Showing, not telling 22/31 #SOL2023

“Learning is this fluid thing, it’s social it’s dynamic – your background, your identity are factors that contribute to your learning.”

“Learning is heavily based on a social dynamic and experiences.” Eric Cross from The Science of Reading Podcast

I had this idea for a writing lesson in the shower then tried to hold it in my head until I got to school. Of course, I didn’t write it down and the usual important coversations with colleagues took my brain away from the plan to create the lesson. But, thankfully, I didn’t lose it entirely. Instead, I rushed quickly preparing the lesson with seven minutes to go before the bell – phew!

Here’s the idea:

Create a series of short scenarios with emotions and circumstances written in large print on pieces of paper. Students in small groups randomly draw a scenario, keep it secret from the rest of the class and write a paragraph that shows without telling.

Here’s one example of a scenario:

And here’s another:

I wanted them to show the emotion and circumstance without using any of the words or even synonyms for the words. They worked with a partner or in a small group and then I read their paragraph to the rest of the class. Other students had to guess the emotion and circumstances.

Correct guesses meant they had succeeded in giving enough description or dialogue to show without telling.

And that’s when the markers came out.

“I’m marking up your face to show you…” I heard from across the room combined with peels of laughter and joy. I assured them it would wash off and then helped them to use dialogue in their paragraph. I stopped by a group of girls who had the first prompt and we talked about the evidence that someone is your best friend.


“Sitting at lunch with them every day for the past year.”

We talked about the look on a sad person’s face and how they walk and breathe. And when they walked out of the room, it struck me that I was showing these grade 9s how to struggle a bit together, and that writing stories can be joyful.

5 thoughts on “Showing, not telling 22/31 #SOL2023

  1. just started playing with ‘show dont tell’ on edits for a poetry piece. narrowing the lens, to show clearly, with some specificity a fantastic exercise for me. thanks for the thoughtfuel.

    Liked by 2 people

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