Teaching Kids to Use Flexible Thinking
Take a look at this image – what do you see?
If you’re perceiving the profile of a young woman wearing a fancy fur coat you’re right. On the other hand, if you’re seeing a somber old woman staring off into the distance, you’re also correct! If you’re able to see both, pat yourself on the back – you’re demonstrating the ability to model flexible thinking, a critical skill under the umbrella of executive functioning.
This famous illustration, named “My Wife and Mother-In-Law”, by Hill, W. E. (William Ely) 1915, is a fantastic visual example of what’s referred to as ‘flexible thinking’ in the world of executive functioning. In other words, flexible thinking is the ability to see many sides of a situation.
Flexible Thinking For Kids: An Essential Skill
Not only is flexible thinking pretty handy when appraising an optical illusion – it’s downright essential for today’s students to succeed academically. Students will inevitably encounter all sorts of flexible thinking scenarios throughout their academic careers and having cognitive flexibility gives the student an advantage. Like with most things in life, plans are never set in stone and the need to adapt becomes unavoidable. Sometimes we’re paired with unhelpful partners for a really important project, other times a pop quiz might pop out of nowhere! Anticipating how to creatively confront and be prepared for the countless challenges that are destined to be in the way is an indispensable skill to start practicing and mastering in school…the carryover into the real world is indisputable.
If a learner is “set in their ways”, and unable to readjust their perspective when tackling a problem, they will find themselves feeling frustrated. A characteristic of rigid thinking, or “stuck” thinking as it is also known, is the inability to modify approaches to solving a problem. Unfortunately, another common trait held by inflexible thinkers is that they avoid asking for help. As we all know, feelings of embarrassment or pride are often associated with making yourself vulnerable and admitting that you don’t know something. However, if we’re thinking in line with this article, the act of asking for help is one of the most basic ways that a student, parent, or teacher can begin to exercise their flexible thinking muscles.
It commonly starts with the organization—a student cannot have the luxury to think flexibly when they do not have that most basic element of executive functioning under control. Either there are too many binders, not enough notebooks, a lack of dividers to separate course material, etc… There is not a one size fits all approach so it’s important to sit down with the student and start asking questions and experimenting with options that could work best for them. This new way of looking at things gets the flexible thinking juices flowing and sets the foundation for more leaps toward being a master of executive functioning.
Flexible Thinking Activities
The Effective Student’s Executive Functioning Curriculum delivers essential executive function lessons which include flexible thinking lessons. Executive functioning allows us to organize our thoughts and arrange our materials and time efficiently in order to execute a plan. Executive functioning is determined by three major functions: working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. With the Effective Student’s Curriculum and our highly trained executive functioning coaches, we are able to provide support and model the flexible thinking behavior that’s needed from the ground up. We provide positive feedback for students’ approximations towards new and improved study and work behaviors. Eventually, the reinforcement comes in the form of improved grades and that feeling that they’re retaining and applying the things being taught.
Are you interested in learning more about Effective Student’s Executive Functioning Curriculum? Reach out to us today to find what is best suited for you!