Flexible thinking is a hot social/emotional term but what really is the definition of flexible thinking and a few examples.

What is the Definition of Flexible Thinking?

Flexible thinking is such an important social skill for children to learn. But what is it exactly? Let’s dive right in and talk about what is the definition of flexible thinking and some examples.

What does flexible thinking mean?

Let’s define flexible thinking – it is the ability to cognitively think about something in a different way. This is often referred one’s ability to have a problem and come up with a solution. But not just one solution, several. Then look at those different solutions and select the best response. 

I love to teach my students about thinking flexibly with situations. We talk about picking the situation that is going to be best for us and those around us over a length of time. I always say 10 seconds, 10 minutes, 10 days. 

So then what is inflexible thinking? This is something I like to refer to as rigid or stuck thinking. It is when someone only sees one way to solve a problem or handle a situation.

Rigid thinking is problematic. This is because seeing only one solution to a problem can lead to problems not being solved well. After all how many times do you try to solve a problem but it doesn’t work out great?  

We need to be able to use flexible thinking. We to be able to can come up with many different solutions. This will help a problem being solved in the best way possible for ourselves. And for those around us. 

Why is flexible thinking important?

It is so important because it helps people to get along with others and assists people solve problems in a new way.

Flexible thinking is a hot social/emotional term but what really is the definition of flexible thinking and a few examples.
Flexible thinking? What is that? Find the definition of flexible thinking along with some examples and ideas.

Example of Flexible Thinking

To further explain what this type of thinking is, here are some flexible thinking examples:

  • Example one: Ralph breaks his pencil. The flexible way to think about how to solve this problem would be that he could:
    • Sharpen it
    • Get a new pencil
    • Ask a friend to borrow a pencil
    • Rigid thinking – There is no way Ralph can complete the assignment because his pencil is broken.
  • Example two: Lara’s favorite television show plays on Wednesdays at 6pm. But this Wednesday, Lara has to run an errand with her mom at that time, missing her show. The flexible way to think about how to solve her problem:
    • Lara could record her show and watch it later
    • She could see when that episode is playing next and watch it then
    • Or Lara could ask her mom if they could run the errand a different day
    • Rigid thinking – Lara’s week is ruined and she will never get to see her favorite show again because if she misses an episode she won’t understand what is going on in the show anymore so she might as well just stop watching it.

If you are looking for some more examples to really wrap your head around this idea, find them here.

Flexible thinking is a hot social/emotional term but what really is the definition of flexible thinking and a few examples.
When thinking what is flexible thinking, it is best to think of it as the ability to think of situation/solution in a different way.

Looking for more flexible thinker examples?

One of the best ways to teach flexible thinking is to give students examples that could really happen in their own lives. This is best done when students are in a calm mind and body state. This leads to clear thinking where they can really be objective and think about a situation.

If you are looking for the work already done for you, check out these flexible thinking scenarios. Here are 30+ situations where students decide if the main character is using flexible thinking or rigid thinking. Included are also definition cards so students are super clear on what flexible and rigid thinking is.  

Flexible thinking scenarios encourage students to look at a situation and decided if flexible or rigid thinking took place.
These flexible thinking scenarios have visual reminder cards in addition to the scenarios to help struggling students.

Plus there is even a flexible thinking die. Simply have students roll the die and do whatever lands up. There are things on the die covering examples they have of their own flexible thinking as well as stating a strategy they could use when they get stuck. Not only is this a super fun activity for students, they also get to work on generalizing the concept with things that have happened in their own lives. 

Click here for more details!

Flexible thinking scenarios encourage students to look at a situation and decided if flexible or rigid thinking took place.
This flexible thinking resource contains student response sheets for students to indicate their thinking of the provided flexible thinking scenarios.

Need some great flexible thinking exercises for children? Check out this post for three great ideas! 

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Happy Teaching!

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Hi, I'm molly!

I help educators meet the diverse academic and social/emotional needs of struggling students so that they can focus on teaching during the day and enjoy life outside of the classroom after the 8 hour work day.

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