Journal

Summary

A Jewish Multiple Intelligence Junior High School Curriculum

Semadar Goldstein

People learn in different ways. One person is linguistically strong while another excels in interpersonal or visual-spatial skills. Howard Gardner analyzes the different learning styles people have and labels them Multiple Intelligences (MI). The Multiple Intelligences are linguistic, logical-mathematical, visual-spatial, bodilyĖkinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and natural. Gardner encourages teachers to relate information in many different styles in order to access all students in the classroom.

Last year for the ATID project, the author adapted these creative teaching methods to the Bible classroom. In continued research, the author discovered that Multiple Intelligence Schools have developed Howard Gardnerís theories into an entire school curriculum, not just individual lesson plans. Gardnerís goals are to create a relevant learning environment for children. This means that students can gain skills and develop character in ways that will positively influence them. Gardner outlines the following elements for a MI based school curriculum. All of the elements are adapted to a Judaic Studies curriculum in the project and briefly explained below. They are:

Character Development:
Without character development, Gardner claims that we have missed the point in education. One must educate students to be contributing members of society. This means educating beyond the classroom, beyond the text and the test. Behaving morally and understanding and implementing Jewish values are far more important lessons than knowing another chapter in Tanach.

Education for Understanding (Applied Knowledge):
For knowledge to be gained, students must successfully apply it in new situations. Gardner calls this education for understanding. He writes how infrequently education for understanding occurs in elementary, high school and college graduates.

An Interdisciplinary Curriculum:
Teaching thematically encourages education for understanding. A current school curriculum consists of individual, unrelated classes. If all subjects overlap one theme, knowledge is more easily absorbed, longer retained, constantly tested and applied, and allows a student to question, explore and challenge information more fully. MI schools usually conduct three thematic units per year.

Student Projects and Evaluations:
Far more exhaustive than tests, research projects allow students to explore subjects at their own pace, and present their findings in ways they enjoy that best express their intelligences. At the end of each theme-based unit of instruction, students present projects. Teachers guide, stimulate and provide encouragement to students, in addition to offering a variety of presentation methods based on the various intelligences. At the end of each project, students evaluate their work through written and audio-visual aids.

Mentors and Apprenticeships:
Students are able to choose from a variety of subjects that interest them and actually work with a specialist in the field at school. Projects are created under the guidance of the specialist, questions are answered, goals set and accomplished. Different options are available each semester, or the student may choose to continue in the same field. Another effective method of apprenticeship training is sending students to work with professionals. This has proven to be highly beneficial for both parent and child. Gardner believes that apprenticeship training should cover three different intelligences Ė one in the arts, one in academia, and one in dance or sports.

Motivated Learning:
The above factors stimulate the natural desire of a child to learn. A relevant, exciting curriculum, as well as teachers who focus on utilizing all intelligences in the classroom will produce more highly and naturally motivated students.

ADAPTATION

The author adapted the book of Exodus to a Jewish Studies MI curriculum. Following the thematic learning system, the book is divided into three sections or themes; Ancient Egypt, Wanderings in the Desert and the Building of the Tabernacle. The project focuses on Section I, Ancient Egypt. A sample weekly schedule is included in the project. An interdisciplinary Judaic studies curriculum would cover the following topics in relation to Ancient Egypt: Bible, Navi, Mishna, Talmud, Jewish Law, Jewish history and Hebrew language. In addition to learning the first few chapters of Exodus chronologically, students focus on themes that overlap all subjects, including those belonging to ďgeneral studiesĒ (math, science, geography, social studies, drama, art and music). Students are not only studying text but also creating a miniature Ancient Egypt in their classrooms. All themes are taught using MI intelligences, with students breaking up into groups and creating projects on material they have learned. Upon completion, students present their findings to the class.

STUDENT PROJECTS, OCCUPATIONS AND EVALUATIONS

Three separate student projects are conducted each year, in collaboration with the themes studied in an interdisciplinary curriculum. In order to connect the project to a MI curriculum, the author combined occupation and projects. The student chooses an occupation of interest mentioned or referred to in the Bible. Then, he must explore it using other Biblical references and commentaries, include world knowledge, explain the occupationís relevance to Ancient Egyptian times, and compare it to its modern day equivalent, if one exists. Most importantly, to enhance character development, the student must make a creative contribution to the profession after having evaluated the professionís requirements and services provided. If available, students go to work with someone in the field. Students are also expected to prepare related projects at home from a suggested list of MI presentations. Teachers give no grades, but thorough evaluations are conducted. As a sample, the author researched the occupation of midwifery. Her findings are included in the project.

MITZVAH HUNT, BIBLICAL LEADERS, AND BIBLICAL LINGUISTICS

The author created these three unique classes for a MI curriculum. Ideas were based on Gardnerís criterion that the courses overlap the interdisciplinary theme, are easily adapted to student created projects, and require applied knowledge. The Mitzvah Hunt is where students search the text, evaluating which mitzvoth are mentioned in their theme and why. This also gives the student Jewish global knowledge of the mitzvah and its context. Biblical leaders are researched in an effort to study their outstanding character traits and incorporate them in the studentsí lives. Biblical Linguistics is a course intended to increase sensitivity and locations of word subtleties in the Bible.

In the project, advantages and disadvantages of adapting Gardnerís work are outlined. Some major advantages increased class participation, a reduction of disciplinary problems, inclusion of all student skills in the classroom, relevant and exciting coursework, character improvement, vocational training, and retained knowledge.

Tremendous workload for teachers, staff resistance to implementing a new curriculum, and less coverage are a few examples of why parents and educators would not welcome MI in their schools. Plus, all the ideas suggested in this paper have not yet been put to practice. The author hopes to implement as many of these innovative ideas as possible, but recognizes that community staff effort is required. The author firmly believes in the educational and pedagogical rewards in implementing MI for both teacher and student.

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