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Flexible Thinking Activities

Instructor: Shanna Fox

Shanna has been an educator for 20 years and earned her Master of Education degree in 2017. She enjoys using her experience to provide engaging resources for other teachers.

Teaching flexibility to your elementary students can be a challenge. These activities will help you guide them as they learn that there is more than one way to achieve a goal, see things from a new perspective, and transition between tasks.

Flexible Thinking Activities

Elementary students often struggle with flexible thinking, especially when learning a new way to complete a task, understanding the perspectives of classmates, and making transitions from one activity to the next. These interactive exercises provide a way for you to demonstrate the importance of flexible thinking, as well as provide students with practice in applying it. A combination of whole class, partner, and independent activities rounds out this list and gives you something for everybody.

Flex those Muscles!

In this activity, you will help your students understand flexible thinking by learning how to flex the different muscles in their bodies. Start by asking a simple question about muscles, such as: ''How do you get strong arm muscles?'' Students will surely come up with a variety of creative answers. Then, show students one way to strengthen one part of their arm muscles. Ask them if they think they will have super-strong arm muscles if they just do this one exercise every single day fifty times. They will most likely say yes. Then, offer them some additional exercises that focus on other parts of their arm muscles. Explain that to build a strong arm, you must focus on more than one muscle and use more than one exercise. Next, explain that flexible thinking means to recognize that there is not only one way of doing something and that often multiple strategies are needed to achieve a goal. Host a discussion about other goals from their academic and home lives. Brainstorm ways to use flexible thinking to accomplish simple goals and tasks.

  • Materials: examples of arm muscle exercises

Marshmallow Masterpieces

In this activity, you can guide your students through the process of understanding and appreciating multiple perspectives.

  1. Partner students and place a pile of ten marshmallows in front of each student. Use folder barriers so students cannot see what their classmates are doing.
  2. Ask partner one to create something unique with their ten marshmallows. Some students may attempt to build a tower, others may place the marshmallows in a straight line or create a smiley face. Provide just a couple of minutes for this part of the activity.
  3. Allow partner one to reveal the masterpiece.
  4. Partner one helps partner two recreate their marshmallow masterpiece by providing step-by-step instructions. Partner two should not attempt to create it on their own. They must follow the directions of the original artist. You may hear some disagreements or see some students attempting to do it their own way. Be sure to intervene and explain that with flexible thinking, each person's way of doing things is honored and appreciated.
  5. Have students switch roles.
  6. Repeat steps 2 - 4 with partner two as the artist giving directions so that partner one can recreate their masterpiece.

As a wrap up, ask students if there was one right way to make a marshmallow creation. Ask them if they had any trouble following their partner's directions. Point out that they used flexible thinking by appreciating the creations of classmates and learning to follow another person's directions even if they thought they had a ''better'' way.

  • Materials: marshmallows (ten per student, additional ten per partnership)

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