? Describe the steps you took.

What did you like about doing this project?

What didn't you like?

How has carrying out this project changed the way you view yourself as a learner?

Which steps worked best for you? Why do you think so?

As you did the project, what didn't work so well for you?

How do you know you did a good job?

How do you know the project was done well? List at least three reasons.

In doing this project, what did you learn that you might apply in doing another project?

In doing the project, what did you learn?

If you were to do this project again, what might you do differently?

Descriptions and Case Studies

Another method is to have students read descriptions about the four styles and to think about which style sounds most like them and which sounds least like them. Stacey Gerhardt of Geneva, New York, gives her students case studies that sound like the one shown in Figure 6.7.

Figure 6.7. 5th and 6th Grade Case Studies

The following four passages were written by four different 5th and 6th grade students about their experiences at school. Each student represents one of the four learning styles: Each is either a Mastery, Interpersonal, Understanding, or Self-Expressive learner. Read the passages and decide which one sounds the most like you. Underline any words or phrases that describe behaviors you can identify with.

The Cast of Characters

Samuel T.: Mastery Learner

I will often make a list of my next day's activities so I can be ready. Then I can check them off when I get them done, which usually happens. I don't mind class projects, as long as the teacher gives us an exact set of directions as to what is due and when. Usually I turn in those projects a few days early to make sure I have them done. Teachers like my work, although they say that I need to be more flexible and realize that there isn't always a right and a wrong answer. I am not exactly sure what they mean by that. I come to school to learn, and so I like it when the teacher shows me exactly what to do and what the answers are. I know I have mastered the material when I get a test or project back and everything on it is 100 percent right.

Nina F.: Self-Expressive Learner

Other kids usually like to have me on their project team because I always have lots of ideas. I like it best when the teacher says, “You pick a project and create what you want.” Don't you think that's what school should be for? I mean, it should be a place where they let you come and explore ideas instead of page after page of stuff! I really like thinking of things to do, although all of my “brainy ideas” don't always come off. Of course, the more ideas we can come up with, and the crazier they are, the better for me. I sometimes get into trouble because I finish assignments at the last minute. I don't really forget them, it's just that some of the routine junk really bores me. Sometimes I'll get so involved in an idea that's not necessarily the one we're working on, I forget about the one I have to turn in!

Nancy T.: Understanding Learner

I like learning about ideas and their history and the reasons that people believe in them. The part of a class that I like best is when we get a chance to really think through a topic, usually on paper but sometimes out loud in discussion. I remember my mom saying that as a little kid I was always asking “Why?” I guess that hasn't changed much. If people give me a chance to compare choices and make my own decisions, I usually make the right one. I think school is a great place to find out all sorts of things. If, after a long discussion or an assignment, I have been able to look at all the different viewpoints and start to understand them, then I feel like I haven't wasted my time. For this reason, I guess I like essay tests the best because they give me some time to really express my opinions and prove my ideas.

Shamir F.: Interpersonal Learner

You might call me a “people person.” It always makes me feel good to know that I have helped someone, even if it's just talking something over. Now that I think about it, I have always been the one moved by the teacher because I talk so much in class. That never bothered me so much because then I got to meet new people! I wasn't trying to go against the teacher. It's just that I find it more interesting doing work with a friend or a group than by myself. That's the best thing about school—lots of action among friends. People have told me that I get too “emotionally involved” with everything, but I really like finding out how others feel about things and what they are doing about them. I am happiest when the teacher divides us into groups to develop some project together, and I really get into an assignment when it relates somehow to me.

Rank the four characters according to their similarity to you:

1. Not at all like me; 2. A little like me; 3. Somewhat like me; or 4. A lot like me.

Samuel T.

Nina F.

Nancy T.

Shamir F.

How can you explain this order? Does it tell you anything about yourself?

Descriptions at the high school level look different from those in Figure 6.7. For example, Figure 6.8 provides a sample description a high school teacher developed for both styles and intelligences. Students then had to identify and explain how they knew what style (and intelligences) they exemplified.

Figure 6.8. High School Case Study

Brad: I really liked my American Literature class. It wasn't really formal, and the teacher didn't lecture for hours about stuff that no one was interested in. He encouraged discussions of the books, letting us form little work groups within the classroom. We got a chance to talk to other kids and see what they thought about the reading instead of just hearing the teacher's point of view. And when we finished talking in small groups, we were allowed to report to the whole class what we had discussed. Even the regular discussions were good because our teacher really cared about what everyone had to say. We could speak without raising our hands or anything, and he didn't even get mad! That was good because lots of times I wanted to talk. There were a lot of things in the books which I really understood—characters that were like me—and my teacher encouraged me to speak up and share my feelings with the class. He also encouraged good communication between him and the students by having personal writing conferences with individual students on a regular basis. That way, we got to see what he thought about how we were doing in class.

Checklists and Inventories

Checklists and inventories are valuable tools that help students reflect on their preferred behaviors. Simple checklists are sufficient for primary and lower elementary students. For example, 3rd grade teacher Joanne Curran of Ladue Schools, Missouri, introduces and uses the checklist shown in Figure 6.9, with the following directions:

We are all able to learn in different ways. But just like you have a favorite toy or TV show, you also have a favorite style of learning. Because of your learning style, there are things that you really enjoy. There are other things that you may not like at all. No style is better than another. They are just different. Sometimes, we need to be able to work in a style that is not our favorite because it's the best way to get a job done.
Finding out your favorite learning style is as simple as 1–2–3:
  1. Color in the circle next to any sentences that seem to fit you.
  2. Count the number of circles you colored in each square.
  3. Circle the box with the most colored-in circles. It is probably your favorite learning style.

Figure 6.9. Elementary Checklist


  • ___ I enjoy doing things I know about.
  • ___ I'm good at getting things done.
  • ___ I like copying or making things.
  • ___ I follow a routine every morning.
  • ___ I work out problems step-by-step.


  • ___ I like games that everyone can play and nobody loses.
  • ___ I enjoy working with friends.
  • ___ I'm good at helping others.
  • ___ I like group projects.
  • ___ I like it when everyone is happy.
  • ___ I am good at understanding other people's feelings.


  • ___ I enjoy reading about things that interest me.
  • ___ I'm good at organizing things.
  • ___ I like to figure out how things work.
  • ___ I learn mostly from reading.
  • ___ I like assignments that make me think.
  • ___ I like to take my time on projects that interest me.


  • ___ I enjoy doing things I've never done before.
  • ___ I'm good at discovering things.
  • ___ I think of lots of new ideas.
  • ___ I like to use my imagination.
  • ___ I like art and music.
  • ___ I like “What if . . .” questions better than “yes-and-no” questions.

At upper elementary through secondary levels, the best means for identifying and helping students reflect on their strengths and weaknesses as learners is to use the Hanson-Silver Learning Preference Inventory (LPI) (1991), currently used in hundreds of schools across the United States. The LPI contains 36 multiple-choice questions whose answers are keyed to each of the four learning styles (as well as to tendencies for introversion and extroversion). Figure 6.10 shows some examples of LPI items.

Figure 6.10. Sample Learning Preference Inventory Items

Not available for electronic dissemination.

Source: From the Hanson-Silver Learning Preference Inventory. Copyright © 1991 by Silver Strong & Associates' Thoughtful Education Press

The LPI provides teachers with a comprehensive picture of each student's learning profile, including a visual overview (see Figure 6.11), learning strengths, learning weaknesses, preferred environment, and motivating activities.

Figure 6.11. Sample Visualization of a Student's Profile

Having this information at their disposal, teachers can make informed decisions about how to address student styles so that students are effectively accommodated, challenged, and motivated to grow as learners. Use of the LPI has proven especially beneficial in addressing the needs of underachievers, low achievers, and gifted and talented students.

“Style Amoeba”

A fun and effective method for teaching style to elementary students is to use a “style amoeba” (see Figure 6.12). Used by Janice Rugg-Davis (1994), a style amoeba is a grid with four style descriptions. The students draw an amoeba in the middle, placing most of the body in the quadrant they feel most expresses their style; they place proportional amounts in each of the remaining quadrants. They then color the sections of the amoeba according to its quadrant.

Figure 6.12. Style Amoeba

(ST) Brown

Brown is an earthy color. It signifies “down-to-earth” ideas that usually are accepted as simple, factual, and without variance in the answers. It gives a straightforward type of feeling without deviating from the standard. The ST likes things to be “down-to-earth.”

(SF) Red

Red often is used to show feelings. It gives an impression of emotion. Red is the significant color for the nation's most “feeling” holiday, Valentine's Day. The SF likes everything to be personalized or have feeling.

(NT) Green

Green is the color of the grass. The grass comes and goes each year and always promotes growth and wonder. Green has come to symbolize this “wonder.” It represents a desire to know more and understand why things work. It also means “GO.” The NT's thoughts are always on the “go”!

(NF) Purple

Purple is a creative color. It is not a basic color, nor is it a very common one. It gives the impression of uniqueness and individuality in creation or design when applied to art or drawing. Purple is also a color chosen often for its beauty. An NF is constantly striving to make beauty.

Note: ST = Sensing-Thinking learner; SF = Sensing-Feeling learner; NT = Intuitive- Thinking learner; NF = Intuitive-Feeling learner.

Source: Rugg-Davis, J. K. (1994). Number the stars: A literature resource guide. St. Louis: Milliken Publishing. Reproduced by permission.

Other Methods

Another method is to discuss characters students have read or learned about that reflect a particular style. What style is Hamlet? How about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn? What style is Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye? Do Ralph, Piggy, Jack, and Simon from Lord of the Flies each embody a particular learning style? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each character? Or you could talk about any other sources that have characters showing a particular learning style. For example, the characters in the Peanuts comic strip represent all four styles. Charlie Brown is a strong Sensing-Feeling (Interpersonal) thinker. He takes things to heart; he is always concerned about how his friends feel; he goes out of his way to help others. Lucy is a dominant Sensing-Thinking learner (Mastery). She believes in following procedures and she knows there is always a “right” way to do things. Linus is a true Intuitive-Thinking learner (Understanding). He loves to know how things work and explain them to his friends. There is nothing he likes better than a good discussion, and he learns by questioning. Schroeder is a creative Intuitive-Feeling thinker (Self-Expressive). Much of his time is devoted to his music, and he is often in a creative fog.

Another teacher used four symbols to represent each style (see Figures 6.13-6.16).

Figure 6.13–6.16. “Style Symbols” Demo

One style uses the five senses and thinking. The symbol of this style is the hand. We use the hand to symbolize these students because they like to learn through hands-on activities, and they like following directions one step at a time. These learners like to be told or shown what to do; also, they like activities that have right or wrong answers.

A second style likes to learn with the five senses and feelings. The symbol for this style is the heart. We use the heart to represent this style because these students like to learn with their friends. They like to learn about people and how they feel. They like questions that ask about their feelings. They also like to be shown what to do, but like to talk and work with others as they learn.

A third style likes to learn through the sixth sense—intuition—and thinking. The symbol for this style is the head. We use the head to represent this style because these students like to learn by thinking about things. These students like to solve problems and explain things. They enjoy questions that ask them to explain how and why things work.

The last style uses the sixth sense—intuition—along with feeling. The symbol for this style is the eye. We use the eye because these students love to use their imagination to see things that can't be seen by the senses. They like activities that allow them to pretend and to create their own ideas. They also like to choose their own projects and to make things that are new and different.

Reflection Charts

Once your students understand the four styles, they can begin to reflect on how they use each style and what skills they need to develop in order to improve their learning in that style. For example, one way to get students to reflect is to ask them to pay attention to how they went about the task, to decide what styles they used, and to give themselves advice for the next time they complete a task [see Figure 6.17].

Figure 6.17. Style Reflection Chart




I came up with a lot of ideas.

I had a hard time selecting which ideas to use.

I worked well with my team.

I am a little disorganized.

I work well in the Self-Expressive style, but I could do better in Mastery style.

I need to concentrate more on what I'm doing.

I need to pay attention to the details.

I need to learn how to decide what to do when I have a lot of ideas.

Teaching Students About Intelligences

Many of the methods for teaching students about style will also serve as ways to teach them about multiple intelligences. For example, you can assign students tasks that ask them to use different intelligences (rather than styles) and ask them to reflect on their learning process afterward. You can also use student descriptions and case studies that emphasize intelligences rather than styles. Simple intelligence checklists and inventories (like the Multiple Intelligences Indicator in Appendix A) can also be developed, and methods like analyzing characters in literature and history can work well for learning both styles and intelligences. Certainly, examining the accomplishments of famous people (as you did in Chapter 1) will yield a rich lesson on intelligences.

Symbols and Reflection Charts

Using symbols for each intelligence, or asking students to create their own symbols also helps in teaching students about intelligences. It is also a good idea to use a reflection chart to help students pay closer attention to their learning process and to advise themselves on how to improve their learning. Figure 6.18 (p. 98) shows a sample reflection chart.

Figure 6.18. Intelligence Reflection Chart




I am creative—I like to use words in strange ways.

I like to work by myself.

I hum, whistle, and tap a beat while I work.

My linguistic, musical, and intrapersonal intelligences are highly developed.

My spatial and logical-mathematical intelligences are somewhat developed.

My interpersonal and bodily-kinesthetic intelligences need the most improvement.

I need to “put my guard down” when I work in groups, and I need to listen to others more attentively.

I need to begin seeing the way I move and use my body as an intelligence that I can develop.


One way to teach students about the eight intelligences is to ask them to think about things they do or have done that require them to use specific intelligences. After explaining each intelligence, the teacher can stop and engage students in brief activities that demonstrate each intelligence.

For instance, after explaining logical-mathematical intelligence, you might ask students to solve a logic puzzle or make an interpretation of numerical data. Asking students to pay close attention to a piece of music, to use their bodies to represent a concept, to gather and classify natural items, or to work with other students are just some of the many activities you might use to make your demonstration particularly memorable. Along the way, you can fold in reflection, asking students to note how well they use each intelligence and what they might do to improve.

Intelligence Stations

Another effective method for teaching students about multiple intelligences is to set up intelligence stations or activity centers (Armstrong, 1994). These are learning centers with appropriate activities for each intelligence set up around the classroom. Activity centers can be designed to meet a number of instructional purposes. You might create permanent centers with the same materials at each station all year long and have students explore various topics using these permanent materials. Or you might change the contents of the stations throughout the year so that at the bodily-kinesthetic center, for instance, students can design pyramids using construction blocks while studying Ancient Egypt and later use manipulatives and abacuses to understand math concepts.

To make his stations particularly memorable for students, one teacher chose to use famous people to represent the intelligence of each station. His learning centers were labeled Maya Angelou's Station, Marie Curie's Station, Georgia O'Keeffe's Station, Ludwig von Beethoven's Station, Jackie Joyner-Kersee's Station, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Station, Socrates's Station, and Charles Darwin's Station. Before engaging in any activities, students read brief biographical descriptions and, wherever possible, experienced the work of each famous person (e.g., reading a selection of Angelou's poetry, listening to the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, listening to Dr. King's “I Have a Dream” speech). After students had learned about the eight people and their eight intelligences, the class discussed how intelligences are important in helping humans achieve great things.


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