The Show, Don’t Tell method of writing is when the writer is able to create a picture in the reader’s mind. The writer gets away from the repetition of empty words like went, big, or said and instead uses rich descriptions which makes the reader feel as if s/he is part of the story.
This post goes through a mini-lesson on Show, Don’t Tell. The entire lesson is presented through a Google Drive Presentation. You can download the presentation to use with your students. The presentation is ready to go. Use it as is or change up the examples. All the text is editable.
Activity #1 – Discussion
The lesson begins with an example for discussion. This example is from Where the Red Fern Grows.
When I left my office that beautiful spring day, I had no idea what was in store for me. To begin with, everything was too perfect for anything unusual to happen. It was one of those days when a man feels good, feels like speaking to his neighbor, is glad to live in a country like ours, and proud of his government. You know what I mean, one of those rare days when everything is right and nothing is wrong.
I left work feeling happy. It was a good day.
Discussion questions encourage students to think about the differences between the two paragraphs.
Activity #2 – Details
Sally went to Ocean Isle Beach.
Last summer, young Sally went to Ocean Isle Beach on the coast of North Carolina with her family.
During the hottest part of the summer, ten-year-old Sally went to Ocean Isle Beach on the coast of North Carolina with her parents and two younger sisters.
Activity #3 – More Examples Details
Next, two more examples from Where the Red Fern Grows are used to illustrate good descriptive writing
One example comes at the point in the story where Rubin and Rainie bet Billy that he can’t catch the ghost coon.
The third example is on the left. It is the scene where Little Ann is judged in the beauty contest.
Discussion questions are included for these examples.
Activity #4 – Questions
Six slides ask students to compare descriptions that use and don’t use the Show, Don’t Tell method of writing. Students will easily be able to tell which ones are better. The purpose of this activity is to provide many examples for students to better understand how to write Show Don’t Tell paragraphs which they will do in the next activity.
Activity #5 – Practice Writing
Activity 5 walks students through a writing example. Students list phrases that describe being angry. They then use these phrases to write a paragraph about losing a wallet.
Activity #6 – Writing Practice
The final practice uses Oreos. Students eat an Oreo and write phrases describing how it looks, feels, smells, and tastes. Students then use these phrases in a descriptive paragraph. Step-by-step instructions aid students in writing using this prompt.
Activity #7 – Vocabulary
Some online resources for Show, Don’t Tell include: