• AZFPS

Expanding Flexible Thinking During the Holidays…

It’s always fun to incorporate the holidays into our curriculum and FPS is no different. Whenever I can create an opportunity to bring something special into the lesson, it always infuses the learning with a fresh joy. While at the AAGT conference last year, I took notes in the various sessions, and one of the best scratchings I reread later was this:


Learning is 30% more productive when instruction is positive!!!

One of the lessons we’ve suggested to our coaches for the current season, is to use the creative thinking tool-Forced Relationships. What if you asked the kids to combine the topic of Thanksgiving or Xmas to the 18 FPS categories? What I found, was a dynamic synergy taking place in the classrooms.

To prep my younger kids for FPS I modify the team packets and utilize fairy tales and practical life situations to teach the process. The current holiday season proved to be a perfect backdrop for learning about how to apply the categories to our lives, effectively. I gave the kids the opportunity to look at the categories and to ask me questions about what the unknown words meant, such as miscellaneous and economics and commerce. The 5 C’s of AZ was an easy tie-in to their regular classroom curriculum.


After making sure they felt comfortable with their understandings, I told them about the topic we would apply to the categories and they produced 2 examples. For Thanksgiving- Transportation--Families traveling, causing traffic jams and long lines at the airport. Then, I gave them 10 minutes to work independently; coming up with as many ideas as they could. (I told them not to focus on the category- Miscellaneous, as it was easier to think of an idea for a given category, rather than to think of an idea that fit no category at all.)


I was thoroughly pleased at some of the results that came back when we had a chance to share our ideas. Basically, I began the discussion in two different styles, depending on the class size. Larger classes? “Who has an idea for the first category-Arts and Aesthetics, that they’re proud of? And please explain your reasoning.” Smaller groups? “Are there any ideas that you’ve come up with that you’re bursting to share with the group? Please explain your reasoning.”


In one of my smaller groups, we had the following ideas come up Xmas and

Transportation--your car, dressed up as a reindeer. That’s a double whammy! Your car is used as transportation. Reindeer are used by Santa as transportation. You combine those two and have your car as a reindeer? Way cool.


Defense--defending your holiday customs to those who do not celebrate them. Just let that sink in…

Defense---defending your joy… to those that are grumpy. Nice.


Psychological Health--the simple joy of Xmas

Business and Commerce--office parties, Secret Santas, gift exchanges, Black Friday

Recreation--football games with the family

Environment--cutting down trees for Xmas

Communication--commercial signs and advertisements for sales

Social Relationships--having the radio give shout outs to people you love

Technology--Playing lots of FORTNITE because of winter vacation



In a larger class, using Xmas as the holiday, we made it to Basic Needs and that’s where it went off in a direction that the regular classroom teacher can appreciate for about a minute before trying to get everyone back on the same path. Their time is limited and they must complete the objective… which unfortunately, usually requires memorization or comprehension, and not higher order thinking. Darn that higher order thinking… it takes up too much time. That’s why I love what I do. I get to respond to the thinking that is taking place at the given time.


So there we were… Basic Needs. The kids would present an idea and ask me if it constituted a basic need.


And I would reply with the question, “Is that a need related to food, water or shelter?”

And they would say, “Hmmm… no, sort of, maybe.” Finally it hit me. What am I doing? I’m shutting them down. Maybe we need to reconsider our criteria?


“Wait a minute, wait a minute. May I get your attention please?” Because they’re all in discussion in small groups over this; debating whether or not the idea is a ‘basic need’.

“What if we need to expand the definition of what a basic need, is?” A discussion ensued as to what type of criteria we should consider and two options were determined.


The kids were each given an opportunity to share their vote, a rationale or both. 30 minutes later we had a tally score of 9-8. Nine people thought that basic needs needed to include a “basic needs for Xmas” , such as a tree, Santa, a spiritual belief, or love of family. Eight people thought basic needs needed to remain pure in its definition-food, water or shelter.


The variety of opinions and the kindness in the interactions was delightful! I even had one boy share how he had originally felt one way but the arguments posed by others swayed his thinking to the opposite side. There are some really cool aspects to this.


1. He recognized that he required intellectual humility to accept that he did not have the all knowing viewpoint.


2. He recognized the value of intellectual empathy in desiring to value the thoughts and reasoning of others. This does not equal automatic validation of, or capitulation to, the reasoning, but rather allows us to consider their thinking and to align it to our intellectual understanding of the facts.


3. He had the intellectual courage to voice his changed decision and that in turn, demonstrated his fair-mindedness.


Again, wow! Whatever you use to encourage and develop thinking, be it holidays, critical and creative thinking tools, FPS… go for it!

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