Persuasive Writing Project: What Famous American Needs a National Monument?

In my last blog post, I shared resources for helping students learn about our nation’s capital and national monuments, as well as a new TpT product I created, inspired on my trip to Washington D.C. I have been using this activity with a few of my tutoring students, and it’s going SO well! I hope that you will get just as excited about this idea as I am and consider using this in your elementary or secondary classroom next year!

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 7.07.46 PMI first started out showing a presentation (the TpT product) to see if they recognized and knew what the monuments were for and who/what they honored. Next, I showed my students photos of some Americans who do NOT have a national memorial and may deserve one (this is also in the presentation).

Famous Americans without monumentsI had my students choose one of these individuals or groups I had on a list (see right) or they could also choose someone of their own choice). Next came research to find out what these people did to make them worthy of our acclaim. To save time in our hour-long tutoring session, I linked some Newsela articles and web pages from kid-friendly sites such as Ducksters and Kiddle. After researching and taking notes, I let the students choose to do either a persuasive writing piece or presentation to convince others that this person or group deserves a monument!

Finally, I plan to have the students design the memorial, using online tools/apps, drawing or building. (I will update on that later!) I also love the idea of using Legos…this idea came from a recent blog from Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher!

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One of my students chose Katherine Johnson, the famed NASA “computer” whose work helped astronauts get to the moon.  She is using this graphic organizer on the left to research. Another student chose the female codebreakers from WWII and chose to not do the organizer, but still is taking notes in an organized method (photo on above right).  This student and I are beginning our tutoring sessions with code-breaking activities; some from the Kid’s Zone on the CIA website and some Crypto Mind Benders from The Critical Thinking Co.  He brought one of his school papers to show me that he had written his name in code and his teacher figured it out! Check out our photos below:

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To help him with his thesis statement for his persuasive presentation, I had him use a graphic organizer from ASCD that I’ve used with students in the past. It is such a simple, visual way for students to craft this statement. I first modeled for him as if I was doing my research on why Sacagawea needs a national monument. Our thesis statements actually ended up more like opening paragraphs, but that’s okay. He got the idea!

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I am so excited to see what my other students do with this activity; I plan to have more do it over the summer, so watch for further updates! My next blog will continue my “Travel and Teaching” theme, with more resources for students to learn about our nation’s capital and another TpT product to go along!

In the meantime, be sure to check out this National Monuments presentation and activity in my Teachers Pay Teachers store (and please follow me on TpT as I only have six followers…)

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Our School Wide Star Wars Day

A long time ago (well two years ago today), in a school far, far away (actually about a 30 minute drive), my students and I planned a school-wide Star Wars Day for May the 4th!  Enjoy our photos and hopefully this will give you some ideas for your own classroom or school Star Wars Day! May the 4th be with you!

During my last year before retirement, while working as a GT Facilitator, my entire theme for my gifted and talented students was Growth Mindset. Check out this past blog on how I used this theme throughout the year. My students and I were all big Star Wars fans, so I led them through some project-based learning to plan and carry out a school-wide Star Wars Day! I gave the reins to the kids and had them meet with the principal to get permission, plan with the building engineer for what we would need for the day, and create presentations, a trivia game, and morning announcements promoting the event.  Check out the slideshows below to see all we did! And a HUGE thank you to my former students who helped me plan and carry out this day!

Planning

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The Big Day

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Star Wars Day Fashion

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Be sure to check out my Pinterest board on Star Wars in the classroom!

A huge thank you to George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars saga, and founder of the George Lucas Educational Foundation (Edutopia)!

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Travel and Teaching: Washington DC: Part 1

“What one learns in a classroom is just a very small part of learning process . The real learning starts when one crosses borders and travels miles for the real knowledge.” – Vivek Sahni

One of my passions, besides teaching, is travel! I have always believed that the classroom is not the only place to learn; in fact, I’ve learned some of my most lasting lessons while traveling. Back in my classrooms days, I brought back my experiences and lessons to my students so they could experience more of their world as well. I did this in a number of ways: through slideshows, displays of souvenirs and photos, and research activities on people and places. While working as a GT facilitator, I would post photos of my travels on Edmodo or Google Classroom and give the students challenges where they had to find out information about whatever was in the photo. I offered digital badges to those students who would complete the challenge first. I am still doing this with my tutoring students; when my husband and I took a two week trip to Italy in 2017, I left all of my students with some reading, writing and research activities on Italy.

Last week, I finally made it to Washington D.C.!  I can’t believe that someone who loves traveling and history, and has gotten to be this old and has never been there! I was also passionate about teaching my students American history and government! We were headed there to attend my stepson’s army reenlistment ceremony; it was going to be held at the National Archives Museum in the rotunda (more on that in my next blog!). I began planning in earnest to visit the places that my students (and my own daughters) and I had read about or seen in photos and movies. I have provided photos and links below that you help your students learn about these places and people. In addition, my visit has inspired me to create some learning activities for my tutoring students, and you will be able to use these activities with your students a well (more at the bottom of the blog)! Off we go to our nation’s capital. (All photos are by me unless otherwise credited.)

First, some general resources for you and your students on Washington D.C.

Our first day was spent on the National Mall. We, unfortunately, chose to go there on not just a Saturday, but on a day when the cherry blossoms were in full bloom! The crowds and traffic were insane, and to get anywhere on the mall, you had to walk quite a bit. But we managed to see several sites and loved learning about them with an audio tour from Atlantis Audio Tours. Here’s what we saw on the mall, with links for you and your students:

IMG_3594Washington Monument:  The Monument was closed for repairs…but I didn’t mind…just seeing it was amazing!

  • A lesson from the National Park Service in which students can see and analyze primary sources, as well as learn about the qualities of a leader and why George Washington was chosen to have a monument built in his name, as well as design their own monument for a leader of their choice.
  • Here’s a Reading A-Z book on this monument, appropriate for 1st/2nd grade.
  • ReadWorks article

World War II Memorial: Another amazing place to visit! In the audio tour, we learned about the features of the memorials and the significance of the bronze wreaths and rope connecting all the state and territory columns. In addition, there are famous quotes, engraved on the walls, from Franklin Roosevelt and others about this war.

  • Five lesson plans from The Friends of the National WWII Memorial, featuring “a culminating activity called, “World War II at the Memorial” connecting the lesson directly to features of the National World War II Memorial addressed in the lesson.

Lincoln Memorial: We arrived here with tired feet after starting at the Washington Monument, and slowly climbed the crowded steps.  But it was all worth it when we turned around to view the iconic view toward the Washington Monument, the same one Martin Luther King, Jr. saw during the “I Have a Dream” speech.

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Jefferson Pier photo from Wikimedia Commons

The Jefferson Pier:  I know, you’re saying…”The what?!” But this is actually quite interesting and we would not have known about it except for our audio tour. This little nondescript marker (almost looks like a “mini” Washington Monument!) once had great ambitions of marking the prime meridian of the United States…if Thomas Jefferson had had his way! From the website Adventures in DC website: “He (Jefferson) had it located on the southern bank of Tiber Creek due south from the center of the White House and due west from the center of the U.S. Capitol. The creek no longer runs through the National Mall, but the stone remains.” Boats used to dock near this marker (the Potomac at that time came up near this point) to unload materials for building the Washington Monument. This poor little marker never became the U.S. Prime Meridian as our country chose to use the more standard Greenwich Meridian.

There were several memorials we were not able to get to, either due to time or exhaustion…but here are some teaching resources for them:

Jefferson Memorial:
Ben’s Guide Information
10 Fun facts about the Jefferson Memorial
YouTube video about the Memorial
Ducksters: Thomas Jefferson Biography

Martin Luther King Memorial
Ben’s Guide Information
Ducksters: Martin Luther King Jr. Biography

Korean War Memorial
Ben’s Guide Information
Duckster: The Korean War

Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial
Ben’s Guide Information
– Ducksters: FDR Biography

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Photo by Jan Anttila

Cherry Blossoms: We saw some spectacular cherry blossoms around the D.C. areas…and not just at the National Mall! The history about these famed blossoms is quite interesting; here are some resources!

National Monument and Memorial Challenge: I wonder how many of our students across the country, who have not been to the DC area before, know about all the memorials for famous Americans…not just those on the National Mall, but many more located around our country.  I created a visual challenge in Google Slides for my students to see how many they could identify and if they knew who that famous person was. In this presentation, you have a photo that shows the monument with no label, and then one with the label.  At the end of the presentation are photos of some famous Americans who do NOT have one. I am having some of my students choose one of these persons, research them and then write a persuasive piece about WHY this person deserves a memorial. The students will then have a chance to design the memorial using whatever medium they would like. This idea is based on a lesson idea from the National Park Service.

This National Monument product is ON SALE on Teachers Pay Teachers, Here’s the LINK! If you like these materials, please let me know in the comments or in TpT reviews.

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Photos by Jan Anttila

 

 

 

Lessons from Vincent

The loss of our beautiful grandson has made me reflect on the lessons he can give to classroom teachers who have special needs students in their classrooms.

I’ve been off the grid with my tutoring, consulting and blogging the past few weeks as our family suffered an unimaginable, sudden tragedy…the loss of our six year old grandson, Vincent. Within a week, he went from his usual winter cold to serious issues, strokes and surgeries. He passed away a few days later with his parents at his side. But from the moment he was born and diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, this boy began teaching his lessons…lessons that I wish I had known when many years ago when I had a student with Down Syndrome in my class.  Back then I did not know much, if anything, about how to help and teach these children. While I did have help and support from the wonderful special education staff at my school, I wish I had known more and had done more to establish a relationship and teach her. Now because of Vincent, I know. I would like to share with you some lessons that may help not only teachers, but any caregivers who work with special needs children.

Encourage a love of books with ALL students: As a retired teacher, of course I had hundreds of children’s books in my home and tried to encourage all three of our grandchildren to enjoy being read to as well as reading on their own. But it was Vincent who truly developed a passion for books. At first he would grab a book and bring it a family member to have them read aloud. However, he lost patience with that and began choosing books to either look at on his own or read. He especially loved interactive books and books that made noise! He would “read aloud” the book with a great deal of expression, while turning pages and looking up at his listeners to see their reaction. He obviously had been watching his caregivers and teachers closely as they read aloud and wanted to emulate their enthusiasm.

Vincent’s Lesson:  If you have special needs students in your classroom, make sure they have access to many books are given opportunities to hear books read aloud and let them read to other students. Have the students in your class also work with them on the alphabet, phonemic awareness and phonics skills. Help them discover a love of words!


Celebrate the joy of music with your students!  Besides books, nothing made Vincent happier than music and dancing. When he was at our house, we turned on the party songs and he would rock out; Such a joy to watch him!  But he especially loved singing with microphones. We have our own karaoke setup at our house and during karaoke parties, he would go up to the person singing, grab the second mike and start singing along. His teacher at Turman Elementary in Colorado Springs shared an adorable video of him at school picking up laminated models of coins and singing the money poem/song. Once the song was over, Vincent wasn’t…he kept picking up more coins and singing away!

Vincent’s Lesson: Make sure your students, no matter the if they are special needs or not, are given opportunities to sing, dance and listen to music (and sing into microphones!). There are so many ways to integrate music into lessons and activities!

Love unconditionally: Of course we teachers care about all of our students. However, every teacher knows that there are some children that are much more challenging than others. Life was not always easy with Vincent; he had to be constantly supervised and kept busy and occupied. It’s important to set rules and expectations with special needs students, and have consequences for inappropriate behavior, but every student must know that you care unconditionally for him or her and will help and support them no matter what. I know Vincent felt that from his family, teachers, and friends, and we all felt that from Vincent. Vincent loved everyone…his parents and brother, his dog, all of his grandparents, his cousins, his relatives, his parents’ friends, his teachers and other caregivers, our friends, my family…everyone. Vincent loved life and emulated joy and happiness.

Vincent’s Lesson: Special Needs students need to have teachers who love them unconditionally and share their joy and happiness in life and learning!

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Learn from your students: Vincent’s mother began teaching him sign language at an early age to help him communicate with the family and others. When he began schools, she shared this strategy with his teachers and after care staff to help them communicate with him as well. Last year he received an award from the after school program; he had been their first Down Syndrome child in their program and as the Director of the program stated in her comments at his service; he demanded they do more, be more and learn more (sounds like our Vincent!)  The award he received was an American Sign Language award to thank him for opening their minds to learning sign language. Here is a LINK to more information on using sign language with Down Syndrome children. 

Vincent’s Lesson: The adult teachers are not the only ones who can teach others. Watch for opportunities to learn from your students and have them share their knowledge and skills with others. 33422539_1682169635192723_3695909595470888960_o

Finally, I would like to thank the teachers and staff of Turman Elementary School and the Deerfield Community Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.  Besides his incredible teachers and para in his SSN classroom at Turman, he had an incredible caregiving staff at Deerfield’s After Care program. They not only took are of him after school every day, but on his off-track time. Their love for Vincent was apparent when so many of them came to the hospital to support Vincent and his family during that last difficult week. They shared so many priceless stories, photos and videos with us! Even more staff from both places attended his service. As teachers, our students and their families are very special to us and that was apparent the past few weeks. Vincent touched so many lives!

For more information on how to support special needs students in your classroom, please check out the following links:
Strategies for learning and teaching Down Syndrome students
Supporting the student with Down Syndrome in your classroom
5 Tips for including students with Down Syndrome in a general education classroom
Down Syndrome resources for educators

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A New Year…and New Literacy Resources!

New literacy resources for teachers…apps, websites, assessment tools, reading comprehension tools, and penguin belly sliding??!!!

Whew! Another holiday season is done! Were they as crazy for you as for me? As I look back on my teaching days while raising kids, I don’t know how I survived the holidays.  Even though I am retired with my own business, I still found myself going crazy, probably because I’m older… In my first blog of 2019, I am excited to share some new literacy resources with you!

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Draft of the math one-pager my student was working on.

The One-Pager

Have you done these with your students? I had seen a few on Instagram but didn’t realize it was a popular (required?) activity in the AVID program. The other week my student, who is in the 7th-grade AVID program at her school, brought this assignment to me for help.  She had a page of requirements for what needed to be included and how to design. I was immediately intrigued and wish I had known about this while working with my GT students a few years ago. I love the creativity and thinking that goes into this! Here is the definition of this activity from the AVID website: “A One-Pager is a creative response to your learning experience. It allows you to respond imaginatively while being brief and concise in making connections between words and images. We think about what we see and read differently when we are asked to do something with what we have seen or read. We learn best when we create our own ideas. Your personal thinking about what you have experienced should be understood by the audience that views the One-Pager.” The link also has the requirements for the activity to hand out to students. Do you use these in your classroom? I would love to see any photos of one-pagers that your students have done!

Go Formative

Wow – just discovered this…again, because my tutoring student needed help on her assignment on Go Formative.  Once logged in to the website, she had to read a story (“Harrison Bergeron”) that was in her assignments, then answer questions about the story. The questions were right next to the story so she could answer them as she read. She was even able to draw some of her answers, which for this particular student, is sometimes easier than writing. Of course, I had to get my own account, and I’ve added some activities that others have made, but I am anxious to upload and create my own activities for tutoring students! Stay tuned!

Reading Comprehension App by Peekaboo Studios LLC

I have plenty of phonics and fluency apps on my iPad, but it seems as if reading comprehension ones are not as plentiful unless you want to pay a lot of money!  I found one, called simply Reading Comprehension,  that can initially be used for free, and then if you want, you can purchase more passages/tests; there are reading passages for grades 1-5, and if you work with struggling readers, you can use the most appropriate grade level for the students. I immediately realized the potential for using this app for comprehension progress monitoring (I have also had trouble finding short passages that could give a quick update on comprehension!) I tried the app with my 3rd-grade tutoring student who has struggled with both comprehension and fluency, and she LOVED it! She read a story about Bats and then took the assessment; receiving a perfect score (I helped her a bit…). I plan to use this with other students to monitor their comprehension.


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Reading a-z Comprehension Passages

I have used this incredible, wonderful, fantastic, fabulous website for years with both my RtI students in schools and my tutoring students. But in the last few months, I discovered that they have reading passages specifically for all of the reading comprehension strategies!  The passages come with lesson plans, a model passage, and practice passage. In addition, there are ways to extend the lesson.

For those teachers new to teaching reading, this is a fail-safe way to ensure that all of the reading strategies are being taught and covered. With my tutoring students, I extend the strategies taught with these comprehension passages when we are reading other articles/passages. At left is a photo of a Main Idea passage used with my 3rd-grade student. She was so into this topic of Penguins, that she had to draw pictures (great way to check comprehension, by the way!) and even did a demonstration of the belly sliding on her tiled floor!

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So that’s it for the first blog of the year! Please comment on if you already use or plan to use these resources! For more teaching resources, be sure to check out my TpT store, as well as my Instagram

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Some holiday math and writing fun!

Merry Christmas to all the followers of my blog! Want a FREEBIE to keep you sane this last week before Winter Break? Then keep reading!

Okay….it’s the last week before Christmas break…so here’s a quick post with a few ideas for things to do to keep the kids busy and NOT driving you crazy!

c02ac1cc454831b0c10dd30f3456cfa7The first idea is based on something I did in my classroom days…and it was a HUGE hit! This was in the 90s before technology came to the classroom, so I used to copy off catalog pages of potential holiday gifts for friends and family. I would hand out a sheet to the kids for listing gifts and prices, then show the items on the overhead projector (yes – I said overhead projector; that’s how old I am LOL!).  I would use this “fantasy” shopping excursion to help the students practice math computation skills. I can’t remember exactly what I did, but I know that there was a competition to see who could spend the most and the least!

A8F2BD1F-42DF-431D-9BFE-88C40EED1D2BNow that I’m tutoring, I wanted to try the same idea with my students but updated with technology. I created three sheets for fantasy shopping…one for multiplication/addition, one for a division and one for subtraction.  Armed with both catalogs I had received in the mail, as well as websites (Amazon, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.), I had the students choose WHO they wanted to shop for…it could be friends or family, or both! On the sheet, they had to list the cost, and then do the computation based on the topic. Then, taking it a step further, I had them create a presentation with a photo of the item, the cost, and their grand total/budget. The students are either taking a photo of the item in the catalog or finding it online and doing a screenshot, then adding to their Google Doc or Slide. Click HERE to see a sample presentation!

Screen Shot 2018-12-17 at 7.57.19 PMFor my students not working on math skills with me, I created a few literacy activities to use with the fantasy gift shopping, including responding to a prompt about what gifts they would give to friends and family if money was not an issue, as well as persuasive and descriptive writing ideas. For my student just today, I brought my catalogs so he could pick out some “gifts: for his family.  Tomorrow I plan to have my 7th-grade student do writing about some very “unique” gifts using her vocabulary words from her vocabulary word wall on Padlet (see photo below.) Check out her work HERE! 

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My Fantasy Holiday Gift Shopping activities are currently for sale in my TpT store, but I wanted to thank all of you for following my blog by offering you a free copy for just 24 hours! Click HERE for your copy! Best of luck surviving the week and have a restful, peaceful and relaxing Winter Break! You deserve it!

 

 

 

Writing in Math

How often do you have students write in math? How often do you have them explain in writing how they solved a problem?

If you had asked me 15 years ago when I was in my 5th/6th classroom, my answer would have been…uh, not very often. But I’ve grown older and wiser over the years and I now see the importance and necessity of having your students write in math! While working with GT students recently, I had them explain in writing how they solved their math challenges, and I have carried on doing this with my tutoring students.  So buckle up and get ready to learn or review several ways you can use writing in math!

Screen Shot 2018-10-02 at 2.55.39 PMMath Exemplars

I love these, and have used them in my classroom, with GT students, and with tutoring students!  It is the perfect combination of math problem solving, critical thinking, reading, and writing!  The website has them for grades K-8, but you can use them for RtI or GT work, just go down or up a level.

When using these, I modeled and discussed HOW to read them. I basically wanted them to use Close Reading and really interact with the text.  I had them highlight what they felt was important for solving, and what they were being asked to figure out. This is important because often in the solving of word problems, students just look at the numbers and start using algorithms. I had to constantly take them back to what they had to find out and solve, and make sure they understood this. After they had solved the problem (or even not solved it!), they had to explain in writing (they could add pictures too) the process they used to solve it. Even my GT students had trouble with this so I could tell it this was something they had not been asked to do very often.  In fact, every student has such struggles with this, that I finally created templates for them to use, one for primary students, and one for intermediate students.  The next year, before I even had my students attempt to explain in writing, I used Educreations to record their explanation verbally, as well as their pictures on how they solved it. That proved to be a perfect stepping stone before moving them into the writing. Check out one of the 2nd-grade students’ videos explaining how they solved a problem from a past Noetic Math Contest.

 

Check out the progression of one of my tutoring student’s mah problem-solving explanations over a year’s time.  The first one was when he was in early third grade.

 

The next is from a recent Exemplar’s work: He is much more clear explaining and using his algorithms to explain how he solved this. Also, notice the close reading marks in the Exemplar text.

 

Math Roll-a-Word Problem Stories

TPT Brayden's Roll-a-Math-Word Problem

I had briefly mentioned these in a previous blog but would like to expand on them more as I think they are the perfect way to get kids not only doing some fun creative writing but using their math skills to solve problems, then explain in writing how they solved them.  The idea came from the popular roll-a-stories I had seen on Pinterest; I had tried them a few times with another tutoring student. Then during a tutoring session right before Christmas, I used a holiday-themed roll-a-story with the same student whose work is pictured above (A New Paint Set). We had been working on word problems for several weeks as he had shown that he was competent at math computation, but give him a word problem, he would not read it carefully and just go straight for the numbers, assuming he knew what to do. So after we had done our fun holiday roll-a-story, he said, “Why don’t we use a roll-a-word problem?  Voila…the idea was off and running, and I created one sheet to offer as a free product on Teachers Pay Teachers; has become my most popular product! (I’m a TpT newbie so don’t have many products yet!) Over the next several months he did several of these, and not only did his math skills at solving word problems improve, so did his writing skills!  Below are samples of the stories and word problems he created and the explanation on how he solved the math problem (the F-  on one of them did NOT come from me, it was part of his story 🙂

 

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Screen Shot 2018-10-01 at 8.09.19 PMAfter we created a summer themed roll-a-word problem sheet, I came up with the idea of creating some for every seasons and holiday during the year! The result is my new  Teachers Pay Teachers product…Year-Round Math Roll-a-Problem Story sheets!

Included in the product are sheets for New Year’s, Winter, Spring, St. Patrick’s Day, End of School Year, Summer, 4th of July, Back to School, Autumn, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Within many of the sheets are links to people and places for your students to learn more about before writing their story.  In addition, there is a blank sheet for you and your students to customize however you want. You will also receive a link to all of the sheets in Google Drive so you can make copies of them all and then revise and personalize as you wish!

Click here for the Year-Round Math Roll-a-Word Problem Story product!

If you use the roll-a-word story problem idea, send me samples of what your students create!