Creative Writing High School Lesson – Show vs. Tell

Creative Writing- Rye High School

Students will be able to:

a) Take an abstract object and implement it into a fictional story.

b) Take a simple sentence with minimal description and transform it into a paragraph using specific details, vivid verbs, and interesting adjectives.

c) Use listing as a prewriting activity.

d) Review choice of specific words.

e) Practice writing with facts and specific details with show vs. tell worksheet

Materials Used: Smart Board, pen/pencil and notebook for each student, loose leaf for each student, show vs. tell worksheet, miniature object for each student

Lesson: This lesson will take place within the fiction writing unit in a creative writing class (elective) comprised of 19 seniors and 3 juniors. The students have been working on different writing skills each day, followed by a creative prompt to relate the skill and segue into a piece of fiction for homework. This lesson will focus on adding details by emphasizing the phrase, “show, don’t tell.” I will start the lesson by posting a “tell” sentence on the smart board and revealing a corresponding “show” paragraph. The students will see how one vague sentence can turn into a descriptive paragraph. We will then transition into an interactive listing activity, wherein I will ask the students to list specific details to change the sentences, “It was a pretty crummy place” and “We had a really good time there” from dull “tell” sentences to descriptive “show” paragraphs. The students will not actually compose the paragraphs at this time, however they will call out details for each sentence while I direct them and write the suggestions on the smart board.

Student Practice: I will hand out a worksheet with an exemplar “show” paragraph written by a published author. The students will then select two sentences from the given list and try to compose their own paragraphs. After some quiet writing time, students will be encouraged to share and I will also share one that I wrote.

Independent Practice/Homework: Next, I will give them a creative prompt to inspire them to write a fiction story for homework employing the skill we just learned. I will pass out a random trinket to each student. The direction will be for them to describe the object right away using as many “show” details as possible. For homework, they will be instructed to create a story in which their trinket must appear that is 150 words or more.


Ms. Castaldo                                                                                                           Show vs. Tell

In the following passage from, The Giver, Lois Lowry shows us what a character is experiencing, without ever telling us what it is.

“Now he became aware of an entirely new sensation: pinpricks? No, because they were soft and without pain. Tiny, cold, featherlike feelings peppered his body and face. He put out his tongue again, and caught one of the dots of cold upon it. It disappeared from his awareness instantly; but he caught another, and another. The sensation made him smile.”

What does this paragraph describe?_____________________



  1. The party was elegant.
  2. School is so boring.
  3. It’s not easy being a senior/junior.
  4. He was shy.
  5. The children are having fun.
  6. It was a wonderful date.
  7. The old woman was lonely.
  8. Owning a car is hard work.
  9. I love that class.

10. She was embarrassed.

Pick 2 sentences to change from “tell” sentences to “show” paragraphs.

Step back and imagine the scene yourself. What sounds do you hear? What smells are in the air? What expression does your character have on his/her face? What are his/her motivations?