Belief · Community

A Relevant Mini-Lesson: Show, Don’t Tell

Entering the classroom, books falling from my one arm embrace, energized me. Carting around my tiny stool and endless sharpened pencils was purposeful, but my greatest reward was cultivating student writers.

Working as a writing specialist was my favorite role as an elementary teacher. My job was to enter a classroom, honor the environment, teach a writing mini-lesson, and conference with students as they took writing risks while crafting words. Sometimes the writing was glorious, but sometimes what I read left me speechless {and those who know me will have a hard time believing me to be short on words}.

Show, Don’t Tell was one of my all-time favorite mini-lessons to teach. Students were notorious for writing lines such as: I was sad. I was mad. I was happy. Celebrating their effort was a no-brainer, but it was my job to take them deeper. So, I regularly responded with phrases like, “How can you show me you were happy without using the word happy?”

Blank stares were not an unfamiliar response, so further discussion would follow. It wasn’t long before the language of “show, don’t tell” became common classroom dialect. I was happy became-My smile stretched from ear to ear. My heart raced within my chest was the new-I was scared.

Show, don’t tell.

Telling is flat…it doesn’t elicit much of a response from the reader. It is one-dimensional and not compelling. Showing brings writing to life and provides the dimension readers crave.

I think this is a good lesson for us, right now. We are using a lot of words to tell people what we believe and value, but are we willing to flesh out those convictions? Let’s be honest, it’s easier to be the armchair quarterback than to be in the game. Putting action to our convictions requires more of us, but isn’t that the point of a conviction? If not, what is the origin of “putting our money where our mouth is?”

I have read so many words about how people love refugees, and I agree with the words. Are those just words, or are we actually getting in the middle of serving refugees? There are, more than likely, refugee communities in the cities where we live. I have worked with the population in my community and I can tell you one thing: they are struggling. Their children have been thrown into school to learn a new language and social structure, and they could use your support. Showing  we love refugees might include showing up at the local school and volunteering to help.

Words fill up my social media feeds about so many things. Everyone has become an overnight expert on what’s best, and yet I wonder how many people are bringing their convictions to life?

Show, don’t tell.

If ever there was a time or season to let the rubber of our convictions meet the road, it’s now. But for the love of all things, let’s learn from this elementary mini-lesson and stop telling. Show the world your convictions through the decisions you make that give your words dimension.  Bring them to life.


Serve. Sacrifice. Show.

Telling is so old.

Let your actions do the talking.

Actions speak louder than words.

Isn’t that what we’ve always said?

So…let’s marry our words with action.

Show, don’t tell.

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