Read an Excerpt
The MI Strategy Bank
800+ Multiple Intelligence Ideas for the Elementary Classroom
By Ellen Arnold
Chicago Review Press IncorporatedCopyright © 2007 Ellen Arnold
All rights reserved.
Ten Reasons to Do a Strength-Based Interview
1. Every learner is unique and needs ways to celebrate his or her uniqueness.
2. When students lose the belief in themselves, they cannot be successful.
3. Creative learning is never boring.
4. The responsibility for learning is the student's responsibility. But before students can take responsibility, they have to know what will work for them.
5. In order to take responsibility for learning, the learner must be metacognitive.
6. One teacher's strategies may not work for the student, even though they may work for the teacher.
7. Students who aren't effective in basic skills don't know what they need to do differently.
8. MI provides a reframe for students, a positive paradigm so they can have hope for success. "Just because you can't do it one way, doesn't mean you can't do it. You just need to do it your way."
9. Unsuccessful students are tunnel-visioned in their use of strategies. The regular way didn't work and no one gives them permission to do it in an alternative way.
10. Inappropriate behavior is often a signal of something the student is good at:
* The mover is demonstrating Body Smarts.
* The doodler is demonstrating Picture Smarts.
* The talker is demonstrating People Smarts.
* The one who says "let's get to the point" is demonstrating Number Smarts.
* The hummer is demonstrating Music Smarts.
* The arguer is demonstrating Word Smarts.
Your job is to help students identify strengths from their areas of competence, and teach them how to build bridges from those areas to the thinking we want them to develop.
The strength-based interview is conducted in five parts:
Part 1: Setting the Tone and Gathering Strength-Based Information
Part 2: Identifying a Problem
Part 3: Brainstorming with the Team
Part 4: Using Strategies Diagnostically with the Learner
Part 5: Following Up
Before You Begin
Put together a supply of materials or props that will help you conduct a strength-based interview.
The strength-based interview requires:
* Usually two sessions with the student, each approximately 20 minutes.
* A space where you are relatively free of distractions.
* A student whose primary issues are cognitive rather than emotional.
When you administer this interview, your job is to really listen. Listen not just to the overall content, but also to the wording and phrasing used, the verbs used, the way the learner describes his or her world. The questions below are meant to be options or prompts to get at the necessary information. You do not have to ask all the questions, nor use this exact wording. If you become stuck, the dialogue stimulators below are sure to work, but insert your own personality, your prior knowledge of the learner, or anything you have available to help you get at the key issues:
* How does this learner's brain work best?
* Under what conditions?
* Using which modalities?
* Using which intelligences or associations?
Setting the Tone and Gathering Strength-Based Information
* Set the tone
* Identify the expert
* Have student verbalize individual strengths
* Structure the student into a metacognitive dialogue
* Record (tape or notes) the learner's perceptions and validate the learner's experiences
Breaking the Ice
First, open a dialogue with your interviewee: "Our reason for meeting today is to find out more about your brain and how it works. We all have different ways in which our brains are smart, and I want to find out more about your brain." Alternatively, you can say, "You are the expert on how your brain works. I am going to ask you a bunch of questions to get you thinking about how your brain works best. You are free to answer in words or pictures, or to build things with any of the materials on the table." Have materials available from the list on page 3 that may be helpful to the child, such as markers, white board, pipe cleaners, plastic brain, Koosh ball, or other props.
Photocopy the form on the next two pages. Use this form to ask questions and to record the student's responses. These questions have been designed to elicit the student's self-perception as a learner. Again, don't feel as if you have to ask every question, but make sure you get enough information to really understand the learner.
If, after you have completed the interview, you have collected a tremendous amount of information, condense what you have onto a fresh page that can be used to share information and plan interventions.
If you are doing more than half the talking during the interview, you are not getting information from the real expert — the learner. Don't worry if the student talks about things that are not related to school. You are interested in the process of learning — when does it happen best and easiest. For example, the student who has already taken apart and rebuilt car stereos has learned a great deal of information, skills, and procedures. You just need to find out the magic formula for how the student learned it and how he or she remembers it. Later, you can help the student to translate that formula into school-related learning.
Introducing the Student to the Concept of Multiple Intelligences
Have the student use the eight toy props you collected (see page 3) to manipulate and organize responses. You may also use the eight Smart Part icons. You might read the first half of Brilliant Brain Becomes Brainy! as an introduction.
First, lay out the eight toys and let the student manipulate them.
Then introduce this material by putting the following quote into your own words.
"Here are eight symbols of the eight ways your brain is smart. All people have all eight of these intelligences in their brains. I want to make sure you understand how each one works, and then I am going to ask you to decide which one your brain is strongest at, and which ones your brain needs to work harder at in order to use them."
Do not teach or lecture about each Smart Part. Let the student tap prior experience or automatic associations as much as possible. Use prompts like the ones found on page 9if necessary to reframe or provide more information. Then ask what someone would be like if the person had this as a strength.
Use the student's response to check for accuracy in understanding. Encourage questions. Clarify any misconceptions, and add any of the following elements that the student may have left out.
Record a check when you feel the student has a good understanding of a Smart Part.
Once you have determined that the student understands the eight Smart Parts, ask the learner to rank them in order. Say, "Now, I would like to know which ones of these you think are your strongest and fastest Smart Parts, the parts you think work easiest in your brain. Move the toys (or icons) around and put them in the order that you think they work the best."
Record student choices on the table on page 11.
"Great. Now tell me what evidence you have for each one. For example, you said that______was first. Can you tell me why you put it first?"
Continue collecting evidence through all of the Smart Parts, recording the child's responses on the table on page 11.
Frequently Asked Questions About Conducting a Strength-Based Interview
Q: What if students do not understand one of the Smart Parts, which becomes clear when they give evidence?
A: Then reframe and reteach, or say, "That might be part of it, but I was thinking this Smart Part meant ..."
Q: What if the student has given you a lot of evidence for being one Smart Part in the strengths section, but denies it here?
A: You can say, "I wonder about____Smart. I thought I heard you say that that one was really strong when you talked about being good at______. What do you think?" Alternatively, say, "After listening to you, I wonder whether you may also be_____."
Q: What if the student's order is very different from what the student told you in the earlier interview?
A: Reframe and reteach, but remember: the student is the expert. Try to find out the reason for the student's response. Say, "You told me before that you were really, really good at making friends (or another characteristic), but you rated People Smart near the end. Help me to understand why you rated it that way." Once you have talked about it, allow the student the opportunity to rethink and reorder, but never change the sequence because you do not agree.
* To put the theory of MI in the perspective of the entire learning process
* To gather more information about the way the learner masters new information
In this segment of the interview you are trying to find out modality and output preferences, not just the intelligences used when learning and making connections internally. This often works better when you use the plastic brain. You may use pencils or pipe cleaners for input and output.
Say, "I want to know more about your brain. You have given me a lot of information about how you think and learn, and how your brain can store information, but I need to know a little more about how you learn. I want to know more about the best way to help move things into your brain and the best ways to find out if you really know something."
Identifying a Problem
* For a student to identify one skill or task to be improved
* To formalize the role of strategic intervention with the student
Keep this section of the interview short — only a few minutes. You do not want to dwell on the negative, but you do need the student to identify something to work on, such as a word that is hard to remember, a math fact, or a vocabulary word that is not understood. For older students, it may be organization skills or reading comprehension. Remember, the focus is on strengths, so do not dwell on areas of weakness.
Ask the questions in the chart on page 15, reordering the student's responses.
Summarize Your Interview
Conclude your interview with the student. Say, "I learned so much about you and your brain today. I learned that you are good at____and that you are confident using these Smart Parts (point to them). I also learned about the things that are hard for you. Did I get it right? Show me where I went wrong.
"I want to thank you for doing such a good job sharing. I am going to think about all the things I learned about you today. I will do some research on strategies that may be most helpful to you in becoming better at____, and then I will meet with you again and we can try some things that use your strengths. Is that OK?"
Brainstorming with the Team
In many schools, interviewers use their Child Study Team or Instructional Support Team (or whatever you call it in your building) to brainstorm potential strategies that will be effective for interviewed learners.
The interviewer presents:
* The completed Capture Sheet (the one-page summary)
* A hypothesis about the learner's cognitive strengths — what works best, the evidence given by the learner, and other supporting evidence
Then the team members brainstorm ideas that will tap into the learner's strengths as they work on the area(s) of weakness. For example, a Number Smart student who cannot remember how to spell words might start with counting the number of letters in a word, then look for patterns in the word, and then connect the word to a formula.
This book can be used as a resource by members of the team to stimulate conversations about the best possible strategies for this child to use.
If you are not part of a formal building team, create one with colleagues who seem able to reach learners that are hard for you to reach. Such variation indicates that their teaching profile/ learning profile may be different from yours, and therefore their creative and automatic use of strategies may be different. Their ideas and insights should prove very helpful.
Part 4: Using Strategies Diagnostically with the Learner
* To empower the learner by presenting a strategy that feels safe (because it taps into the learner's strengths)
* To identify whether this strategy can be used at the independent level
* To experiment with the potential success of this strategy
* To measure success of the strategy for you and for the learner
* To demonstrate to the learner that the right strategy influences and can change results
Once strategies have been identified, schedule another session with the learner to do some diagnostic teaching to see how it works. If the strategy really taps the learner's strengths, you should get reactions like "This was fun," or "I like this," or "I can learn this way."
Start by giving directions to the student: "Pick a word (or a number concept, or whatever the learner has identified as a problem) you would like to learn. Since you told me you were a______learner, we are going to experiment with a strategy from this Smart Part in order to use your brain's strongest or fastest parts." Help the child to identify a fact, word, concept, or skill.
Next, tap background knowledge or immediate associations. "What does this make you think of? How can you use your Smart Parts to connect to this? What is one way that you could remember this? What else can you think of?"
This exercise will often stimulate out-of-the-box thinking. You will need to be open-minded and nonjudgmental in order for this to work. Do not censure. Try to suggest strategies that tap the learner's strengths. Remember, the real expert is the learner.
Verbalize the strategy that is being used. Use "think alouds." Review the steps. Try it several times if appropriate. Scaffold it or tier it (i.e., teach incrementally) to make it successful. Slowly turn over ownership of the strategy to the student, commenting on what you are doing (scaffolding). Make strategy use explicit. Amend the strategy as you gather diagnostic information about the student's ability to use it effectively.
Once it has been mastered, have the student do a "think aloud" or, if nonverbal, draw a storyboard or a formula for the steps so that you can verify understanding.
* To obtain closure
* To verify understanding
* To identify next steps
Wrap up your intervention with the student. "I really enjoyed spending time with you and finding out more about your brain. I really liked that we were able to come up with some fun, new ways for you to learn. I just want to summarize what we learned about you and your brain."
Ask the questions in the table on page 19, and record the learner's responses. If you can tape-record the session (which I strongly recommend), you can offer to share the tape with the parents or another teacher, and give a copy of the tape to the child.
Now that you have all this wonderful data from the child, you can compress it in a user-friendly way that can be shared with the student and with the school personnel who will be involved in planning appropriate strength-based interventions. Here are some tips for using the Capture Sheet.
* Fill out the top half (information, student quotes, strengths and weaknesses) based on your completed interview; include two or three of the student's fastest or strongest Smart Parts.
* Fill out the Discussion/Activities section based on your diagnostic teaching with the child.
* Use key words, not sentences.
* Record the student's own words whenever possible.
* Use simple language, not jargon.
* Remember that your audience is the child first, then the supportive adults.
* Stay focused on the learner's strengths (this is why the Strengths box is so much larger than the Weaknesses box).
When you are finished, share the completed form with the student to check for accuracy. Then share it with the teachers and staff involved in the building team. After reviewing this document, participants should be able to brainstorm strength-based recommendations. Fill out the Recommendations box at the end of the meeting.
The Results box will be used when you review the case. The time frame can vary from two weeks to six months after the interview.
Excerpted from The MI Strategy Bank by Ellen Arnold. Copyright © 2007 Ellen Arnold. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
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