Mini Lesson Monday: Show Don’t Tell

As a full time instructional coach, I do a lot more planning with and observing of teachers than I actually do teaching in the classroom.  This semester, I am changing that for myself. I am finding ways each week to teach a mini lesson in an English class.  I want to keep current and up with the needs of the students and so far, it has been so much fun!

For my first mini lesson, I co-taught a writing lesson with Mike Dayton in a freshman English class.  We have been working on narrative writing the last few weeks and this week our focus is getting students to not just “add detail” but to revise their work so the detail is more interesting to read.  Thus – SHOW, DON’T TELL.  Following the format of my favorite reading workshop blog, Three Teachers Talk, here is what we did:


Students will read a short passage and identify similes, metaphors, and descriptive language.  Students will write their own narrative using similes and metaphors.


  1. We reviewed similes and metaphors.  Our students have been taught this for years.  They are able to identify them, but using them in their writing is something that is lacking.
  2. We passed out a 1/4 sheet of paper with the “Hairs” vignette from Sandra Cisneros’s book, The House on Mango Street.screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-8-46-51-pm
  3. All we asked the students to do as they read was to annotate for three points:
    1. D = descriptive words
    2. M = metaphor
    3. S = simile
  4. The students read individually and then discussed at their tables.  The discussion was on topic and they even questioned one another on why they marked it the way they did. We quickly reviewed as a class so we could get to the best part of the lesson.
  5. We asked students to think about something that everyone in their family has, but that is different between them.  The answers were all over the place – eyes, personalities, shoes, clothes, television choices, etc.
  6. Then the work began. We gave them this template on the board, modeled how we might start our narratives, and then just asked them to write:Screen Shot 2017-01-24 at 8.47.44 PM.png
  7. And they wrote – Their writing was the most authentic and detailed work I have seen from freshman students. They also were having genuine conversations at their tables about ways to describe their family members using visual language.  As in every class, there were a few who got stuck after the first line, but with some one on one attention and a little extra guidance, they were able to produce some beautiful sentences.


What I Learned From This Lesson:

#1 – Mentor Texts do not need to be lengthy!  “Hairs” was the perfect text for practicing the skill of writing similes and metaphors.

#2 – Many students need scaffolding or templates.  They don’t always know where to begin and this gives them a little bit of structure to help nudge them in the right direction.

#3 – Not all writing needs to be taken all the way through the process.  Many of the students never finished their “Hairs” writing once we left class on Monday.  That wasn’t the purpose.  Instead, we wanted them to practice using similes and metaphors in their writing and that they did, very well I might add!



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