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Lesson Plan

Show-Me Sentences

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Show-Me Sentences

Grades 6 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Recurring Lesson
Estimated Time 50 minutes (or a series of minilessons)
Lesson Author

Lawrence Baines, Ph.D.

Normal, Oklahoma


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Instruction and Activities


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Revise sentences to incorporate imagery and sensory detail

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Instruction and Activities

  1. Discuss with the class the idea of “showing” rather than “telling” in writing. For example, in a casual conversation, a student might say, “I was in an automobile accident yesterday,” but such a statement gives little information. Was he or anyone else hurt? Did the accident involve another car or a tree? Was he alone in the car? Where did the accident happen?

  2. Read aloud the sentence on the board (see Preparation, Step 2), noting that it “tells” what happened rather than “shows” what happened.

  3. Ask the class to help rewrite the sentence so that the description comes alive.

    “The car lands awkwardly, causing it to roll.”

    • Ask, “What does lands awkwardly look like? Think of an image in your mind and let’s capture it in words.”

    • Ask, “Is the car driving itself? Does the driver matter?”

    • Ask, “Is enough detail provided to visualize what happened?”
  4. In this manner, actively solicit sensory details (visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory descriptions) from students. Write the new “show” sentence next to the original “tell” sentence. Based upon this prompt, a ninth-grade student wrote:

    “The car blasted through the guardrail, went into a free-fall, then spun around in the air and landed sideways, causing the weight to shift. Freddy felt the momentum pulling the car forward. The car kept rolling, and with each flip, Freddy felt more and more helpless.”

  5. Refer students to the Show-Me Sentences Handout, and have them review the first example, first reading the “telling” sentence and then reading the “showing” sentence.

  6. Ask students if they could improve even more on the “showing” sentence. Allow students to provide suggestions and point out when their suggestions improve the descriptive quality of the sentence.

  7. Ask students to recreate the remaining “telling” sentences on the handout by incorporating visual and sensory details to more explicitly show the reader the scene.

  8. After students have worked through the sentences on the handout, ask for volunteers to read their revisions aloud. Point out effective uses of imagery and sensory details.

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Use this lesson early in the year so you can refer to it later when students are working on other writing assignments.

For example, after having students write a descriptive narrative and engage in a peer-review session, ask them to select three single, significant sentences from different parts of their narrative. Have students transform each sentence into a “showing” sentence as learned in this lesson. Each “showing” sentence can then be reinserted into the narrative as part of the revision process.

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All students can demonstrate mastery of descriptive writing. However, it is not unusual to suggest that a student “add more description” to an initial reworking of a sentence. Witnessing how good peer writers reinvigorate sentences is especially helpful.

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