Using the ‘show not tell’ technique in our writing

I am always looking for interesting, different and engaging ways to capture the children’s  attention and inspire them to write. Recently I put together some ideas for using music videos to inspire writing – read more here.

I decided to use one of those videos for Year 4 to do some writing, in particular focus on a technique to develop characters in a story. I came across this technique from Alan Peat, whose resources have become invaluable in my teaching. This focus, one of his great free resources, looks at developing characters using a ‘show not tell’ technique which focuses on developing feelings through the description of a character’s expressions, speech or movements – See the article here. This specific video really helps children grasp this concept as clues are given throughout about how the girl feels through her movement and expression. It also shows the children how effective building up a story for a surprising climax can be – when the girl is reunited with her pet there was a real WOW moment as the children do not suspect the pet to be a giraffe.

Here is the video –

I started by questioning the children throughout the video:

  • Watch the first 20 seconds – how is the girl feeling? What makes you think that? Why might she be excited? What clues do you get from the girl’s movements and expressions that she is happy?
  • Pause just before a minute – how has the girl’s feelings changed? Why do you think that is? What might she have lost? How has her face and body movement changed and what emotion does this portray? What could she do now that may help?
  • Pause again at 1.42 – Has the girl’s feelings changed even more now? Why do you think that maybe?
  • Once the giraffe appears – are you shocked why? How does the girl feel now?
  • At the end, ask whether the children liked the video and why? The class said that they liked the fact that at the end the giraffe was revealed which was a nice surprise. Tell the children that this is a great technique to also use in their writing.

We started with some shared writing where I demonstrated some of the sentence types I may use. The children were then encouraged to write their own stories, referring back to the video whenever they needed to. Once the children had finished, I shared an uplevelling checklist for them to work through with their partner, I have found this to be an amazing way for children to check and edit their work. They try and compete against each other and justify word choices to earn more points. Here are some examples of the children’s work:

Another really good way for children to check their work is to get them to read it out loud and record it over the original video. This gives the children a real purpose to read back through their work.  The children downloaded the video using the ‘Dropbox trick,’ they then imported the film into iMovie and recorded themselves reading their work. This is a really useful exercise for children to practise their oral reading skills. Furthermore it is amazing how quickly the children spot mistakes in their work as they are reading it out aloud. It is also a great way of extending the higher achievers by asking them to try and write in time with the video, therefore thinking carefully about word choice and length of their writing. Moreover it provides a real purpose to their work as the finished videos can be shared to a worldwide audience. The finished videos are also extremely effective to have the visual image running alongside the children’s writing. Here is a mix of some of the children’s efforts:

Using Music Videos to inspire Writing from Davyhulme Primary School on Vimeo.

 

2 thoughts on “Using the ‘show not tell’ technique in our writing

  1. What a brilliant lesson! your blogs are giving me lots of ideas, may have to steal this one. DPS have some amazing teachers. My children are very lucky. Thank you.

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