Show, Don’t Tell

Show Don't Tell Mini Lesson

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.

Begin getting the handout with the link to the Google Slide lesson. 

Activity #1 – Discussion

The lesson begins with an example for discussion. This example is from Where the Red Fern Grows.

Show Don't Tell Example 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

The following example shows students that details are important in writing a Show, Don’t Tell description.
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.

Activity #3 – More Examples Details

Show Don't Tell Example from Where the Red Fern Grows

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

Show Don't Tell Quiz


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.

Show Don't Tell Quiz

Show Don't Tell Quiz

Activity #5 – Practice Writing


Show Don't Tell Practice


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

Show Don't Tell Quiz


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.


Begin getting the handout with the link to the Google Slide lesson. 

Activity #7 – Vocabulary

Descriptive Words Anchor Chart


Said is Dead Poster

A second element is the use of rich vocabulary. This post list words that can be used instead of the word said. Click on the mini-poster to receive a pdf version you may display in the classroom.

Online Resources

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

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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!

    1. 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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