Visualizing strategy for math word problems

In my experience as an interventionist and special education teacher, students who struggle with math word problems often lack the ability to visualize, or picture what's happening in the problem.

So, what do you do for kid who can't picture the word problem in their head? I think that you definitely need to have a Growth Mindset approach (Carol Dweck). Remind your students that math takes time and effort. You've got to try new strategies. 

What else can you do as a teacher? A lot of times, I read the word problem first to my students while they close their eyes and think about it. If you're a struggling reader, it's going to be hard to read problems, especially the wordy ones with extraneous information. While I read, I tell my students to play a math movie in your head and try to imagine what's happening in the problem. Afterwards, we share what we visualized and listen to others.

I also like to use objects/props (real or fake) from the word problem. My students are able to see and touch the objects. Now, I do end up writing my own word problems. But for me, that's ok. I can write about things I have access to, own already, or can buy cheap. For example, I came across fake fruits and vegetables at the Dollar Tree. I use them for so many word problem situations like buying groceries, selling food at the farmer's market, etc. Last week, we solved word problems involving decimals/money. The kids loved acting out the problem with the fake foods. Here's what it looked like.

I hope you were able to take away some ideas. Please feel free to share any ways you help your students with word problems.