Working on thinking flexibly with my youngest students has been challenging: difficulty changing their plans often causes emotional meltdowns. This is most apparent when interacting during unstructured activities such as game playing. My students have a certain color they want to be and a specific way they want to play the game — changes in their thinking are not considered! The impact this has on peer relationships is profound; other kids don’t to play with them because “he always wants things his way”. And my students are often isolated and confused about why they are no longer included.
After introducing the concept of thinking flexibly and learning about Social Thinking’s Superflex and Rock Brain, my group of first and second graders were ready to put their skills to the test. Here’s an unstructured activity I recently tried that stretched their ability to change their plan:
I chose a game they were all familiar with; I used Chutes & Ladders but you can adapt this activity with any game that your students enjoy. First we played it the way it was designed to be played. Next, their challenge was to invent new ways to play the game. My students came up with ideas like going up the chutes and down the ladders, starting at square #100 and working our way to square #1, and playing teams instead of individually. My goal was to teach them that thinking flexibly is fun and there are many different ways to play a game.
Most of the students in my group enjoyed changing the plan of the game. One little guy, unfortunately, was not so receptive. His immediate reaction was to shout “No! We have to play it the way the directions say!” and begin crying. We talked about how he was “stuck” and it was okay to change our thinking. We also talked about the size of this problem and how he could self-regulate (deep breaths helped!). I was so proud that he was able to shift his thinking, join the group and have fun!
Have you tried changing the plan of your student’s activities or routines? How has it worked for you and your students?