Descriptive Writing: Show Don’t Tell Strategies


Listen to the full episode to hear about descriptive writing:

I focus a lot of episodes on strategies pertaining to writing and today is no different. Having students write descriptively is what engages the reader and makes them part of the story, not just reading about plot events.

The best way to accomplish this goal as a writer is through show don’t tell. In today’s episode, I’m sharing eight strategies to consider when teaching show don’t tell to your students.

First, let’s get a good understanding of this writing technique. Show don’t tell is easy in theory to understand, but when applying it, can be quite complex.

Throughout the episode, I give multiple examples of how to explain this technique to your students, but simply put, showing offers the reader a mental image of a scene or emotion, while telling merely offers a statement of action or emotion. The goal of the writer is to keep the reader actively involved in their story instead of being surface level and passive on the plot.

Before diving deep into getting my students writing descriptively through show vs tell, I explain and model the technique through several examples. Show don’t tell is one of the most relevant writing techniques, which is why I provide various ways for them to understand the difference before having them apply this technique. 

Since show don’t tell can be a complex idea for students to grasp, I came up with a variety of strategies that will help them use it in their writing. During the episode, I break down each strategy and provide further explanation, examples, and modeling that will provide your students success with descriptive writing. Those 8 strategies are:

  1. Have students illustrate the scene
  2. Use the 5 senses
  3. Role play or play charades
  4. Use magazine photos or newspaper clips
  5. Avoid adverbs
  6. Focus on actions and reactions
  7. Practice being specific
  8. Encourage dialogue

Show don’t tell enhances any piece of written text and involves the reader by grabbing that person’s attention and hooking them, which is the ultimate goal of descriptive writing.

My goal is to help you and your students become better writers and teachers of writers, so stay encouraged during this writing technique. But I promise, by implementing these 8 strategies for show don’t tell, it’s going to be embedded indefinitely in student writing over time!

In this episode on descriptive writing, I share:
  • Why using the word ‘choice’ is so powerful when it comes to student writing
  • Multiple examples of show vs. tell in writing
  • A breakdown of each strategy to help ensure understanding for your students
  • How show don’t tell naturally increases character development in writing
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About The Literacy Dive Podcast:

Do you find yourself seeking new ideas when it comes to literacy instruction in elementary classrooms? The Literacy Dive Podcast was created to offer actionable steps and to share information for teachers, like you, who are always looking to improve their craft! ELA is our jam and we are excited to dive into all things reading and writing with you!

Your host, Megan Polk, is the creator and owner behind The Literacy Dive and loves to support students and their teachers with curriculum, literacy instruction, best practices, and engaging literacy activities.

Dive in with us every Monday for a new episode from Megan! She, and her guests, will chat about various literacy topics and will bring you tips and tricks that can easily be implemented in your classrooms. You can tune in wherever you get your podcasts! Listen to The Literacy Dive Podcast on platforms like AppleSpotifyStitcherGoogle, and more! If you find value from listening to this podcast, please rate this show, leave a review, and follow!

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Hey, I'm Megan!

I am a literacy specialist and curriculum designer who loves sharing tips and ideas to help students thrive in literacy! It brings me joy to await those a-ha moments and to see light bulbs turn on!

I have a huge passion for reading and writing and love to co-mingle the two any chance I get! You can expect to learn new strategies and ways to keep your students engaged during your literacy block! I am so glad you’re here!

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