Show... Don't Tell! A Writing Minilesson

My third grade co-teachers and I are super excited! We recently did two minilessons on "Show!! Don't Tell." in writing, and we are already observing that our students are putting their new knowledge to use in their writing!  HOORAY! (Full disclosure statement: an Amazon affiliate link appears near the end of this blog post.)

This is the second year that I have co-taught writing in our school's third grade classrooms.  We did not tackle this minilesson last year.  However, after a series of emails with my friend, Kelly Roberts, I became convinced that we should try it.  Kelly teaches fourth grade in Florida, and she mentioned to me that she would be doing a "Show, Don't Tell" lesson when her principal came to do her formal observation.  As we traded emails back and forth, I told her that I was unsure that our third graders would understand the concept, but she assured me that the lesson was third-grade friendly... and she was positively correct!  Once she walked me step-by-step through how she teaches this lesson, I knew it would be a winner!  I encourage you to try it with your students!  Here's how the lesson went, based on Kelly's directions to me.
Show Don't Tell Anchor Chart! This blog post contains a complete writing lesson and the printables you'll need to create the anchor chart and replicate the activities!

First, I wrote "excited" at the top of the chart. I informed my students that my daughter, Kayla, was super excited a week ago when she and a friend were outside walking, and they happened upon a $20 bill in the grass.  (Kayla is in third grade, as well, so they love to hear "Kayla stories".)  I paused and asked, "Now if I were writing a story about this event, would it be very interesting if I wrote 'Kayla was excited.'"  (monotone voice, of course!)  They all shook their heads no, and I agreed.  Then I stated, "That's the focus of today's minilesson... how we can write sentences that SHOW the reader our feelings, because just telling them is way too boring!"  Then I returned to Kayla's story, and asked my students... "How do you think I could tell Kayla was excited?  What do you think she was doing with her body that showed me her excitement when she walked through the door to tell me the news?"  They guessed that she was jumping up and down, that she was out of breath from running, that she was smiling, etc.  With each answer, I confirmed that they were correct, and I added each as a bullet to the chart.  I also added a few of my own.

Showing sentences for EXCITED. This blog post contains a complete "Show, Don't Tell" writing lesson and the printables you'll need to create the anchor chart and replicate the activities!

Next, I told them that I made this handy little chart that would help them write showing sentences.
Show Don't Tell Anchor Chart! This blog post contains a complete writing lesson and the printables you'll need to create the anchor chart and replicate the activities!
Clip art by Educlips.

Prior to class, I had only created the top half of the anchor chart. I asked my students what emotion the girl on the chart was feeling, and they responded anger. I then led them in using the questions written on the anchor chart to write sentences that showed anger, and I wrote their sentences on the bottom half of the anchor chart. I also briefly discussed how similes and metaphors can be powerful tools when a writer is trying to think of a creative showing sentence, and I gave them an example of a metaphor that showed anger.

Now it was time for practice. I chose groups of two or three by drawing popsicle sticks. I gave each group a slip of paper with an emotion written on it and a sheet of poster paper. I told them NOT to write the emotion at the top of the paper. Rather, they would only write SHOWING sentences. I stressed again that their emotion should be written NOWHERE on the poster paper, because after 10 minutes, we would be gathering again, and each group would share their poster with the class. If they had good showing sentences, their classmates should be able to guess the emotion that was on the slip of paper. The groups then set off to work!

These were the emotion cards given to the students. 
Show Don't Tell Anchor Chart! This blog post contains a complete writing lesson and the printables you'll need to create the anchor chart and replicate the activities!Show Don't Tell Anchor Chart! This blog post contains a complete writing lesson and the printables you'll need to create the anchor chart and replicate the activities!


Wow, were we impressed! Some of the students were so creative! They had recently learned about similes, so there were lots of similes on their charts! (The photos below show the emotion card that each group received. I had students glue them to the top after the presented their poster to the class.)
Showing sentences for SCARED. This blog post contains a complete "Show, Don't Tell" writing lesson and the printables you'll need to create the anchor chart and replicate the activities!

Showing sentences for SHOCKED. This blog post contains a complete "Show, Don't Tell" writing lesson and the printables you'll need to create the anchor chart and replicate the activities!

If you would like the FREE materials to replicate this anchor chart and lesson, please click HERE.

DAY 2

The next day, as a follow-up lesson, I read The Memory String by Eve Bunting to the students.  We stopped after each page and asked students to identify showing sentences that Eve Bunting used on each page.  They were rock stars at this activity, and easily identified showing sentences.  (This book had some wonderful showing sentences; I highly recommend it!  Beware, though, I found it hard not to cry as I was reading aloud to the third graders!)

When we finished the story, I told students to get out their most recent rough draft.  I instructed them to find a "telling sentence" where they told their emotion.  (They nearly all had at least one emotion sentence, because we have really hit hard this year that every personal narrative should include emotions.)  I told them to draw a line through that telling sentence, and then rewrite a showing sentence to replace it.  They met that challenge easily, and even exceeded my expectations!  Hooray!  I was so happy!  Oops!  I mean.... my eyes lit up and I was grinning ear to ear when I left that third grade classroom!

If you are looking for ready-made resources, feel free to check out my PowerPoint and flipbook!
Show Don't Tell Writing Lessons! This resource contains a 23-slide PowerPoint and a 7-page matching flipbook!


9 comments:

  1. Thanks so much Deb! Such a great lesson! So glad so many students benefited from this writing lesson! Kelly:-)

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  2. What a fantastic lesson! It is so rewarding when our students use the lessons we teach. Even after all these years I live for those moments. I always enjoy reading your blog posts!

    Angela

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  3. When I taught in prison I always taught "show don't tell to my students". Thanks for the reminder that I should be teaching this to my current students.

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  4. What a great post, Deb! I've pinned pictures from this lesson and will try to use some of your ideas as we revise our poetry next week. This will come in extra handy next year. The Memory String is one of our mentor texts we often use during our character unit. What a great idea to use it for this focus as well for writing! Thanks for sharing!

    Kelli
    Tales of a Teacher

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  5. I was so excited to find this lesson through a search for revision lessons. What a great lesson! I'm looking forward to trying it with my third graders!

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  6. Update: After reading this post and commenting last month, I taught this lesson to my 3rd grade class. It was AMAZING! My class was very engaged, my principal observed the lesson and loved it! Thank you so much for this post!

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    1. That's so awesome, Kristi! I was thrilled to read this! Thank you so much for taking the time to let me know!

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  7. I've had 65 books published over the past 35 years and the number one thing professional writers have to keep in mind is "show" - don't "tell." Editors watch for that, so tell your students that even professional writers and especially their editors, watch for show, don't tell.

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