Use This Writing Lesson Plan to Teach Show, Don’t Tell

Elementary students writing with their teacher

Take the stress out of building a writing lesson plan by incorporating NoRedInk’s sequenced instructional resources and learning activities.

A lot goes into putting together lesson plans for elementary ELA. What are my learning objectives? What do my kids already know? Are they going to be able to focus for long enough to complete the work I assign? How will I evaluate whether they’ve mastered the material? And that just covers the basics!

Fortunately, now that NoRedInk includes instructional resources and learning activities designed specifically for Grades 3–5, you’ll always have a head start on creating your lesson plans for writing. NoRedInk activities are easy to combine in a variety of ways so that you’re able to meet your learning objectives on your schedule.

To illustrate a high-leverage way to sequence NoRedInk resources and activities, we’ve mapped out a lesson plan sample for a key elementary writing skill: showing character responses. After completing this lesson plan, students will be able to use dialogue and descriptions of actions to show a character’s response to an event. (You can assign all the recommended activities or pick and choose the ones that best fit into your curriculum.)

Sample lesson plan for elementary ELA: Show, Don’t Tell

Day 1

Pre-teaching tutorial: Describe Characters by Showing, Not Telling

This tutorial explains the difference between showing and telling, provides tips for how to show, not tell, and shares examples of verbs students can use to show how characters feel. Project the tutorial on the board and walk through it with your class as a way to pre-teach showing character responses.

Practice exercise: Using Actions to Show Character Responses

This activity gives students the opportunity to identify when a sentence is showing and when a sentence is telling. Since this is a new skill, consider keeping the projector running and utilizing an “I Do, We Do, You Do” model (also commonly referred to as a gradual release of responsibility model).

First, model how to answer the questions based on what was covered in the tutorial. Then, do a few questions as a class. Finally, have students tackle their activities on their own.

Quick Write: A Trip Down Memory Lane

This Quick Write helps students get comfortable with storytelling by grounding the process in something they’re already familiar with: their own memories. It gives them the option to tell the story of the first time they lost a tooth, a time they couldn’t stop laughing, or a time they met an interesting person.

Day 2

Quick Write: Big Red Button

Start off your ELA block by using this writing activity to develop your students’ writing fluency. This Quick Write asks students to craft a story that starts as follows: “I always wanted to push that big red button. Yesterday, I finally did.”

Pre-teaching tutorial: Using Dialogue to Show How Characters Feel

This tutorial builds on the previous tutorial by digging into how to use dialogue to show, not tell. It wraps up with a couple questions designed to check students’ understanding of what they just learned.

Practice exercise: Using Dialogue to Show Character Responses

This activity reinforces the previous activity while focusing on the role of dialogue in showing how characters feel.

Day 3

Review: First two tutorials and Practice exercises

To stamp student understanding midway through this sequence, take a moment to review what you’ve covered and answer any questions your students have.

Checkpoint exercise: Showing Character Responses

This activity moves students toward a holistic view of the various ways to show, not tell, mixing questions about character actions and character dialogue.

Day 4

Skill-Building Quick Write: Showing Character Responses

Skill-Building Quick Writes offer you a straightforward way to draw connections between discrete skills and the application of these skills to writing, helping students see the “why” behind what they’re learning.

This Quick Write asks students to imagine they’re throwing a surprise party for a friend or family member, describe the moment the guest of honor walks through the door, and show how everyone at the party feels. Most importantly, students are instructed to use at least three pieces of dialogue or details that readers can picture. Be sure to set aside at least 10–15 minutes for students to work on this activity.

Quick Write: Real-Life Examples of Show, Don’t Tell

Tie your writing instruction to your reading instruction by creating a customized Quick Write that asks students to collect and share examples of show, don’t tell in the books they’re reading.

Day 5

Quiz: Showing Character Responses

Assign this 15–20-minute pre-made quiz to gauge student understanding of showing character responses.

Quick Write: Scary Movie Moment

Round out the week with one last opportunity for students to apply what they’ve learned in their own writing. This Quick Write asks students to imagine that they’re watching a spooky movie with an easily frightened friend and describe how their friend reacts when a monster suddenly appears.

Check out NoRedInk Modules for more ideas for lesson plans

These ideas for a lesson plan on showing character responses are just one example of how NoRedInk resources and activities support the development of a specific skill. While this example can serve as a great starting point for an elementary lesson plan template, the instructional approach at its core has already been embedded in NoRedInk Modules.

Modules are collections of sequenced activities that target specific writing and grammar skills. They make it easy for you to find a variety of activities that address the same learning objective, functioning as pre-made instructional units that you can incorporate into your weekly lesson plans for writing. The resources and activities in each Module are aligned with the four key instructional phases that the most successful NoRedInk teachers emphasize in their classrooms: Teach, Practice, Apply & Assess, and Extend.

Whether you need pointers for putting together lesson plans for elementary ELA or you’re looking for a library of engaging, standards-aligned writing activities and skills exercises, NoRedInk has you covered.

Sign up for free today to start building better writers in your elementary classroom!

Thomas collaborates with colleagues from across NoRedInk to craft stories that illustrate how NoRedInk ​​builds stronger writers. He holds a BA in Religious Studies from Occidental College.