Every Wednesday, I’ll post about multiple intelligences so we can better understand children and why they do what they do.

I’ve been blogging about multiple intelligences for a long time because I believe in the value of this Model, but I’ve rarely devoted a post to just one smart to more fully explain it. I believe I’ll start a series of those today. Reading all 8 posts will provide you with a nice understanding of the entire model.

Dr. Howard Gardner is responsible for having discovered that we each have eight intelligences. One of those is linguistic intelligence. Dr. Gardner’s former colleague, Dr. Tom Armstrong, uses more accessible terms that I also prefer, partly because I enjoy teaching children about these. That’s why I refer to this intelligence as “word smart.”

Everyone has at least some word-smart ability. Some have much, some have little, and some have an amount in between these extremes. When using our word smartness, we think with words. We usually talk when we get excited.

Those of us with strengths in this intelligence, are almost always talking. We sometimes talk inside of our head, having a conversation just with ourselves. We may appear to be listening to you, but then when you ask us a question, you realize we haven’t been listening closely. When I bring this up during my teaching on this topic, there’s a lot of laughter, but it’s really not funny. Without learning self-control to honor others, we can truly miss out on much that’s being said and taught.

Of course, we often talk out loud and engage in meaningful conversations. We tend to enjoy learning. When we control the conversations inside, we can listen well. And, reading and writing are normally strengths and interests.

For these reasons, I refer to “word smart” as one of the “school smarts.” Because we talk, listen, read, and write throughout our school years, even in Sunday school, those with these strengths will enjoy school more and do better in it. It’s not the most important smart in life, but it is important in school. (The most important smarts are the ones individuals need to rely on to fulfill their purposes. Sometimes, it’s word smart. Sometimes it’s not.)

To awaken and strengthen this smart and to satisfy children who have it as a strength, we need to listen to their stories, encourage them to talk about their day, engage them in discussions, talk about vocabulary words, and provide a variety of reading materials, writing utensils, and paper. For example, I know children who won’t practice spelling words with “boring” pencils and manila-paper, but will with gel pens and black and dark purple paper.

Although using our intelligences while learning is the most common application of this information, we can also benefit from thinking about children’s behavior with smarts in mind. Children (and adults) often misbehave through our strengths. Without being self-controlled and having self-respect and respect for others, it’s actually easy for children (and adults) to misbehave with an intelligence strength.

For example, negative results of being word smart can include gossiping, teasing, name calling, criticizing, wanting to have the last word during conversations, impressing with words, and manipulating with words and/or with the tone of our voice. I’m not suggesting you allow for this misbehavior, but rather that you understand its roots when responding. Over-reacting and being overly critical can paralyze the smart. If this occurs, children won’t be able to use it for even good reasons.

Positive uses of being word smart include complimenting, building people up, encouraging others, telling the truth, remembering details, teaching, listening intently, writing thank-you letters, proofreading, tutoring someone, and using positive self-talk.

So, how word smart are you? What about the children you know? What if you talked about the evidence you see and the benefits of being word smart? Encouraging the children can help them use this smart only for good and not to do harm.