Mel Levine's Cognitive Backpack

(See Success Stories Below)

Interpretation (becoming an in-depth comprehender)

• Forming, grasping, and applying concepts
• Accessing and using prior knowledge and experience
• Understanding through verbal, nonverbal, and experiential pathways
• Forming multiple vivid mental representations of new knowledge and ideas
• Monitoring degrees of comprehension
• Analyzing expectations (overt as well as unspoken)
• Systematically evaluating ideas, issues, people, and products
• Assessing opportunities
• Actively processing information inputs
• Balancing or integrating detail with the “big picture”
• Finding a balance between “top-down” and convergent thinking

Instrumentation (acquiring a project mentality)

• Brainstorming
• Thinking long-term and previewing potential outcomes
• Applying step-by-step thinking (instead of snap decisions or impulsive approaches)
• Achieving task integration
• Learning, developing, and applying strategies
• Managing time and prioritizing
• Overcoming an obsession with “fun”
• Harnessing mental energy and effort
• Postponing “payoffs”; working one's way up
• Developing effective personal work patterns

Interaction (building and sustaining productive, fulfilling relationships)

• Succeeding interpersonally without social addiction
• Collaborating
• Resisting/preventing affiliation dependency
• Forging working relationships (as opposed to adolescent-type friendships)
• Communicating effectively (verbal pragmatics)
• Relating to more senior people (such as bosses)

Inner Direction (attaining malleable self-insights that inform self-launching)

• Knowing one's current profile of strengths and weaknesses
• Aligning that profile with (preliminary/tentative) life plans
• Reviewing autobiographical leitmotifs
• Deciding on personal job values
• Finding pockets of intrinsic motivation/passions
• Discovering and cultivating affinities
• Uncovering competitive advantage(s)
• Previewing potential life roles
• Probing what it will take to succeed

Student Success Stories:

Managing time and prioritizing is a very important skill to have, especially if your’e a busy person like me. I participate in sports in every season of the school year and because of this, I have practice after school during the week, and often on the weekends, too. I used to have a very difficult time prioritizing and was not very good at balancing my time. I had trouble dividing my time between school work, sports, and friends. I didn’t use my time at school or home wisely, and I found myself struggling to finish all of my homework before my classes started. I would stay up later than I wanted at night and I would be very tired during the mornings.

I eventually realized that I could prevent this by prioritizing. I learned, by practice, how to use my time efficiently. I try to finish most of my homework at school during breaks, and I barely watch TV on school nights. I look ahead at my schedule to see what assignments I need to finish and when I have time to complete them. I don’t spend a lot of time on things that are unimportant.

I am very glad I have gotten so good at managing my time. This has caused me to get more sleep at night and to be happier during the day. Because I am using my time more efficiently, I have more time to do things I enjoy like spending time with friends.


Communicating effectively is something that is important to me and is a skill that I think people need. There are many times where I have had to talk to someone about something like a question raised in a class, or a problem that had arisen between people. Throughout my life as a student, I have had to learn what is the best way to answer, expand, or just talk about something. I was not always a whiz at communicating my thoughts. However, just through trial and error, I have been able to see what types of things to use when talking about something to make people understand my thoughts.

I also have had to talk problems out with friends or my parents. In these cases, I have learned that some ways not to communicate effectively are not to communicate at all and to do it in the heat of anger. No problems have ever been solved for me that way. I have learned that it is important to talk with a clear mind and just be open to communication with someone. This also includes being on the receiving end of communication. This is important too because I think that in order to know how to communicate, it is neccessary to understand the thoughts of someone and from there think of what to say.

I really like the fact that I have gotten better at communicating with people. It has helped me solve problems with school, allowed me to talk to teachers if I don't understand something, given me the chance to fix relationships, and to explain what goes on in my head a little bit better.

- Marissa

Accessing and using prior knowledge and experience is a very important skill to have because it will help you out in the long run. By being able to accesses things that you have learned in the past, you are able to save yourself from the trouble that you once ran into. For example, if you are in math class and you are asked to solve an old math problem that you had to solve many years ago you are able to look back and get that knowledge that you once learned.
Another example of how this skill is helpful is by learning from past experiences in your life. When you run into certain problems in your life, there is a way that you can avoid these mishaps when they come around again. If you are able to remember what had happened before, you will know the outcome and be able to do things different so the same results don’t happen again.

Overall I feel that being able to accesses prior knowledge and experiences is a great skill to have when trying to solve things.


I think that succeeding interpersonally without social addiction is very important because if you are socially addicted then you won't be able to do anything on your own. You would need to have people around you are all hours of the day, which is very hard to do especially when other people have lives too. I think that I succeed interpersonally without being a social addict because I get along with other people fine and I have a group of friends that I hang out with, but I know when I need to just go to the library to get homework done. I stay at school pretty late for extra-curricular activities, so I like to my school-work done early so I can go home and just sleep or relax. If I was socially addicted, then not only would I not do any homework at school, but when I get home I would stay up til the wee hours of the morning talking to my friends on AIM or Myspace.

~ Lauren

I think developing effective personal work patterns is a significant skill. There are many effective personal work patterns that different people use. Different people use different techniques that work for them. If you able to develop an effective pattern with your working, then you will be able to be efficient and organized while you work. Without having developed habits or patterns when you work, you tend to be slowed down rather than excelling. An example of having an effective work pattern is to always do all of your homework before you play.

I personally don’t do that, but I do have effective work patterns that work for me. One of them is organizing everything before I even get started with my work. I figure out everything that I have to do before I do it and try to find the most efficient way of getting it done. This way you can prioritize and manage your time as well as getting a clear mind before getting to work.


The first thing that came to my mind when Mr. Schauble asked us to do this assignment was to talk about French. One very important skill that is essential to finding success is to develop an effective personal work pattern. I think this means that every individual has a special way of learning, whether it is visually, audioly, or etc. But there is a pattern that I noticed that I go through for my French class. Usually, the day before the French test I go in to talk to my teacher. I usually go over the structure portion of the chapter. Then, when I get home I start to study the vocabulary by using the vocabulary worksheet and rewrite the French words. That really seems to help me when I am stuck and can't remember the vocabulary word. I think that method of writing and learning helps me because the motion of writing the letters stick with me. And for some reason writing it helps me "see" the words. I know that may be a strange method, but it really does help me. It actually has gotten me a very good grade in French.

I also talk to my friends about what type of work patterns they have. I learned that they have very different learning methods. Fo math one of my friends goes through the practice problems and that is it. She is good to go. And I was shocked. In math, I am the type to review all of my previous test. And that method seems to help me the most in math.

There is a fine line between the top down of thinking and the trial-and-error method. The top down method requires that assess the problem at hand and determine a suitable solution from the given facts. This is the 'scientific' method. The other method is more subjective. The convergent method is basically trial-and-error. You continue to try different solutions till one works.

A person cannot be geared towards only one thinking strategy. A balance must be kept. There are problems that the solutions are unique to each strategy. So if you only ever use one or the other, when you are presented with a problem that requires a different way of thinking, you are stuck. This is what Robert Pirsig describes in Zen and the Art of Mortorcyle Maintenance.

You have to be flexible when thinking. The world is a varied place and it presents you with varied problems and puzzles. Change your thinking to match the puzzle that needs to be addressed. Someone who can easily change the way they think is much better off than someone who sticks to one 'thinking strategy.'


In order to succeed in life, we must first find out what it will take to succeed. We will never be able to achieve anything if we don't know what we have to do in order to achieve that thing. It is always good to ask yourself what you can do to make things better. Sometimes finding the right path to success involves walking down numerous paths which lead to failure. However, even if you fail a couple of times, you should always continue and strive to find success. From these failures you can learn and become wiser. In tennis, whenever I attempt to learn how to make a new shot, I always ask myself what I have to do in order to execute that shot perfectly. I usually try a couple of different things to see which one works the best with that particular shot. Many times I will try a variety of things and none of them work well; other times I will find a swing or grip that allows me to execute the shot exactly how I want to. If I didn't think at all about what it would take for me to succeed in making that shot, I might never have learned anything new or accomplished anything. Also, if I had given up every time I couldn't understand or execute something, I would know very few shots.


An example of when forming, grasping, and applying concepts was extremely helpful was in math class. In my math, algebra 2 and trigonometry, it is important that you first form, then grasp and finally apply concepts in order to solve math problems. I did well in math last quarter because I first formed the correct concepts for solving specific problems. Then I grasped the concepts by continuing to practice therefore getting better at them, and being able to truly understand how they worked. Finally I applied the concepts during the test and I continued to succeed.


Systematically evaluating ideas, issues, people, and products is something I'm getting good at. I'm good at analyzing things and applying their concepts. For example, being able to analyze ideas and "get" the concepts is essential for reading books for english like the Poisonwood Bible. I've also written good essays for the practice SAT essays we did in class. Being able to evaluate ideas allows you to get the main concept for the sat prompt or get the theme in a book to write a paper. While this way of thinking is not mandatory for a good student, it helps a lot. Being able to break down concepts and ideas or to understand people and products is a good tool to have.


Managing time and Prioritizing

I believe that managing time and prioritizing are very important tools to have to be successful and productive. I personally have to work on this because I have a hard time managing my time and I tend to put things off. When I end early from school or have a lot of extra time, I sometimes put a lot of things off because I think I have so much time to do it in. In ends up catching up with me and I have to face the consequences. Also, I always so my homework or studying that I want to do the least last. Sometimes, on my breaks I get side-tracked and I hang out with my friends instead of doing my school work. Time Management is important, because if time is managed well, then a lot of work can be done. When I don’t manage my time I end up getting an overload of homework on certain days or I have to stay up very late to finish.

Also, prioritizing is very useful, and sometimes I have to put things such as my homework and studying in front of things such as hanging out with my friends or watching TV. In order for us to get far in school and in life, our priorities must be in order to help us become successful.


Knowing ones current profile strengths and weakness

I believe that I am very good in knowing what my strengths and weakness's are. In sports you need to know what you need help in so that everybody on your team can know what you need help in. On my team I know that I need help in many areas. With my strengths I try to help others that are not as good with some of the things I am good at. For example, I am a horrible swimmer in my opinion. Many times by my teammates knowing this they can help me when I need it

. Knowing my strengths and weakness's also help me in things like school. I know which of my homework I will need to do first to get it all done. I know taht my math homework will be faster than me for my english homework and I therefore can choose which to do first.


I showed time managment when I started my final english project. I planned out everything that I needed to do and by what time I should be finished with them. I spread out all the work over a long period of time which made it a lot easier and less stressful. If I hadn't managed my time I would probably be rushing around and pulling my hair out right about now but I'm not stressed out about my project at all. The only thing I'm a bit worried about is the paper, but I started that a long time ago too, so I don't have that much to be worried about.

- Nainoa

By being able to think long-term and previewing multiple possibilities, I was able to create my final project. As I began writing my story, I knew that every story must have an end. At first, I didn't know what sort of direction I wanted the story to go in. But eventually, I was able to find multiple ways I could end the book. I was able to end this part of the story in the way I wanted to. Now, I am already thinking about how I am going to restart the story in a different but similar direction. I also have some scenes set for the next part of the story and have multiple ways to get to these scenes.