Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Show, Don't Tell

Y'all ... a dream I didn't even know I had came true this week! I saw Lucy Calkins ... you know ... the inventor of Writer's Workshop? Yeah, her. I spent a full day in her amazing, fascinating, fabulous professional development as we talked about teaching kids to write informational, narrative and opinion writing pieces.

I went with four other wonderful women from my school, and we all had high hopes for the workshop {the words "life" and "changing" were thrown around a lot ...}. Lucy didn't disappoint! She was candid, to the point, and gave awesome tips. One thing I thought was really interesting was her thoughts on the Common Core. Among other things, she emphasized that writing is much more thoroughly woven into our reading standards than it has been in the past.

Most importantly, a full three standards - across grade levels - are dedicated to reading like a writer. Meaning, noticing the word choice, imagery, and decisions writers made as they wrote, and how those decisions affected the reader.

Internally I gave a little {wahoo!!!}, because literally the NEXT day I was coming in to begin my "Show, Don't Tell," unit with my kids - focusing on kids making inferences and writing so that their readers can make inferences from the text, to determine a character's feelings and character traits. All wrapped up in a game of CHARADES!

 First we learned how to show, not tell, comparing some passages together (I always project on the board). Then I gave them some "telling" passages to act out, the point being that if you watch someone do something, you'll have a lot more ideas as to how to describe their feelings/traits in with their actions and words than if you just tried to imagine it.

Telling: Jake was hungry for pancakes. Showing: "Jake rolled out of bed; he didn't even take time to put on his fuzzy bunny slippers. After walking out the food, he sniffed the air. "Hmmm," he said. "Smells like pancakes. I can't wait!"

Telling: Carrie was scared to try riding the bike. Showing: Carrie walked down the tall stairs, and pulled her rusty bike off the hook on the wall with shaking hands. She stared at it for moment, but all she could imagine was falling on the ground. Slowly she walked away. 
The kids LOVED being little actors, and they liked even more when Ms. BBZ was the first "actor" to take the stage. I acted out {like a fool!}, "Jake was hungry and wanted pancakes for breakfast." BORING! So we did a little "air writing" in partners (thanks, Lucy, for the tip!!), and came up with some awesome writing (see above)!

After doing a little practice together, we brought out the game of charades! The kids drew a card, and acted the "telling" passage on it. Then their partner write a "showing" passage to describe what the actor did!

They came up with some pretty adorable work ... {spelling errors and all!}  

Jeff crawled out of his cozy, warm bed clutching his grumbly, bumpy stomach. He stepped down the wooden stairs. Smelling cold air, "Mmmm," he said. "Mom!" 

Jake went down the long stairs, in his pink bunny slippers. He was so so hungry, then he sniffed the hair and smelled pancakes. "I love pancakes," he said. Then her ran into the kitchen and ate them all. He didn't even save any for his mom. 

If you're interested in using this unit, check out my TpT store for the entire unit.

 In the mean time, enjoy the following freebie!- print, cut out and attach these paddles to sticks - any time you're doing a read-aloud your kids can hold up "showing!" when they hear a passage with great language, and "telling!" when they hear a boring passage. :)

Click here to download the freebie {from Google Docs}. Enjoy, and thanks for stopping by!


  1. Awesome post! I love it! I'm going to see Lucy in San Antonio in April.
    I'm going to feature your post on my Writing Facebook page.
    Thanks for sharing!


  2. Shelley - Thanks so much for featuring my post! I LOVE writing and think it does so much for our kids to improve their thinking AND give them an outlet.

  3. 1. YAY I found your blog :)
    2. I love the idea of "Show, don't tell", I've pinned it for next year !

  4. I am a 4th grade ELA teacher and need some help on how to teach narrative writing. What steps should I take to teach this type of writing? I need like an little outline for myself on what to teach first and then next. Can anyone help with this?

  5. Can you help me with some show and tells


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