K-12 Teaching and Learning From the UNC School of Education

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Learning outcomes

Students will:

  • use action words to show a character’s feelings.
  • identify places in their own writing where they can use action words to show characters’ feelings and emotions.

Teacher planning

Time required for lesson

1 hour

Materials/resources

Activities

Modeling/Mini-lesson

  1. Tell students that good writers don’t tell how their characters feel, they show how they feel. For example, instead of telling readers that “Freddy was sad,” a good author would use action words to show readers that Freddy was sad: “Freddy cried.”
  2. Tell students that you will be reading a good example of an author using action words to show how a character feels instead of telling how he feels. Ask students to listen as you read for action words that show how Freddy, the main character, feels.
  3. Read from the book, The One in the Middle Is a Green Kangaroo (p. 29) (The teacher may select another story that does a good job of describing the actions that reveal the character’s feelings.) Have students give examples from the story of how the author uses action verbs to show how the characters feel. Discuss how this makes the story easier for the reader to see.
  4. Show students an object, for example, a wrapped present. Tell a story about getting a surprise present, opening the present, and showing surprise through your actions. big eyes, hands on face, mouth like an O, etc. Demonstrate gestures and actions.

Guided Practice

  1. Give students the “Show, Don’t Tell” Handout (see attachment pdf | rtf). Have students discuss and fill out their grids on the handout by writing down actions that they might show while experiencing the feelings on the handout. It is effective to have students act out the feelings, and let others in the class discuss and write what they see their classmates doing. For example:

I was shy

  • I looked down at the floor
  • I swayed from side to side.
  • I nibbled on my fingernail.
  • My eyes peeked out from under my eyelashes as I looked at the new girl.

Remind students that, when they write, they should show the reader what the characters feel by using gestures and movement.

Independent Practice

  1. Encourage students to look at stories they’ve written and revise the
    parts that could be classified under show rather than tell!
  2. Teachers may highlight one part in each student’s story where “Show, Don’t Tell” could be used.
  3. Continue to point out examples of authors using action verbs to show, not tell, in the stories that you read to the class.
  4. Have small groups of students search for examples of authors using action verbs to “Show, Don’t Tell” in the stories that they are reading. Have groups share their examples with the class.

Assessment

Can students:

  1. identify places in the story where the author uses action words effectively?
  2. incorporate action words into their own writing?

Supplemental information

  • Writing Feature: Support and Elaboration
  • Writing Process Stage: Revising
  • Writing Environment: Expressive
  • Writing Genre: Personal narrative and imaginative narrative

  • Common Core State Standards
    • English Language Arts (2010)
      • Writing

        • Grade 3
          • 3.W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
        • Grade 4
          • 4.W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.
        • Grade 5
          • 5.W.5 With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.

North Carolina curriculum alignment

English Language Arts (2004)

Grade 3

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.08: Focus reflection and revision (with assistance) on target elements by:
      • clarifying ideas.
      • adding descriptive words and phrases.
      • sequencing events and ideas.
      • combining short, related sentences.
      • strengthening word choice.

Grade 4

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.08: Focus revision on a specific element such as:
      • word choice.
      • sequence of events and ideas.
      • transitional words.
      • sentence patterns.

Grade 5

  • Goal 4: The learner will apply strategies and skills to create oral, written, and visual texts.
    • Objective 4.08: Focus revision on target elements by:
      • improving word choice.
      • rearranging text for clarity.
      • creating simple and/or complex sentences for clarity or impact.
      • developing a lead, characters, or mood.