Category Archives: Cognitive Flexibility

Dr. Lynn Meltzer on Cognitive Flexibility

Cognitive flexibility, the ability to think flexibly, is one of the most important executive function processes to promote student success. Despite its importance, the concept of cognitive flexibility can be hard for students to visualize.

To help students understand the idea of thinking flexibly, we have come across many different ways of representing cognitive flexibility. Dr. Lynn Meltzer, president and founder of the Institutes for Learning and Development and the executive function guru behind SMARTS, often uses the example of standing on top of a mountain vs. being in the forest and looking at the trees.

The ability to switch between the big picture and the important details is essential for everything from note-taking and solving math problems to understanding jokes and deciding to go on a hike. When students do not know how to shift easily, they get caught in rigid and inefficient habits (e.g., re-reading material despite not understanding it or refusing to show their work in math despite repeatedly getting the wrong answer).

Check out the full clip below of Dr. Meltzer explaining the importance of cognitive flexibility. If you want to learn more about cognitive flexibility and the power of executive function strategies, join Dr. Meltzer and SMARTS team members at this year’s Executive Function Summer Summit. Hope to see you there!

  • Michael Greschler, M.Ed., SMARTS Director

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

25 Cognitive Flexibility Jokes!

“I once worked at a cheap pizza shop to get by. I kneaded the dough.” Get it? Silly jokes and puns that play with the meanings and sounds of words offer fun ways to help students develop their cognitive flexibility.

Executive function processes such as cognitive flexibility, shifting, and flexible thinking are key to students’ academic success. Students who are rigid will struggle with tasks such as reading, taking tests, or even navigating non-school challenges (like snakes). The challenges of remote and hybrid learning have only increased the need for flexibility.

Teaching cognitive flexibility does not need to be boring! Many games rely on cognitive flexibility (check out these games we like, but watch out for games to avoid). We also love to link humor with cognitive flexibility. By analyzing jokes, students can practice examining language from multiple perspectives in a way that is engaging and low stakes. Classic stories such as Amelia Bedelia or Eats, Shoots, and Leaves are great resources, and you can find many examples online as well.

Here are 25 cognitive flexibility jokes that had us cracking up in the SMARTS office, and we think they would be great to use with students:

  1. Writing my name in cursive is my signature move.
  2. Why do bees stay in their hives during winter? Swarm.
  3. What do you call a pig with laryngitis? Disgruntled.
  4.  Dad, are we pyromaniacs? Yes, we arson.
  5. If you’re bad at haggling, you’ll end up paying the price
  6. Just so everyone’s clear, I’m going to put my glasses on.
  7. A commander walks into a bar and orders everyone around.
  8. I lost my job as a stage designer. I left without making a scene.
  9. Never buy flowers from a monk. Only you can prevent florist friars.
  10. How much did the pirate pay to get his ears pierced? A buccaneer.
  11. I once worked at a cheap pizza shop to get by. I kneaded the dough.
  12. My friends and I have named our band ‘Duvet’. It’s a cover band.
  13. I lost my girlfriend’s audiobook, and now I’ll never hear the end of it.
  14. Why is ‘dark’ spelled with a k and not c? Because you can’t see in the dark.
  15. Why is it unwise to share your secrets with a clock? Well, time will tell.
  16. When I told my contractor I didn’t want carpeted steps, they gave me a blank stare.
  17. Bono and The Edge walk into a Dublin bar and the bartender says, “Oh no, not U2 again.”
  18. Prison is just one word to you, but for some people, it’s a whole sentence.
  19. Scientists got together to study the effects of alcohol on a person’s walk, and the result was staggering.
  20.  I’m trying to organize a hide-and-seek tournament, but good players are really hard to find.
  21. I got over my addiction to chocolate, marshmallows, and nuts. I won’t lie, it was a rocky road.
  22. What do you say to comfort a friend who’s struggling with grammar? There, their, they’re.
  23. I went to the toy store and asked the assistant where the Schwarzenegger dolls are and he replied, “Aisle B, back.”
  24. What did the surgeon say to the patient who insisted on closing up their own incision? Suture self.
  25. I’ve started telling everyone about the benefits of eating dried grapes. It’s all about raisin awareness.

Do you have any favorite puns or jokes that illustrate cognitive flexibility? Let us know in the comments!

  • Elizabeth Ross, M.A., SMARTS Media Manager

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org

h/t: https://www.skyline725.com/these-puns-are-so-bad-they-needed-to-be-published/

Cognitive Flexibility in Trying Times

We are living in an age of polarized perspectives. Whether we are talking about politics, race, or public health, the news and social media are awash in people airing strongly held convictions on what is right. In a world where people splinter away from those with differing viewpoints, we can teach our students the tenets of cognitive flexibility to foster resilience and hope.

What Is Cognitive Flexibility?

Cognitive flexibility is “the ability to think flexibly and to shift perspectives and approaches easily.” In each facet of our lives, we can become set in our ways, clinging to opinions and patterns of thinking that affirm our prior experience and validate our reality. In truth, each individual holds their own version of reality rooted in different truths that inevitably fail to match our own. When our truth doesn’t match the perspective of others, the results range from funny to downright frustrating.

Cognitive flexibility as a concept most easily applies to situations in which we are actively problem-solving, such as compiling sources for a group project, shifting between types of information, or even hiking up a mountain. We can also apply cognitive flexibility to our wider interactions with others.

Right now many of the challenges we face are presented in black-and-white terms. The sharp contrast may lead to feelings of hopelessness and despair in our students and ourselves. As educators, we can model and explicitly teach strategies for cognitive flexibility to keep hope alive.

Identify Obstacles and Solutions

One approach is to teach pathways thinking as part of goal setting. When students set goals, they learn that identifying and overcoming obstacles is a natural part of goal setting. When discussing current events in the classroom, students will probably be able to identify numerous obstacles. As a class, brainstorm various ways to overcome these obstacles. This exercise will help students feel more hopeful and will cultivate a flexible approach to understanding current challenges and solutions.

Be a Role Model

As teachers, we can also model our own cognitive flexibility. Rather than pretending we are unscathed by the many challenges we face, we can show how we acknowledge and address negative experiences. As our students get older and prepare to take on positions of leadership, they benefit from role models who demonstrate persistence and resilience in the face of adversity. Consider ways that you have adapted over the past months and think about how to share your newfound strategies with your students.

While certain realities are non-negotiable, there are still opportunities for helping students analyze and interpret the various facets and perspectives that surround an issue.

  • Iris Jeffries, SMARTS Intern

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum: smarts-ef.org

Research Institute for Learning and Development: researchild.org

The Institute for Learning and Development: ildlex.org