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Flexible Thinking

Imagine you're driving somewhere, and you discover that a street you were planning to turn onto is blocked off for construction. Your initial plan for reaching your destination obviously isn't going to work, so you instantly come up with a new way to get there.


That's what flexible thinking is about. You're able to quickly switch gears and find new ways to solve problems on your own.

Two of my favorite ways to explain flexible thinking are the Palm Trees that bend in the midst of crazy wind and storms, as well as Bubble Gum Brain or Rubber Band Brain drawings. If you've done work with "GROWTH MINDSET," this can all be wrapped into conversations around flexible thinking and being able to shift and bend our thinking when we need to.


Here are a few strategies to help your students move away from rigid and stuck thinking:

Train Your Brain - Palm Tree Anchor Chart

Bend the rules. Rigid thinkers love rules, and they love to remind other kids about the rules.

Train Your Brain Anchor Chart

Sometimes the thought can be scarier than the reality, especially when students may not be able to fully grasp the concept of flexible thinking.

By using a visual, you are able to show your students how you can be flexible and go with the flow for the moment, but still stand tall again without compromising integrity.

Teach self-talk. Use yourself as an example and model your own self-talk with your students throughout the day.

Train Your Incredible, Flexible Brain Anchor Chart

Being a flexible thinker is a true skill. It can be tricky for some of us to go with the flow, to have a growth mindset, to see things on the bright side, to persevere, and to think positive thoughts.

Write all of the things that you might say to yourself if you have stuck thinking on one side of the brain. On the colorful side, record all of the things that you might say to encourage your incredible, flexible brain.

Give Examples. Plan ahead and give your students an example of ways to detect their own stuck thinking and to problem-solve.

Our Key to Mistakes Anchor Chart

By giving examples and actionable steps for students to take in times of stuck thinking, we are promoting self-awareness and problem-solving in our kiddos.

Our Key to Mistakes can show students what to do and when to do it if they find themselves in a moment of stuck thinking.

Flexible thinking isn't always easy and can be incredibly difficult for some of our students. Taking the time to front-load the plan, practicing positive self-talk, and talking through real, actionable ways to be flexible thinkers can help shift the mindset in your classroom and create lasting change in your students.


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Disclaimer: The resources and ideas found on this website are all research-based and vetted with a parent and educator lens. The tools listed have worked for students and children that I work with; however, each child is different. This list is not exhaustive and is a compilation of ideas and strategies to try in schools or at home. No information on this website should be used as medical advice. I am not a clinical psychologist, but I do work alongside them as thought partners in this journey.

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Kim Gameroz is a change agent for schools and districts who seek to revolutionize classrooms by taking on a systematic approach to teaching social and emotional skills.

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