article originally written for LessonPlanet by Jen Lilienstein

For many kids, annual standardized testing is one of the highest periods of stress1 during the school year. In fact, according to the Kids Health1 website, the number one kid stressor is academic pressure. While some stress can be good for building resilience, teaching your pupils techniques to effectively cope with stress can reap even greater benefits.

This year, after a morning chock-full of filling in Scantron bubbles, try this series of activities in the afternoon to help your kids key into coping strategies built on their multiple intelligences3. This should take them from a place of fear and frustration, to an attitude of calm and contentment.

These activities serve several purposes:

  1. They show those students that don’t feel like they performed well on the morning’s tests that there are many ways to be smart.
  2. They highlight for the kids who do think they performed well on the tests that every kid in class is smart in different ways.
  3. They help all learners develop strategies and techniques that they can use to re-center themselves whenever they feel anxious or stressed.

Define Multiple Intelligences

Multiple intelligences is a theory that was first introduced by Howard Gardner. His theory is that people have an intellectual capacity, but each person also has a full range of other talents and abilities that can also be called intelligences. For instance, a person could have musical, spatial, and/or linguistic intelligence. Take some time to explain to your class how people are smart in different ways. In this explanation, talk about each of the multiple intelligences. You might also choose to do a paired activity to reveal all the ways that people are smart with a fun multiple intelligences quiz or a quiet solo quiz.

Create Mind Maps

Discuss with your class the idea that multiple intelligences aren’t just about what one is good at – what one likes to do is just as important. Then, using a printable mind map like this one, walk students through plotting their multiple intelligences on a grid. Where do their heads “like” to be? Where do their heads prefer not to be? It’s important to remind them that just because their heads like to be in these places right now, or they don’t like to think in certain ways right now, it doesn’t mean that these preferences will always stay the same. Multiple intelligences can slide around over time, just as our normal likes and dislikes do.

Think-Pair-Share to Develop Coping Strategies

Using a sample Mind Map on your whiteboard, have the class brainstorm activities that blend two or three of the high interest/high ability multiple intelligences. For instance, a body smart and music smart multiple intelligences could be playing an instrument or drumming. A nature smart and spatial smart activity could be coming up with a flower garden design that changes with the seasons. A people smart and word smart activity could be doing an improv performance with another child that enjoys flexing the same types of smarts.

  • Have the class pair off and select A and B team members. Using student A’s Mind Map first, have both team members brainstorm activities that would make student A feel great. Then swap to student B. (Time spent on each team member will vary by grade level and the attention span of your unique classroom.)
  • Finally, come back together as a whole class and offer the chance for volunteers to share their solutions.
  • Discuss with the class the idea that these are the kinds of activities that are tailor-made for each person to help him/her blow off steam when anxious feelings or stress escalate. Task them with trying one of these activities after school for a while as homework and note how they felt after spending time doing the activity.
  • The next day, a few people can share their afterschool activity results. You might also want to post the Mind Maps in the classroom to showcase not only all of the ways that the kids in your class are smart, but their activity ideas in order to remind everyone to try new activities.

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