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Intensities in the Classroom

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Introduction

Intensities in the Classroom

Intensities (sometimes called Overexcitabilities) provide a useful tool to analyze content because they resonate with many learners, particularly the gifted. Inviting students to recognize themselves in content deepens understanding and provides motivation for stronger analysis.

Guiding Question

How can teachers use intensities to enable students to analyze and their deepen understanding of literature and other curricula?

Learning Objectives
After completing this lesson plan, students will be able to:

  • Analyze characters using a framework of intensities
  • Compare and contrast multiple characters
  • Create written analytical assessment of characters
  • Apply intensities to a variety of content areas

Part I: Introduce intensities

Introduce Intensities to your students (use slides 3-47 of the Using Intensities slidedeck to do so). If you would like to strengthen your understanding of Intensities, read Living With Intensity: Understanding the Sensitivity, Excitability, and the Emotional Development of Gifted Children, Adolescents, and Adults by Susan Daniels (Editor), Michael M. Piechowski (Editor).

A transcript for slides 3 & 4 is as follows:

Slide 3: The Polish psychologist Kazimierz Dabrowski invented a theory of personality development that he called "Positive Disintegration." as part of this theory about how people's personalities coalesce, Dabrowski posited that overexcitabilites, which were heightened physiological experiences, caused people to experience daily life more intensely — to feel ups and downs more profoundly than people without overexcitabilities. We all have them sometimes, but there are people whose intensities become pathological, literally a disease process that diminishes their ability to function in their environment. Even though this could be considered negative, Dabrowski didn't see it that way. He believed that this conflict was necessary, and that people who had OE would have more and more intense little mini crises that would lead them eventually to fully develop themselves.

Slide 4: And they can be described in general as above average reaction to stimuli. We experience sensation more strongly than others. Oh, that grass is so green.…

To check for understanding, have students complete the following short quiz. The quiz has no right or wrong answers. Rather, it is an opportunity for reflection on the content.

Understanding Intensities Remember that there are five kinds of intensity:

  • Intellectual
  • Psychomotor
  • Sensual
  • Imaginational
  • Emotional

Keeping that in mind, respond to the following questions based on what you learned about intensities.

Which of the following characteristics of intellectual intensity do you think is most common in the world?

a. curiosity b. independent thinking
c.concentration d.blurting out
e. focus f. strong visual memory
g. strong memory h. hypercriticism

Which do you think is most common among people you know your age?

a. curiosity b. independent thinking
c.concentration d.blurting out
e. focus f. strong visual memory
g. strong memory h. hypercriticism

Which of the intensities would be the most helpful if you were a… scientist? ballerina? physician? teacher? author? journalist? Which of the intensities would be the most difficult to work with

In your opinion, which of the following would be most likely pose the greatest challenge to someone with sensual intensity?

a. a knock at the door e. the smell of apple pie baking
b. buzzing fluorescent lights  
c. walking in the rain  
d. hot sun  

Which of the following is hardest for you to tune out?

a. low level conversation e. bad smells
b. people talking on cell phones  
c. tapping pencils  
d. scratchy tags in clothing  

Which intensity do you think is the hardest to handle in school? Which intensity do you think is the hardest to handle in a family?

a. intellectual e. emotional
b. psychomotor  
c. sensual  
d. imaginational  

Which intensity do you most associate with the following: Museum | Laboratory | Writers' retreat | Psychologist's office | Home

Part II: Character analysis

The comparison and contrast exercise allows the student to evaluate multiple characters in a work in the framework of intensity, and then use that evaluation as the basis of a written analysis comparing and contrasting the manifestation of the intensities in the characters. To prepare, discuss the following chart.

INTENSITIES

ENTIRE BOOK OPPORTUNITIES: The Evaluating Characters Using Intensities grid below is designed for five characters. Simply leave rows blank if you are evaluating fewer than five characters.

EVALUATING CHARACTERS USING INTENSITIES

Searching for Intensities: Using the Evaluating Characters Using Intensities grid, chart out the characters from the story based on your evaluation of their intensities (or lack of them), as well as the level of those intensities.

1. Select two characters who display more than one intensity and respond to the following questions, simply circling the word in the question to respond:

  1. Do those intensities make the characters more or less likeable?
  2. Does one character have intensities that are stronger or weaker than the other?
  3. Do the intensities manifest themselves more in public or private?
  4. Would the characters find it easy or difficult to rid themselves of the intensities?

2. Writing about Intensities: Select two characters you have identified with at least two intensities at the moderate level or higher. In a well-developed analysis using textual evidence, describe the intensities' effects on the character.

  • Include the extent to which the intensities affect the character’s ability to interact and function within his/her family, society, with other characters, or him/herself.
  • Compare and contrast the level and manifestation of the intensities. Use the rubric below as a guide.

EVALUATING CHARACTERS USING INTENSITIES (CONT.)

Single Character Opportunities

Searching for Intensities: Using the Evaluating Characters Using Intensities grid below, chart out a character from the story. Select a character that displays more than one intensity and respond to the following questions, simply circling the word in the question to respond:

  1. Do those intensities make the character more or less likeable?
  2. Do the intensities manifest themselves more in public or private?
  3. Would the character find it easy or difficult to rid him/herself of the intensities?
  4. Does that character have one intensity that is stronger or weaker than another intensity?

EVALUATING USING INTENSITIES

Writing about Intensities: In a well-developed analysis using textual evidence, describe the intensities’ effects on the character.

  • Include the extent to which the intensities affect the character’s ability to interact and function within his/her family, society, with other characters, or him/herself.
  • Compare and contrast the level and manifestation of the intensities. Use the rubric below as a guide.

EVALUATING USING INTENSITIES

Part III: Other curricula

1. Science
Possible uses of the intensities in the science classroom include:

  1. Weather Analysis: Students can evaluate weather patterns and phenomena, analyzing them from the perspective of intensity. For example:
  • What would create greater emotional intensity, a rain storm or a tornado and why?
  • How are clouds connected to imaginational intensity?
  • In what way is a tornado an example of natural psychomotor intensity?
  1. Chemistry: Students can evaluate the periodic table of the elements from the perspective of intensity. For example:
  • Which group is more intense, alkali metals or Noble gases, and why?
  • Which group is least intense?
  • If you had to create a new compound, and you wanted it to be the most imaginationally intense compound possible, which three elements would you choose and why?
  1. Biology: Students can evaluate life cycles, animals within classification systems, cell division, and other aspects of biology from the perspective of intensity. For example:
  • Looking at the life cycle of a plant, which part of the cycle has the most sensual intensity?
  • Which animal class is composed of animals with the most imaginational intensity?
  • Which stage of cell division is the most intense from a psychomotor perspective?

2. Social Studies
Using the same or similar assignments as the ones provided for character analysis, students can evaluate historical figures or political movements.

3. Mathematics
Students can examine certain types of number sets as more or less intense. For example, are integers more or less intense than fractions? In what way are irrational numbers more intense than rational numbers? Which type(s) of intensities do you associate with pi?

4. LOTE
When learning languages other than English, students can explore individual words through the lens of intensity. For example:

  1. Identify a verb that could be used to describe each of the intensities and explain why that verb is a strong match for that particular intensity.
  2. b. What noun do you think you would most likely use to describe intellectual intensity?

5. Music and Art
The analysis of music and art works well using the intensities as a tool of analysis. Students can be asked to evaluate a work from the perspective of each intensity. They can be asked to decide if a piece’s intensity interferes with or enhances the viewer’s appreciation/interpretation of the work. Additionally, they can be asked to create works that specifically match one of the intensities. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Virtually every content area can be viewed using the intensities as a tool of analysis in an almost unlimited variety of ways.