Increasing The Genius Quality – Flexibility
Dr. Tom Armstrong defines the 10th genius quality, flexibility, as “The ability of children to make fluid associations.” When reading a story, does your daughter tell you that the illustrations are similar to a story she read last week? When doing a science experiment, does she tell you that the smell reminds her of what she smelled last week at her grandma’s house? Does a history lesson cause her to refer to a song she’s learning on the piano? She’s using the genius quality of flexible thinking.
As with the other nine genius qualities I’ve blogged about, we don’t want to squelch children’s flexible thinking. Rather, we need to do what we can to awaken and strengthen it. Of course, our kids need to exercise self-control and obedience so they don’t get into trouble with their flexibility, curiosity, or inventiveness.
A Flood of Flexible Thinking
There are times when our children or students must stay focused and concentrate on one thing at a time. But, when moving between topics and ideas won’t interfere with what needs to be accomplished, we should encourage that in them. Flexibility is like a flash-flood of water: inevitably it finds its way in, around, or through all kinds of seeming barriers. Similarly, when people apply fluidity and flexibility, they experiment with, explore, and eventually see through to new ways of thinking and doing. Thus, exercising flexible thinking can contribute to children’s successful accomplishments and maybe even increase their efficiency.
Increase Flexible Thinking
Using a theme approach is one way to increase flexible thinking as we and our children engage with content that’s related even if it cuts across different academic areas. This approach can also keep things more interesting. For instance, have you ever had the great pleasure of reading Charlotte’s Web to children? It could spawn all kinds of units of study:
- English: The “ch” sound like in “Charlotte” versus as in “change,” and vocabulary development such as asking what a spider web and the world wide web have in common – why is “web” used for both – and how is a cobweb different from a spider web?
- Science/Nutrition: How are pigs cared for on family farms and by big companies? What are all the food products we enjoy from them? How are spiders helpful?
- Social studies: Compare and contrast farm life versus city life.
- Math: Compare weights of different animals, or the sizes of different farms.
A second way to increase flexible thinking is to listen more carefully to children’s questions that initially appear to be irrelevant. Perhaps they’re actually connecting content in unusual ways you wouldn’t have thought of. Honoring their questions is a great way to support their flexible thinking. Ask what made them think of the question. Affirm them. Then work with them to find answers.
And, as Brian Greene explains, be willing to see their answers as correct:
“The boldness of asking deep questions may require unforeseen flexibility
if we are to accept the answers.”
Check out other blogs in this series: