Picture This!

  One of my favorite reading strategies to teach is visualizing. My students love sketching out what they are picturing in their minds as I read a passage from a story. Last year, during the time I was introducing my students to visualizing in Language Arts, we were also beginning to solve word problems in math. I found myself saying, “As we read the word problem together, I want you to create a picture in your mind, or visualize, what is happening.” The visualizing strategy helped them immensely. It allowed them to slow down and think about what is being asked of them before rushing off and solving it. This year, we have started tackling tricky word problems that require students to decompose numbers and determine the missing addend, and the visualizing strategy has worked wonders with this group as well!

Here’s the simple introductory lesson I did with my class:

To begin, I gave each student a half sheet of paper, a pencil, and a small bag of crayons. Then, I had the class sit in a circle and close their eyes as I told them a story. I told them that there would be no pictures as I told the story, but that their minds could draw the pictures for them. After I finished telling them the story, I had them open their eyes and sketch a quick picture of what they visualized. Then, I made the connection between picture-less books and word problems. I explained that we can visualize what the problem is asking us to do. They totally got it! To help solidify it all, I used this helpful poster to introduce how we can use the pictures in our mind to help us solve word problems.


Afterwards, I separated them into small groups, gave them a SIMPLE word problem, had them discuss what they visualized in their minds, and then act out their visualizations. After doing this a few times, I modeled on paper how you can use your visualizations to show your work using numbers, words and pictures. Then, they gave it a try! They did a BEAUTIFUL job!



To help them better understand the different kinds of word problems, I created these simple and kid-friendly posters. Each poster gives an example of the problem. There’s a poster for the following types of word problems that are listed in the Common Core’s Operations and Algebraic Thinking Standards for first grade: Result Unknown, Change Unknown, Start Unknown, Total Unknown, Addend Unknown, Both Addends Unknown,  and Adding Three Numbers.





I also created 35 addition problems that tackle the different types of word problems. image



To help keep myself organized, I labeled each type of problem in the bottom right corner. image

I also made these Visualize the Problem pages. It is SO interesting to see the story problem they visualize to go along with the given picture. I’m always amazed by what they come up with!

image Another fun activity that gets everyone up and moving is to post word problems around the room for them to solve. First, I break them into small groups of 3-4 students.  Then, I have them go around to the problems posted around the classroom and record one way to solve the problem. After they solve it one way, I have them rotate to another word problem and have them solve the problem in a DIFFERENT way than the group before. I write the problems on LARGE paper to give them plenty of recording space.


Another great activity that can be independent, but still gets them up and moving, is a scavenger hunt for word problems. I turn off the lights, have everyone close their eyes, and then choose a few students to “hide” the word problem cards. Then, everyone opens their eyes and goes on the hunt to solve them. My kids LOVE scavenger hunts.

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You can find all of these resources at my shop. Everything in this packet is aligned with Common Core’s Operations and Algebraic Thinking Standards for first grade. Just click HERE or on the preview below.


In this 72 page packet, you will find:
-anchor charts that teach The Four Steps (Visualize It, Retell It, Think About It, and Share It)
-example posters and 35 word problems (5 of each) for the different types of word problems (Result Unknown, Change Unknown, Start Unknown, Total Unknown, Addend Unknown, Both Addends Unknown, Adding Three Numbers)
– scavenger hunt (scatter 8 word problem cards around the classroom and have students go on a hunt to find and solve them)
– Write Your Own Word Problem sheet
– 3 Visualize the Problem When a Picture is Given sheets (the picture is provided and students have to come up with story problem that matches the picture) (The first three friends to leave a comment will get this packet for free! Just remember to leave your e-mail address in the comment.)

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{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Natalies Nook October 9, 2013, 12:17 am

    Hi Lyndsey!
    This pack looks fantastic! I would love to have the opportunity to use it in my classroom!

    [email protected]

    Natalies Nook

  • Karyn October 9, 2013, 12:20 am

    Lindsey this pack is awesome! I could really see it helping my kiddos! Thanks for the opportunity to use it! :o)

    [email protected]

  • Jenna Frederick October 9, 2013, 12:23 am

    Would love this!!

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  • Katy October 9, 2013, 12:39 am

    Oh bummer, I'm #4! Just wanted to say that this packet looks great! Thanks for sharing how you use it in your room!

    – Katy

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    First Grade Kate

  • Rae October 9, 2013, 12:44 am

    This is an AMAZING product! I've added this to my wish list 🙂

    Mindful Rambles

  • Marcy October 9, 2013, 12:54 am

    This looks fantastic! It is on my wish list!!
    [email protected]

  • Lori L October 9, 2013, 1:09 am

    This looks amazing.. will be buying it this week.

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  • Carol H October 9, 2013, 1:10 am

    This packet is amazing! Thanks for sharing your ideas!

    Carol Hernandez

  • Elisabeth October 9, 2013, 1:11 am

    This looks awesome!!!

    [email protected]

  • Rachel Booth October 9, 2013, 1:11 am

    This looks amazing!! My little ones have been struggling with the connections!! 🙂 Can't wait to use this.

  • Roxanne Sterling October 9, 2013, 1:16 am

    This is absolutely awesome!!!! This will be valuable to my little kiddos in helping them concretize, visualize and understanding these abstract math concepts.

    I would love a copy!!!! Take care and have an awesome evening

    [email protected]

  • kathie October 9, 2013, 1:28 am

    This packet is really wonderful. Full of great stuff. Putting it on my wish list. Thanks
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  • jbales October 9, 2013, 11:40 am

    These activities would bring out the best in all of my students, no matter what level their math thinking was. I love it!!!
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  • More than Math by Mo October 9, 2013, 10:36 pm

    My littles LOVE these!!! I am so happy I purchased this set! Thanks for sharing your creativity.
    More Than Math by Mo

  • Karen October 10, 2013, 12:21 am

    Lyndsey, I love this packet! I bought it before school started and was so excited to be able to use it when I introduced word problems. I love the simplicity of the pages. And, the posters have really helped us make sense of word problems! You have a fantastic style and your products are always top notch!

    An Apple a Day in First Grade

  • Terry Yordan October 10, 2013, 1:04 am

    I need to start peeking at my emails before I get home. Living on the west coast makes start time late 🙂
    This pack looks terrific.
    [email protected]

  • Samantha Kearns October 29, 2013, 12:42 am

    I absolutely adore your work! You create such practical, meaningful, easy to implement activities. Thank you for all of your hard work! I have this and your nonfiction and fiction packs waiting patiently on my wish list. Unfortunately, our school is having printer/copier "issues", as in we aren't allowed to print large amounts right now. :/ So until I figure out how to get around that, I will be impatiently waiting to use your fabulous resources. Thank you again for them and the helpful posts about how to implement as well!

    Tales of a #teachernerd

  • Sammy Howell November 1, 2013, 8:12 pm

    I would love to use this packet with my ELLs. Where can I get a copy of it?

    [email protected]

    Thank you for the great resource!

  • Karyn November 30, 2013, 9:20 pm

    Hi Lindsay,

    I was the second person to comment on this post and I never received the pack. I emailed you but didn't get a response. I was so looking forward to using it with my students! Is there a chance it went to the wrong email address? Thanks so much!!!

    [email protected]