I’ll admit it. I was a bit snarky when I wrote about adapting what we teach for different learning styles and intelligences. But sometimes snarky in the service of thinking is helpful.
It is easier, however, to tell people what they ought to do than to show them how they could do. So, at the risk of being religious-sounding, I’d like to offer an example of adapting instruction to differences in thinking and learning.
In a couple of weeks, I’ll be talking with a group of people about what is commonly known as “The Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father.” Many of you have heard of it, have heard it, or have even said it.
Here are some questions that use and challenge multiple intelligences (to use Howard Gardner’s term) to stimulate different kinds of thinking about this familiar text.
- When was the first time you heard it? When was the last?
- When you think of these words, what color comes to mind?
- If you watched the Ken Burns special on National Parks recently, which park could you see this prayer being repeated? (When Jesus was teaching it, everyone was on a hillside, sitting on rocks, on the ground).
- Is this a speech or a conversation? What difference would that make?
- As you listen to the words, is there a sequence of requests (I ask A. You do A. I then ask B. You do B).
- In the text, there is an us (“Give us this day our daily bread”). That suggests that there may be several people involved in this prayer. When Jesus is saying it for the first time, where are they sitting? Are they looking at each other? Are they all repeating it together or taking turns? And is he suggesting that it be an individual or a group conversation?
- Is Jesus writing a formula, an equation of some sort?
- Do you think that Jesus is describing how he talks to his Dad? Does that change how you think of the tone of voice of this prayer?
- Think of all the musical versions of this text. Now, think of doing your own. Does it make more sense as a Bach anthem or as improvisational jazz? What instrumentation would you use to arrange it for your life?
- Read it out loud. If you were talking to someone across the room, how loud would you say it? Try that. If you were talking to someone right next to you, how would you change your voice? Try it. If you weren’t talking to anyone but yourself, how would that sound?
As you read through the questions, it was likely that you read some and thought “Who would think that” and read others and thought “Oh, that’s easy.” That’s the point. We are different. Now, imagine that all the questions were of the kind that you don’t understand. That’s what we do to parts of our audience/group/congregation/whatever when we don’t take the time to think about how people learn or we ask questions that are comfortable to us.
And if you are interested in helping people understand how to talk to God, for example, or whatever you are teaching, doesn’t that time investment make sense?