57 Show Don’t Tell

Instructor Directions

Read the following two accounts of the same events:

Paragraph One

When John got home from class, he felt sad. He turned on the radio for a while but turned it back off because it seemed like the music only reminded him of her. Now, he was even more depressed. He decided food might make him happier. He walked to the kitchen and opened the cabinet to find a box of Oreo cookies. This made him sad and angry because the two of them had just eaten Oreos together last week. With a tragic mixture of sadness and anger, he shut the cabinet. He wasn’t hungry anyway.

Paragraph Two

When John got home from class, he let his backpack slide to the carpet as he slumped into the recliner. He shuffled to the radio and put it on his favorite country station. The lyrics sung about a man losing his wife and his dog in the same day. The words stung John’s ears, and he quickly hit the power button to silence the words. His eyes burned. He thought about Allyson, and wondered what she was doing. He imagined slow dancing with her to that song like they had at the school dance. His face turned pale, and he dragged himself to the kitchen and opened the cabinet to find a box of Oreos. His mind flashed back to one week earlier when she had sat with him in this very kitchen and eaten Oreos with him. He slammed the cabinet door shut with a loud thwack that sounded like a pop gun. His stomach felt hollow like a Halloween jack-o-lantern. He marched to his room and crawled into bed, hiding his head under the covers. Maybe some sleep would help him forget about the pain in his chest.

Which of these paragraphs do you find more interesting? Why?

(On the board)

Find a way to convey the meaning of the sentence below by showing and not telling.

Break the class into 5 groups and give each group one of the following sentences. Tell them to write a paragraph showing and not telling.

  1. Julia is a germ-a-phobe.
  2. James is a neat-freak when it comes to the interior of his car.
  3. Tracy is totally disgusted by her snobby sister.
  4. Alan is really into the guitar.
  5. Julie is the crazy cat lady.
  6. Dave is obsessed with his dog Trigger.

Give them time to write their paragraphs. When finished, have them share their paragraphs with the class and the class will try to guess what they are showing.


A handout of this resource is available here.


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