mentor author · mentoring · minilesson · student work · writing workshop

Showing a Story

Recently, I taught a minilesson about showing a story. In typical intermediate grade fashion, students were writing stories filled with struggles, but slim on creating a picture in the reader’s mind. My minilesson went like this (and, yes, it was less than 15 minutes!):

Share this chart – all of which we’ve discussed in previous lessons.

Talked about my work as a writer to make a story come alive. “It’s about slowing down and thinking through the best way to craft a scene,” I said with a smile.

Shared my notebook entry where I tried to come up with ways to show Em’s indifference and Dad’s hope. I continued to talk about being intentional about showing the story. “It takes time and dedication to show a story instead of telling a story,” I said.

Shared a bit of my writing where I crafted a scene by showing the story to the reader.

During work time some students began writing their first story, others planned and drafted a second or third story, others revised, one abandoned a draft and started a new one. I love it when workshop pans out this way and everyone is doing what matters most to them as writers.

At the end students shared the way they showed their stories instead of told their stories. It was exciting to see tracks of my teaching in their writing. Check out some of their words (Since I’m typing instead of sharing the images with you I kept the spelling and punctuation as close to the original as possible.):

Ben drafted his lead to a historical thriller:

Then without warning . . . an explosion blew off the bow the ship started to take on water. The crew then realizes theirs no lifeboats. Just then the ship JOLTED to the side. The stern lifted out of the water and turned it settled back in the water and was gone.

Alyssa drafted:

Should I be crying by now or whaite intell I get beat up? I shour hope I sit by Isabell she’s the most poplar girl in school.

Clayton revised. Original:

The museum tour is okay thinks Mike but when they go to the gift shop Mike Tom puts a fake snake on Mike and Mike screams.


After the tour all the kids run to the gift shop. When Mike finally gets in the door he sees a desplay of lego sets his favorite. Mike is crouched down when all of a sudden he feels something on his back. Mike turns his head to look at his back and sees a snake.  Mike jumps up and the snake flys off. Tom and his friends are roaring with laughter. While Mike is sprinting around like crazy. Finally Mike stops and hears Tom whisper”It was a fake.” When Mike hears this his face turns tomato red. After that Mike stayed away from Tom and his group.

Reflecting on this lesson, I think the reason it was so powerful was because I talked with them as a writer of fiction. I’ve engaged in this work and shared my process with them. As writing teachers, it is essential that we are writing alongside of our students. It is great to use published authors as mentors, but in the end as teachers, we are the living-breathing writers in the room. We ought to be doing the same things as we ask of our students so we can share with them a bit of “insider’s knowledge.”

5 thoughts on “Showing a Story

  1. Oh I love this. I am going to be using it on Monday because my students are struggling with this and I needed a new way to teach it! Thanks so much… ask and ye shall receive!


  2. Thanks for this! I’ve being teaching this concept in several different ways lately. I just kept seeing a lot of narration memoirs. Now my students are finally starting to explore storytelling as an art. Keep the good stuff coming Ruth!


  3. I’m glad that you shared this. I need to reteach this topic again. It seems to come up in cycles. It is fun to see that more and more students are getting it all the time, but it is one that I need to remind as different students are ready to hear it again.


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