I loved Show & Tell when I was little... not so much for what I took to show my classmates, but I loved seeing the wonderful treasures they shared with me. They made playing with the latest baby doll or train set look like the pinnacle of life. I ended up wanting every toy I saw. They were very convincing.
Most children have experienced Show & Tell, so this common practice in school offers a memory device to train young writers and teach them how to show their readers the ideas locked in their heads instead of telling them in abstractions.
Perhaps the best way to show someone an abstract concept is through objects. I use them all the time as a Southerner. They seem to come with the accent; we use object lessons through idiomatic expressions:
He's (as) proud as a peacock.
He's (as) dumb as a door nail.
She's (as) cute as a button.
...though I'm not quite sure what's so cute about a button...
These short expressions serve to teach us something, to illustrate a point about pride, intelligence, or appearance. We can expand on these small lessons to help our students illustrate the point in their writing.
Clear, real-life examples serve as evidence to prove some point we make in our topic sentence or thesis. Consider the point we want to make in a body paragraph from an essay persuading parents to purchase a laptop for each student in the family taking online classes:
Having individual laptops for each online student will actually save treasured time with family.
Wrap Up Sentence (gives us clues how to decide what to write in the middle):
The desire for more family time provides compelling motivation for all online students to have their own laptops.
The wrap up leads us to the motivation for buying the laptops: the parent's desire for more family time. The student could simply tell the reader that children become frustrated and waste time when they have to share a computer, but the problem becomes more vivid when we tell the consequences of wasting that time in a real-life situation...
When parents use online schools for their children and then force them to share computers, children frustrate one another with the real need to use the technology versus being told to wait their turns. They may even miss deadlines and work longer and later, making themselves too tired and irritable to sit down across the table and enjoy each other’s company.
Most people can understand the frustration of missing deadlines and working longer than they want to, and most school-aged children can certainly related to being irritable. Their parents can relate even more to the scene in this scenario, and after all, they are the ones this essay seeks to persuade.
Notice the previous example relates to a negative... what happens when students DON'T get their own computers, but we need something vivid to draw an image (SHOW) these parents what a blissful scene life can be when each online student has his or her own laptop. Notice the positive images in the following example...
Understanding the demands they placed on their own children by choosing online education, parents maintain the balance between school time and family time when all the children have laptops that allow them to get their work done quickly and with less frustration. When school is over at a reasonable time, children can help with dinner and chores while leaving enough energy for sit-down meals and board games with happy hearts.
What parent doesn't love having schoolwork done on time and help with dinner and chores? Anyone averse to sit-down meals and board games with happy hearts? Not this mom!
Now you have captured the vision of SHOWing instead of TELLing to draw your readers into your writing with just another great example. Drop me a line and let me know how your student did showing instead of telling on his/her next essay.
...and that's how we help our students Over the Academic Bar.