Show, Don’t Tell

Show, Don’t Tell

The Show, Don’t Tell method of writing is when the writer is able to create a picture in the reader’s mind. 

  1. Details

    One key element of this method is the use of details.


The girl went to the beach.
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.
  1.  Rich Vocabulary

    A second element is the use of rich vocabulary. 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. Click on the mini poster below to receive a pdf version you may display in the classroom.

 Said is Dead Poster

Here is the anchor chart that I completed with my students to help them think about using more descriptive words:

Descriptive Words Anchor Chart

  1. Action Words

    Another important aspect of Show, Don’t tell is the use of action words, thoughts, senses, and feelings. One helpful way for students to understand this concept is to read selections from favorite books. Here is a PowerPoint with several selections from Where the Red Fern Grows. Click the image to download to the PowerPoint.

Show, Don't Tell PowerPoint Presentation

Online Resources

Some online resources for Show, Don’t Tell include:

Gay Miller


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    • Cindy on September 21, 2014 at 9:12 am

    I found your website through Pinterest and I absolutely love it! I received an email from Pinterest with boards I might be interested in. Well, they were correct! I am enjoying exploring your site and I’m looking forward to utilizing your tips/techniques in my classroom. I am your newest follower!

      • Gay Miller on September 28, 2014 at 3:55 pm

      Thank you, Cindy!!

  1. Wow, this is perfect! Just what I was looking for. Thanks for posting it!

    • Danielle on March 10, 2015 at 3:09 am

    Fantastic! Exactly what we are covering in class right now.

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    • Thayerin Coppola on June 9, 2017 at 1:18 pm


  1. […] Have a look at this Presentation from […]

    • What a Character | Exploring C21 Literacy on April 30, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    I came across this fantastic powerpoint that really encapsulates teaching Show Don’t Tell. I modified it to include descriptions.

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