Resources for Teachers


Working from Strengths
(adapted from Edutopia website article on Key Learning Community)


Key Learning students work from their strengths -- often in elective classes called pods: K-8 students must choose a pod, which is usually multiage and multigrade and designed around the passion of a teacher or a team of teachers. Pods have had such names as Cover to Cover, in which students write books; Healthy Living; Creative Poetic Expression; Threads, Cloths, and Coverings; Managing Money and Finances; Literary Legends; and a movie-making pod called Take Five.

"Pods are a means to give teachers and students an opportunity to do something they really love and are passionate about," says history/geography teacher Geoff Davis.


Equally important is the "flow room," which K-5 students visit three or four times a week at the Key Learning Community and where they learn to immerse themselves in something of interest; the idea of flow was named, documented, and described by Hungarian-born psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. “He states that it is a place in the mind in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter, totally unaware of one’s surroundings but enjoying the task and having fun while do so. To get into flow, the activity must not be too easy as to be boring or too difficult so that it is frustrating….To achieve Flow, a person must set clear goals before they start the activity. Without a goal, flow is difficult to concentrate and focus on the activity. Learning to manage one’s goals is an important step in achieving excellent in everyday life. Also to learn anything in depth, one must learn to focus one’s attention. The flow experience acts as a magnet for learning and for developing new levels of challenges and skills. Key Learning Community offers activities in the Flow Room such as games, puzzles, manipulatives, projects, and other challenges in the multiple intelligences. ” writes KLC teacher Mrs. Hoeltke.

Theme-Based, Integrated Curriculum

Although teachers carefully plan what their students need to know in accordance with Indiana state standards and Key Learning's own competencies, the best way they have found for students to acquire information and critical-thinking skills is through projects.

Teachers, in consultation with students, spend a fair amount of time in the spring coming up with possibilities for themes for the next school year. Parents, community members, and other interested parties can provide input. The faculty makes the final decision, and themes are selected for fall and spring. In the 2001-02 school year, themes included "Our World at Play" and "Movements" for K-8 students, and "Shared Use of Symbols" and "Shared Life Cycle" for high school students.

The themes are used to tie together what is being learned in core classes, and the students are challenged to develop a major project related to the theme. The projects are presented to peers and interested parties, such as parents, and the presentations are videotaped. Students are expected to teach their peers what they have learned in an interesting way. They are also expected to answer questions posed by peers and adults to demonstrate depth of understanding on their chosen topic.

Project-based Learning:

Project Based Learning is an instructional approach built upon authentic learning activities that engage student interest and motivation. These activities are designed to answer a question or solve a problem and generally reflect the types of learning and work people do in the everyday world outside the classroom.
Project Based Learning is synonymous with learning in depth. A well-designed project provokes students to encounter (and struggle with) the central concepts and principles of a discipline.

Project Based Learning teaches students 21 st century skills as well as content. These skills include communication and presentation skills, organization and time management skills, research and inquiry skills, self-assessment and reflection skills, and group participation and leadership skills.

Project Based Learning is generally done by groups of students working together toward a common goal. Performance is assessed on an individual basis, and takes into account the quality of the product produced, the depth of content understanding demonstrated, and the contributions made to the ongoing process of project realization.

Authentic Assessment

Video portfolios made up of student presentations over the years are of interest to students and parents. For example, students often reflect on the kind of work they did as younger students while they plan new projects, and parents can clearly see ways in which their children have grown and how their knowledge on a topic has deepened.

"If you look at projects of a particular child over a long period of time -- such as through grades K-8, which is what I do every summer -- one of the things you find out is that you get a very strong sense of who the child is, what they're interested in, and actually what their process of learning is," explains teacher Beverly Hoeltke.
Teachers do not give grades, because they feel that getting a grade, even an A, limits students in their performance and sends the wrong message about motivation, which they want to come from within the child. The progress report details a student's performance in each of the multiple intelligences on three dimensions -- progress, participation, and performance -- and includes self-assessment.

Progress is indicated by N (needs help), S (steady progress), or R (rapid progress). For participation, students receive a triangle (intrinsically motivated), a square (extrinsically motivated), an X (disruptive), or a circle (passive). "That is the absolute worst thing to happen on your progress report -- to be given a circle," explains Bolaños. "It means that you are not participating at all. And that's very bad. That's worse than an F to get a circle."

Progress reports also explain where students are on the road toward becoming experts in subject matter. Rankings such as novice, apprentice, and journeyman are used, as well as indicators of level of student achievement that start with universal level and work up to discipline level.

Multiple Intelligences Lesson / Unit Planning
Adapted from T. Armstrong (1994) and L. Campbell (1992)
Click here to view a sample MI Math Lesson.
Step 1: Focus on a Specific Objective or Topic
- What is the core information or idea to be learned?
- How do I feel about this and why it is important to the students?
- What do students already know about this topic?
- Clearly and concisely state the objective and desired outcome.

Step 2: Ask Key MI Questions
- How to bring in numbers, calculations, explicit logic, classifications, critical thinking?
- How to use the spoken or written word?
- How to use visual aids, visualizations, video, photographs, drawing, metaphors?
- How to incorporate songs, music, sound effects, rhythmic or melodic memory aids?
- How to use the whole body, gestures, role play or other hands-on experiences?
- How to engage students in peer sharing, cooperative or family-based learning?
- How evoke personal feelings, memories, give choices or recognize individual strengths?
- How to activate awareness of the natural world; plants and animals?

Step 3: Brainstorm The Possibilities
- Review MI Toolbox, Menu or Portfolio ideas to prime your creative pump.
- With a friend or colleague list as many ideas as possible for each intelligence.
- Consider all possibilities even the wild and crazy ideas!
- Seek input from students or consider their dominant intelligences.

Step 4: Select the Appropriate Activities
- Circle one activity under each intelligence that seems most workable.
- Consider integrated project possibilities and cooperative learning opportunities.

Step 5: Set up a Sequential Plan
- Create a time-line with necessary materials, people and other resources.
- How will these activities relate the new learning to life beyond the school?
- Can this Plan fit into a larger theme?

Step 6: Build in Assessment and Performance Opportunities
- Arrange for various types of appropriate assessment
- Self-evaluation, ongoing interim feedback, final results appraisal

Step 7: Celebrate the New Learning!!

M.I. Research and Consulting Inc.

Avenues of Teaching and Instruction

Intrapersonal: "Know Thyself and to Thine Own Self Be True"
1) Reflect on your teaching strategies. Which MI tools are missing? Where to expand?
2) Teach students different study strategies based on MI strengths.
3) Connect new information to what students already know.
4) How each student (and you, too!) feels about a topic matters.
5) Use regular goal setting, progress reports and reflection times during class.

Interpersonal: "Please Understand Me!"
1) Recognize, empathize, challenge and support each students' MI strengths / limitations.
2) Create respectful classroom culture. Values, rules, respect & conflict solutions.
3) Community service learning action projects.
4) Mentoring, apprenticeships and peer tutoring.

Logical-mathematical: "Why? Because it's Only Logical."
1) Tests of calculation, problem-solving and step-by-step critical thinking.
2) Describe, quantify, classify, analyze and synthesize. Create explanatory time-lines.
3) Why ask Why? Promote intellectual curiosity, hypothetical and predictive thinking.
4) Link mathematical and verbal-logical thinking in symbols, words, designs and actions.

Linguistic: "Tell Me in Words: Written or Spoken and I will Understand."
1) Explain in words. Have students write out information. Memorize vocabulary.
2) Use Socratic questioning.
3) Create a debate with point-counter point or convincing sales speeches.
4) Tell a story or read a poem.

Musical: "Sounds Good to Me!"
1) Use sounds, voice and songs for enhancing presentations, projects & environment.
2) Who are the musically strong students? Involve them often in topic investigations.
3) Teach rhymes, chants and songs as powerful means of memorizing
4) What song best introduces or captures something special about this topic?

Kinesthetic: "Movement is FUNdamental!"
1) Use drama, skits, role-playing to embody concepts, ideas and information.
2) Use movement breaks and gestures to enliven math, reading and other academics.
3) Roll up your sleeves and make hands-on learning happen. Constructions and models.
4) Invent a coordination or athletic game.

Spatial: "What You See Is What You Get. Imagine That!"
1) Engage metaphorical thinking, "I see what you mean".
2) Use memorable images to communicate. Movies, photographs and performances.
3) Teach mind-mapping and other visual organizers. "Color my world with learning".
4) Beyond the chalkboard: Models, CAD, finger-paints, laser printers and video.

Naturalist: "It's Alive! Investigations of Life in the Natural World"
1) Observe carefully and record data of life in a particular environment.
2) Describe relationships among living things and the world.
3) Consider, What is necessary for life to thrive?
4) Capture the essential nature of life in a work of art.

MIDAS Parent Conference TIPS and Script
The following script demonstrates how to discuss students’ profiles with parents.
"One thing I wanted to go over with you tonight is your child's MIDAS Profile. Are you familiar with the 8 different areas that it covers? Remember that questionnaire that you completed a while ago?
Here is a chart of the 8 different areas. These are some of our core learning goals in our curriculum.

Thank you for completing this questionnaire. It really helps us to understand how each child has unique patterns of abilities. What we do is compare what you report seeing your child do at home with what we're seeing at school. It is amazing how children can act so differently in different contexts!

First, I want to say that I was happy to see that your are reporting agrees with that your child does here in 1 - 8 different areas: specifically…….

1. Areas of Agreement:

Talk about the areas of agreement on the Profile what match with your observations in the classroom.
- Math-logic = math tests, homework\
- Linguistic = vocabulary, reading, verbal skill (story telling)
- Spatial = art and craft and construction projects

2. Areas for further exploration:

"There are / is an area (s) that I'm uncertain about and would like more information from what you see at home. Maybe you're seeing your child do things differently that what s/he is doing at home. It would help me to understand this better.
There are 2 areas. First, S/he seems to have some problem with math logic and this is very different from your high rating on that scale. For example, he seems to easily forget …..on subtraction problems.
Could you tell me more about his use of math and problem-solving at home? "

3. Building problem-areas:

"Your child could benefit from some extra practice at home on his letter recognition skills. He is still confusing b and d and e and f. I know this is boring stuff can we think of a way that we can use her strong interest and skill in crafts to cut and paste these letters with you saying them aloud at the same time? Something like that that would be fun and yet skill building, too."

4. Accentuating Strengths:

"Lastly, but perhaps of most importance, I want to strongly encourage you to be aware of your child's unique strengths. It is too easy for us to just focus on helping to improve weaknesses. Here are a list of fun activities that you can look over and consider how you can offer your child opportunities to enhance her intellectual strengths. For example, since your child excels in Spatial you might consider regular visits to the art museum. I hear that they have Saturday morning art classes just for kids. You might even set up a "art corner" in a room and stock it with your child's favorite materials. Add to them regularly. You don't have to spend a lot of money. You can even make your own play dough and make sculptures out of interesting sticks. "