Using Picture Books for “Show Don’t Tell” Lessons

One of the hardest things for my students to do is to write their narratives vividly enough for their readers to visualize the story. I like to use picture books for this, mostly because picture books are fun, but also because picture books are really quick, easy, high-interest examples.

We start off by reading Owl Moon. This year, I uploaded the book to our shared Google Drive folder so they could all look at the story on their Chromebooks as I read. This way, they could actually read the words, which they cannot do if we sit “kindergarten style” on the floor while I read. Here is the full book online if you aren’t familiar with it: Owl Moon (That is retyped in a different font, which I think takes away some of the “feel” of the story, but it’s all I could find online. For my students, I scanned in the actual book).

I start off by summarizing the book in one sentence: a girl and her dad walk through the woods looking for owls. Then, I explain that the writer has allowed the reader to visualize the scene and feel as if they were there through the use of “showing” sentences.

The language in the book is just magical. Here are the first two pages:

I read it through once, because stopping on every page to discuss takes away from the story. Then, we go back through, page by page, and discuss which strategies the writer used to “show” the reader what it felt like to be there. It’s such a simple story, made magical through the use of language.

The next day, we read Where the Wild Things Are. (online book here: WTWTA)

This is obviously a completely different type of writing. Where the Wild Things Are is mostly composed of “telling” types of sentences. We have a discussion about why the author chose “telling” sentences (written for a younger audience, more left to the imagination, more of the story told through illustrations, etc.).

After reading the story and discussing it, I put the students into groups and give them each a photocopy of a different page. Their task is to add “showing” sentences to the page. I encourage them to add emotions, feelings, facial expressions, a description of movements, and a description of the scene in general–things that help the reader picture the scene (without the illustrations) and imagine what it was like for Max to be there. I challenge them to be creative and to use the writing strategies and figurative language we’ve been studying all year. They might get a page with text, like this one, in which this could describe what Max and the monsters are doing, what Max is feeling, how the monsters react, etc.

Or, they might get a “wild rumpus” page. Who doesn’t like a little wild rumpus? They do the same thing on these pages–describe the scene, tell how Max is feeling and what he is thinking, and tell what the monsters are doing.

It is a big challenge for them. They want to write things like “Max felt happy riding on the monster’s back”. I challenge them to SHOW “happy” instead of TELLING it. I ask them, “How do you KNOW Max is happy? What is his body doing?” and then, “What does happy feel like? What does your body feel like or look like when you’re happy?” This usually helps them write a showing sentence, something like, “Riding on the shoulders of the meanest monster of all, Max placed one hand firmly on his hip, held his head high, smiled to himself, and raised his scepter triumphantly. He closed his eyes to soak in the moment–one of the finest moments of his life, almost too good to be true–in which he was king of all the wild things.” (that one is not that great but you get the idea)

When everyone is finished, they line up in order, and we re-read the story with their additions. It’s a fun activity!

Picture books are great fun–we never really outgrow them! Have you ever thought about writing “showing” sentences instead of “telling” sentences? What is your favorite picture book?

Mini Honey at the Street Fair

Our local coffee shop had an outdoor street fair with vendors, food, art, and live music. It was so much fun!

Evan found some Thai food:

Campbell found the TREATS.

She loves the owner of the coffee shop so much!

And I found the cutest thing ever–a teeny tiny bottle of honey! I realized once I uploaded the picture that I should’ve tossed something next to it for a size reference. Like a dollar at a crime scene. I’d guess it’s only about 2 ounces, and it will fit in my SpiBelt. Run fuel! I’ve used honey straws and I love them, but I have to eat several per run. This little teeny honey will be perfect for a slurp here & there on my long runs. I can’t wait to try it!

Even better–it’s local honey. Yum!

Update on yesterday’s long run: no runner’s flu! I’m not sure if I was actually sick last weekend or if I did things differently this time. I chugged my Perfomance drink like always, then I had a piece of cinnamon toast and a yogurt and took a nap. I felt great the rest of the day, normal actually. I hope that continues! I also didn’t have trouble sleeping like I did last week. Who knows!

I hope you all had a good Sunday!

Long Run Stats

I like to get my long runs over with in the morning so I don’t have to spend the whole day thinking about them. Chris had to leave by 7 today, so I made plans to meet a friend at 5:30. She could only run about 3 miles because she had to work, so I ran a mile to meet up, ran 3-ish miles with her, then ran as far as I could before Chris had to leave. I finished up on the treadmill.

Here are some facts about today’s long run:

Miles run outside – 9:22

Minutes run outside – 102

Average pace outside: 11:04

Miles run on the treadmill – 3.78

Minutes run on the treadmill – 39

Average pace on the treadmill – 10:42

Total miles – 13

Total minutes – 141 (2 hours, 21 minutes)

Combined average pace – 10:56

Swedish fish consumed – 9 (between miles 9-12)

Water consumed – about 8 ounces (also between miles 9-12)

Pieces of gear worn outside – 9 (head lamp, reflective vest, watch, Spibelt, arm band, iPod, earphones, phone, hand-held water bottle & holder)

Temperature at start – 42

Pieces of clothing worn outside – 8 (socks, tights, tank, long-sleeved shirt, headband, gloves, 2 undergarments)

Pairs of shoes worn – 2 (one outside, one inside)

Pieces of clothing worn inside – 4 (socks, 2 undergarments, shorts)

Podcasts listened to – 1.5 (For Crying Out Loud)

T.V. shows watched – just under 1 (Gilmore Girls)

Lowest moment – having to stop and go to the bathroom and about 2 miles before that (should’ve stopped sooner)

Highest moment – everything after 10 miles (10 was my goal but I felt good by then so ran more)

Fastest mile – mile 4, 9:52

Slowest mile – mile 8, 12:19 (potty stop mile)

– Running the last part of a long run on the treadmill kind of sucks, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. The Gilmore Girls is such a sweet little show and fun to relax to. What did people on treadmills do before Netflix?

– Getting a long run in by 8 a.m. is pretty awesome.

– Friends make everything better, even 5:30 a.m. runs.

– For some reason it is less scary running alone in the dark in the morning than it is at night, even though it’s equally dark.

– Re-running the same roads 2-3 times isn’t bothersome in the dark. I looped around a couple of times waiting for my friend, then ran a few loops around home. I didn’t want to get far away because I wasn’t feeling great and I had to be back at a specific time. I ran past the library 4 times and past my house 4-5 times.

– I like Swedish fish, but they aren’t as easy to eat while running as Jelly Bellies. The fish are too chewy and they stuck to my teeth. They are also a little too sweet or something…or maybe it was just that it was so early in the a.m. I didn’t feel like eating candy.

– Best post-run routine to date: snuggling on the couch eating cinnamon toast with Campbell.

Have you ever done part of a run outside and part on the treadmill? Have you ever tried Swedish fish as run fuel? What are your big Saturday plans?