“Show Me a Story, Mommy!”
When we were little kids, many of us would ask mom or dad, “Can you tell me a story?”
Those times would, more than likely, occur just before bedtime, no doubt! Such requests became less frequent as each of us got older. Much of how we learned to talk was derived from the communications we got from our parents and, of course, our teachers at school. When we reached 4th or 5th grade and began to learn effective writing skills, we probably heard our teachers say, “Show me, don’t tell me,” in regards to descriptive writing or story telling.
But don’t you remember wondering, “How can I show something with words?”
I clearly remember thinking that.
From what I can tell, most of the teachers who tell kids, ‘Show me, don’t tell me’, don’t effectively show how to “show.” Instead, they TELL kids not to tell without efficiently demonstrating (showing) how it’s done. But is it any wonder? Those sincere labors of well-meaning educators set about to—in effect—undo the very training most of us have undergone since birth: namely, how only to tell, without “showing”…only to be TOLD not to do it any longer!
Well, I’m going to endeavor to illustrate [show], through examples, on how to train kids to show instead of tell, when it comes to creative writing or description. I’ll try to break these “lessons” up into to shorter posts, so they don’t take up so much of our time in the writing AND the reading!
Let me start by planting this thought in your heads:
“Showing” begins not with the use of overt adjectives—or adverbs—like, the black bear fought ferociously, the girl screamed loudly, the little dog jumped playfully, the colorful bird sang joyfully, etc. Of course, when our parents began teaching us, they did so using just these kinds of descriptions: words that say…describe…or…tell how something looks, is, or is done…causing our thoughts to merely wander, instead of speaking in a way that would have made them run wild!
I assert we should start out by teaching our children/students those [supposedly] sophisticated literary concepts saved for high school: the use of simile and metaphor to bring to our readers’, or listeners’, imaginations images that seem to live in their minds either like memories or fantasies.
It’s up to those of us who teach children to learn these techniques ourselves, and then use examples that make sense to kids’ minds. Don’t worry; children are intelligent and have imaginations that are often Disney-like in their richness!
Next Lesson: How To Show Instead of Tell.