Using Multiple Intelligences in the Bible Classroom

Musical Intelligence:
Remarkably, musical intelligence emerges earliest in life . People with musical intelligence have an ability to “produce and appreciate rhythm, pitch, and timbre; [they have an] appreciation of…musical expressiveness .” Musicians translate their environment into tune and song . They think via rhythms and melodies. Composers constantly hear “‘tones in their head’ – that is, he is always, somewhere near the surface of his consciousness, hearing tones, rhythms, and larger musical patterns. While many of these patterns are worth little musically,…it is the composer’s lot constantly to be monitoring and reworking these patterns .”
These are students who love singing, whistling, humming, tapping their feet and hands , or their pens on their desks (a quick solution – tell them to pat their pens on their clothes insteadJ). These kids can quickly create a tune for any statement, and try your patience with their constant defenses of “but I’m just humming” when asked to stop interrupting the class. They honestly don’t realize they’re disrupting and driving you nuts.
I had a 6th grade student (12 year old) who insisted on laining any verse he was asked to read. The class loved it; the girls would cheer when he was finished and the boys would correct him when necessary. I noted the increase in class participation and allowed him to continue. Other kids asked to lain as well. Despite my hesitation that class control would deteriorate, I let them, since class did not become as unruly as I had predicted .
If this is your child, you will notice a talent in playing a musical instrument, singing, or an interest to participate in a choir. He/She can easily recall melodies of songs and will lovingly alert you if you are singing off key.
I met with Composer Stephen Horenstein, of Jerusalem Fellows, who suggested that I create my own musical project. I chose a song. Being that my musical background
consists of playing the guitar and violin for a month when I was 12, I was not looking forward to this. After procrastinating for a few weeks, I sat down to give it a plunge.
Stephen gave me the following guidelines for musical practices to compose the song, which helped.
Pulse/loudness Speed Pitch*
Loud Soft Fast Slow High
H Medium
M Slow
Accents / emphasis Source of song or words How to teach pitch to students
Which part of the word or sound to emphasize, using these symbols:
^, – like in laining. In our case, the Book of Samuel is the source. Use bodily movements, musical graphs and charts, or oral instruction.
*The concept for high-medium-low for learning and distinguishing musical pitch has been clearly presented in Paul Hindersmith’s Elementary Training for Musicians. This has been proven to be an effective method for teaching beginning musicians and children.
Illustrated example:
Stephen told me that half my battle was over, as I had a text, and just needed to put music to the words. This is what I composed: See Hebrew Song Sheet Addendum A2a:
First, divide the class into groups. The group which chooses to create a song would receive the guidelines Stephen gave me, plus additional information as to what musical instruments were available in post-Biblical times. The group would also be given Source Sheet 2 to enhance their comprehension. Once the research is completed, I would orally evaluate their comprehension. They could then begin work on creating their own tune. When all the groups finish their assignment, they could present their work. The song would be sung before the class.
Stephen suggested a few teaching methods if I would want to teach my song to my students. The suggestions included floor graphs, written music, or wall charts where you assign each student a ‘high,’ ‘medium,’ or ‘low’ pitch. I opt for a combination of floor graph and key assignment. Line students up in two rows:
Divide the paragraphs into lines 1-2, sung by low and medium tones, and lines 3-4, to be sung with medium and higher tones. Teach each students in the given row their part. By the end, each row of students will sing their given line.
In Hindersmith notation, it would look like this:
Each participating student could graph the song him/herself, and teach other students not involved in their group.
I did not implement this in a classroom, but I presume students would react similarly to the way I did. I felt proud and satisfied once my goal was accomplished. In all honesty, I had not been that excited to undertake this project. I think that I should be able to accomplish whatever I ask of my students, so I tried. Succeeding was rewarding, as it would be for students, increasing motivation and interest in the topic.
• I had successfully completed a goal I originally thought I wouldn’t do too well. Not only that, but the creating process was fun, and the results were satisfying.
• I felt that my song reflected the intense mood of the verses. This creates an empathy in me towards the Biblical character.
• I carried thoughts of Tanakh with me during and after the day when I was composing the tune. Whenever I hear my students voluntarily echoing phrases of Tanakh in an informal setting, I consider the day’s lesson a job well done. Here too, my mind was preoccupied with these particular phrases. I learned some phrases by heart as a result of study and practice, which is always a bonus in learning Tanakh.
• The material I was working with was self-taught, accomplished through facilitated guidance – just the way I like my students to work.
• The time factor was again an issue. Taking up a good two to three hours to compose, chart and type, I do not know how many teachers would want to donate classroom time to this sort of work. Only if a teacher is highly devoted to the advantages of incorporating the MI theory in a classroom could I see this process actualized . See personal and student goals on page 14 for motivation reminders.
A logical-mathematical student shows strength in logical and deductive reasoning. “Like a painter or poet, a mathematician is a maker of patterns; but the special characteristics of mathematical patterns are that they are more likely to be permanent because they are made with ideas.” He thinks logically and clearly through reasoning and can easily interpret numerical patterns.
Solving the unsolvable excites a mathematician . He excels at experimentation, logic puzzles, calculations . Your Logical – Mathematical students will try your patience with “wait – that doesn’t make sense” and insist on ample repetitions until the explanation satisfies his step by step mental process. “How does this work?” is a frequently asked question. If this is your child, you will see proficiency in math, computers, and other strategy games.
This assignment was implemented in the Yeshiva of Flatbush, 1995-6. After completing Samuel 1:7, the class reviewed each city the Ark had rested since the beginning of the book, how the residents had treated it, and what happened to them as a result. We also discussed the significance of the unrest of the Ark and how that represented Jewish life at the time. See Handout A4 for lesson plan.
I asked the boys to create a visual display of the treatment of the Ark in each city, something that would show me “How was the Ark treated?” The next day, Gadi, a quiet, intelligent boy, approached me and handed me a chart. He had graphed the rise and fall of the holiness of the treatment of the Ark. He had incorporated the lesson plan of the previous day, including the names of the Philistine and Jewish cities, and how each had viewed the Ark. See Handout A4a. I was so pleased that I photocopied his sheet with a map on the other side and distributed it to the class.
Other students commented on Gadi’s mathematical skills, and after this, I could understand why. His neat, organized thinking is clearly displayed. A numerical equation could easily be added to his work. The exactness and accuracy for detail show
Gadi’s talent as a logical thinker. I was thrilled that he could express his skill while studying Prophets. The students could clearly see an outline of the lessons discussing the Ark through Gadi’s chart. Although this was before I had begun my research of Gardner’s MI, I am proud to show that I was using his work.
The next assignment is a combination of Spatial Intelligence and Bodily – Kinesthetic Intelligence.
Spatial learners think in images and pictures. In order to learn, they need something to see, draw, or build . These students perceive the “visual world accurately…perform transformations and modifications upon…initial perceptions, and [are] able to re-create aspects of one’s visual experience, even in the absence of relevant physical stimuli.” This is more colloquially known as ‘artistic.’ Between 30-35 percent of your students are visual learners.
Spatially intelligent students thrive on involvement in visually stimulating activities, such as painting, drawing, puzzles, mazes, collages, flow charts and map drawings. Videos, slides and artwork are also appreciated by the spatial learner . A simpler way to stimulate a spatial learner is by using graphic symbols or visual organizers in the classroom. Attribute symbols to a topic or theme studied. If you are listing three items, draw a triangle and put one item in each corner.
Bodily-Kinesthetically gifted students can skillfully move, control and coordinate themselves and other objects. “They move their bodies through space with grace, strength and ease.” Approximately 15-20 percent of students are learners who benefit mostly from tactile stimulation.
This is an unusual expression of intelligence in a classroom. At first, accepting skilled use of the body as a form of intelligence is difficult. Our culture does not value physical intelligence as much as mental intelligence. Kinesthetic Intelligence is considered “less privileged than problem-solving routines carried out chiefly through the use of language [and] logic.… ” Gardner quotes novelist Norman Mailer, who writes that “there are languages other than words, languages of symbol and languages of nature. There are languages of the body .” If you connect a good ball player or a builder to a surgeon, then it is easier to respect this form of intelligence. These forms may be
connected because they are all associated with receptor control, incredible timing, and keen fluency, claims British psychologist Sir Frederic Bartlett .
These students are top ball players, skilled pencil throwers and chair balancers. They excel at dance, acting and building models . They also can be the most difficult to interest and the most disruptive, because they learn through touching and moving, which, unfortunately, are not popular activities in the Tanakh classroom. The only place to which bodily-kinesthetic students usually move is the hallway or the principal’s office.
Gil, a student in my 6th grade boys’ class Yeshiva of Flatbush , had no shortage of family problems nor learning disabilities. Next to his name in my grade book were lots of little “x’s” under “homework,” and “prepared for class.” Once, when he told me that he did his homework, the whole class cheered.
The day I bravely entered the classroom with art supplies in hand, I had Gil in mind. I told my students that each had to prepare a model and map of the travels of the Ark based on what we had learned in Samuel:1-7 (similar to the model I have prepared). The boys eagerly grabbed the supplies, excited to have a break from reading and writing, now able to stand up, move around, and talk to one another during class. While supervising the ensuing minor mania which occurred in a class of 30 twelve year old boys, I noticed Gil approach my desk and take his share of supplies. He returned to his desk, clarified the assignment with me (by asking “what are we supposed to do again?)” and engrossed himself in his work. I had never seen him engrossed in anything before. I didn’t hear from him for the next 40 minutes. At the end of the lesson, Gil approached me shyly. He had built a traveling Ark, attaching a small model of the Ark to a paper clip, and from underneath the oaktag, dragged the Ark along the posted cities. He was familiar with the Philistine cities and he was clearly proud of himself. I stopped the class and showed the other boys his work, which was better than many of the typical ‘straight A’ students. He was so pleased with himself and my effusive reaction, he couldn’t stop smiling.
This was the closest I’d come to Gil the whole year. He had displayed independent thought, maturity, recall and a little bit of analysis to create his project. He had
accomplished it on his own, and most importantly to me, he was excited about learning. The Book of Samuel had suddenly become important to him. As I had hoped, for the next little while, Gil was prepared for class, motivated to learn, and expressed interest in our studies, even when we returned to traditional activities.
This assignment is a combination of a few lessons in Samuel 1:1-7. The goal is to create a visual display of
i) the Philistine cities which appear frequently in Samuel.
ii) the perception of the different reactions of the Jews and the Philistines to the Ark, based on simple text and additional commentaries.
See Lesson Plan, Travels of the Ark, Chapters 4-7, Handout A4
See Visual Display – “The Travels of the Ark, Samuel 1:1-7”
Explanation of Visual Display “The Travels of the Ark, Samuel 1:1-7”
This three-dimensional display combines my lesson plan on Samuel 1:1-7 with Gadi’s chart, adding a bodily-kinesthetic angle. The base is a map of Israel, with each flagged city noting the chronological order of the travels of the Ark. Each city is given a symbol to indicate how the Ark was treated or what happened to the people there. On the side of the map are textual verses on which I based the symbols. A model of the Ark lies on the map, ready to travel.
When Samuel 1 begins, the Ark is in Shiloh, and while Samuel is the residing prophet, the Ark is treated with appropriate respect. Therefore, a sun is chosen as a sign that “all is well.” Soon after, relations with the Philistines heat up and a battle ensues. The relating verses state that the Ark was viewed as a symbol of strength and power, thus, a man flexing his muscles is chosen as a symbol of Even Haezer. After the Ark’s capture in Chapter 5, the Ark is taken to Ashdod and placed next to the Philistine god, Dagon, as a symbol of victory. A ribbon represents the attitude that the Philistines viewed the Ark as a war prize. It is therefore placed next to a clay model of Dagon (half man, half beast, according to the Metzudat David). Because of the ensuing ‘bad luck’ the Ark brings to the Philistines and their god, the Ark is sent to Gat. There, the Philistines are stricken with an unusual disease involving mice. There are pictures of two mice in both Gat and Ekron, where the G-d strikes the Philistines with this plague to punish them for capturing the Ark and assuming the punishment came from the Ark itself.
The Red Cross symbol shows the dire straits of the Philistines. The Philistines finally agree to return the Ark to the Jews, eager to rid themselves of their disease. The Jews, overeager to welcome back the Ark, transgress, and verses tell us that they looked inside the Ark at the tablets inside. This event is represented by tablets with an “x” through it. Finally, the Ark finds a happy home in Kiryat Yearim, where Elazar cares for it, treating it with proper respect. The sun symbol returns to show that all is well with the Ark again.