Fun Flexible Thinking Activity: Emoji Sentences

12 colored emojis representing different expressions

Developing the skills to think flexibly and shift perspectives is critical in our interconnected world. Cognitive flexibility, one of the cornerstones of executive function, plays an important role in school performance, growth mindset, and reducing students’ stress in school and life. From preschool students to college students and adults in the workplace, it is more important than ever to think flexibly.

Start Small

Before students can engage in more advanced cognitive flexibility exercises that touch on personal experiences, it can help to demonstrate what it means to think flexibly with low-stakes activities such as multiple-meaning words and phrases. Understanding the double meaning of jokes makes for an excellent flexible thinking activity or warmup. Fun flexible thinking activities can even be as simple as deciphering the meaning of emoji sentences.

Emoji Sentences

See if you can figure out the meaning of these emoji sentences. Can there be multiple meanings based on the context? What do your students think? What new emoji sentences can they come up with? The answer key is at the bottom of this post!


  2. ⏰✈️

  3. 3️⃣⏱

  4. ‍♀️



Join Us at the 37th Annual Executive Function Conference

We hope to see you on November 3 and 4 for the 37th Annual Executive Function Conference, which will address the close connections between executive function and social-emotional learning and the importance of examining these processes for students from K-12 to college.

  • Caitlin Vanderberg, M.Ed., SMARTS Associate

SMARTS Executive Function Curriculum:

Research Institute for Learning and Development:

The Institute for Learning and Development:

Answer Key

  1. Mind blown
  2. Between a rock and a hard place
  3. Early bird gets the worm
  4. I believe in you
  5. Time flies when you’re having fun
  6. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
  7. Cool as a cucumber
  8. Third time’s the charm
  9. Princess and the Frog
  10. Cinderella