How I created multiple intelligences centers

This page provides resources to help you integrate Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory into your regular classroom practices. You’ll find photos of multiple intelligences centers I created and links to other web resources for MI surveys, songs, games, and more.

How I created multiple intelligences centers

One year, I based my centers on Howard Gardner’s MI theory (the idea that everyone is smart in a variety of ways, not just those traditionally valued by schools).  I was inspired to do this because I was taking over the Talented and Gifted students for the third grade and wanted to try some new ways to differentiate centers so both my gifted and below-grade-level students would be accommodated.

At the beginning of the year, I gave the kids a Multiple Intelligence Survey so they would become more aware of their learning style and strengths.  After completing the survey, they graphed their different strengths and wrote about how they learn best.

Most of the centers focused on literacy skills, especially spelling (which encompassed a variety of skills that I would later come to call Word Work.) I designed the centers so that students would practice the same basic skills each day, but in different ways depending on which center they were using.  For example, in a Bodily-Kinesthetic center, students might lay on the floor and do 3-D rubbings of their spelling words, while in a Logical Mathematical center, they may do a word join like the game Scrabble using their spelling words.  Within the center for each type of intelligence, there were several activity choices so students could never claim to be “done” with a center or complain they had already completed everything there.

When they began using centers in late September, I assigned a different area to each child each day. This way, we could practice the routines and children could familiarize themselves with all the materials and tasks. The spinning wheel (attached to the poster board with a brad) in the photo to the left shows how the rotation works. Every student was assigned a number (which was used in many elements of our classroom). So for example, on the day shown in the photo, students #1 and 2 would go to Number Smart, student #3 would go to Discovery Smart, etc. Since there were more students than centers, I allowed two students to use one center at a time, which worked fine since there were a variety of materials within each. Having two days in a row for some centers also enabled children to go more in-depth with the tasks. Later in the school year, I intended to give more element of choice with the centers so students could practice their skills in ways that corresponded with their personal intelligences, but found that this structure was very successful and used it the majority of the time.

Students kept their work in a composition book which I checked periodically. They were not assessed on the centers because the primary purpose was practice. Since it took 6-8 weeks for students to do the full center rotation, I only changed the materials about once per quarter.  As a result, this system was very easy to maintain!

The photos below show my centers divided by the type of intelligence they utilize.  The top line in each heading uses the technical name of the intelligence devised by Howard Gardner. The line underneath contains the sub-categories that I used because they’re in kid-friendly terms. You can click any photo to enlarge it.

Logical-mathematical intelligence:
Logic smart, thinking smart, number smart

Word Join: Students use the letters to make their spelling words. I found this in a dollar store.

Fun With Riddles: This center was devised by the Prince Georges County (MD) school system, and involves multiple meaning word matching.

The Museum Center: from the same school systeml. Random items (magnet, clothespin, tiny pencil, jack from a jacks game, toy truck, etc.) are placed in a bag. Students choose a task card that requires them to use critical thinking skills as they examine and write about the objects. Cards range from tasks that ask them to sort the objects according to pre-determined and self-selected categories, to speculative tasks about how a future civilization would view us if they found only this bag of objects as remains from our culture. Very imaginative and gifted students often choose this center repeatedly when they went to Thinking Smart.

Intra-personal intelligence:
Self smart

“In My Book…”: This center’s title is a play on words alluding to both a book and the expression meaning “in my opinion”. Students choose any reading material that interests them (even magazines, newspapers, cookbooks, etc.–things they may not normally read during school hours) and then reflect on what they read using the prompts you see above. The left part of the file folder explains what to write for each prompt in case students need more detailed instructions.

Musical-rhythmic intelligence:
Music smart

Listening Center: In this center, students listen to books on tape, then draw a picture of their favorite part and write at least five sentences. I tried to choose books which use rhythmical language, poetry, or include music in the story. Sometimes I changed the tasks based on the story they heard.

Another Music Smart center uses a times tables cassette tape.  Students listen to the math facts being sung on tape while following along with the lyrics on paper or just closing their eyes and listening.  After the song ends, they write the times table that they just heard on the tape.  They repeat for as many songs as they have time for.

Naturalist intelligence:
Discovery smart, nature smart

Weird Facts: This center includes National Geographic magazines, Time for Kids, Scholastic News, and science-related books for kids on a rotational basis. Students read stories and then record an interesting (“weird”) fact they read in the blue book. The book is simply photocopies of a page that asks children to record their names, the date, the title of the publication they read, the title of the article, the author, and what the weird fact was. I bound the pages together using a book binding machine my school had, but you could use a three ring binder (it would probably be more durable, too). I kept the same book for two years, so students enjoyed reading what previous classes and current classmates read about.

Reading to Learn: This center focuses on reading-to-be-informed tasks. It’s a part of Nature smart, so students read papers or books in the center about different animals. They then create a four square graphic organizer showing what they learned.

Verbal-linguistic intelligence:
Word smart, poetry smart, book smart

Stir the Stew: Word Smart centers are mostly making words activities. In Stir the Stew, students use a small ladle to scoop letter tiles out of a bowl (in this picture, I just show the baggie). They then use the worksheet to record the words they create using only the letters they scooped out. Each section of the worksheet is for a different length of word: two letter words, three letter words, etc. Students could easily just write the words in their journals so you don’t have to photocopy worksheets. I had students glue this form in their composition books where they kept the rest of their center work.

Poetry Center: This center focuses on reading fluency and expression.

Your Own Library: This Book Smart center was incredibly quick to make! Students get to choose anything they want to read in the classroom library. This was a big treat! Students could spread out and have the whole area to themselves as they read any materials of their choosing, including easy picture books, class-made books, magazines, and other materials didn’t normally get a chance to look at.

Another Word Smart center is Magnetic Poetry, which provides sentence structure and parts of speech practice. You can find that on the Easy & Creative Centers page.

Bodily-kinesthetic intelligence:
Body smart

Word Rubbings: This is a fun one! The ABC puzzle is from the dollar store. The pieces are textured, so they’re perfect for rubbings.

Other Bodily-Kinesthetic centers use books with manipulatives. I used a Hershey fraction book (with brown construction paper photocopies of the chocolate bar sections) and a Valentine candy heart multiplication/division book (with real candy hearts that students know are very old and not edible!). I don’t think the candy heart book is still in print, but there are other similar books that can be used for great hands-on math practice activities.

Interpersonal intelligence:
People smart

Write a Message: The focus here is writing for a meaningful purpose. Many students only write in school, and because they have to–this is an opportunity to show them that writing can be fun and useful in their own lives,. They can write a letter to whoever they want, and after showing it in to me after center time, can give it to that person. Students use different colored ink pens, which makes it really fun!  The left side of the folder demonstrates proper letter writing format, which I insist on towards the end of the year, although I allow casual notes in the beginning. You could also use this center for formal/business letter practice.

Another People Smart center involves autobiographies and biographies, and students are asked to reflect on the character’s lives and often their own.  I discuss the concept of using children’s books as centers on the Ideas for Free Centers page.

Visual-spatial intelligence:
Picture smart, art smart

Writing Wonders: In Picture Smart, students use photos and drawings as an inspiration for their writing. They can also be given specific tasks, such as writing five verbs they see, ten adjectives for a picture they think is pretty or interesting, creating captions or headlines, a dialogue with quotation marks for two people in an ad, etc.

In Art Smart, students choose an art task sheet to complete. My co-worker created and typed these.

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Angela is a National Board Certified Teacher with 11 years of classroom experience and 7 years experience as an instructional coach. As founder of Due Season Press and Educational Services, she has created printable curriculum resources, 4 books, 3 online courses, the Truth for Teachers podcast, and The 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club. Subscribe via email to get her best content sent to your inbox!

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jean Marie Graham January 13, 2011 at 11:40 pm

Thank you for the great ideas! I plan on admiring and acquiring some centers and sharing your site with some of my colleagues. Thanks!


2 Heather Westad July 10, 2011 at 5:37 pm

WOW! So easy and so useful! I am definitely going to make some these for the coming year! Thank you for the great ideas!


3 Angela Watson July 19, 2011 at 5:57 pm

You’re welcome, Heather!


4 Dee July 26, 2011 at 4:21 pm

These activity ideas are great. Can you email the MI activities to me? They are great!!


5 Angela Watson August 16, 2011 at 10:59 am

Hi, Dee! Everything that I have is available on the website. Some of those centers I only have in hard copy form (already cut apart into centers) since they came from before the days of scanning and email attachments! I’m sorry! I’ve tried to give as much info as I can so that teachers can replicate them on their own.


6 Angie M. September 19, 2011 at 8:01 pm

I love these! I have a very bright group of students this year and am looking for ways to increase their knowledge as well as their love of learning. I believe some of these activities can be modified so that I do not have to reinvent the wheel! Do you have any other sights that can give me more ideas for activities? Thanks so much!!!!


7 patricia December 27, 2011 at 6:00 pm

thank you for all your great ideas.


8 Angela Watson January 4, 2012 at 1:33 am

You’re welcome, Patricia! :-)


9 myra woodberry July 17, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Love your info and thanks for sharing!!
Do you have a copy of the task cards you use in the museum center?


10 April 15, 2014 at 10:57 am

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I am happy that you simply shared this helpful information with us.
Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.


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