Special Guest Thursday: Show vs. Tell: Getting the Creative Juices Flowing for My Writing Students {Felicia Capers}

On January 27th we celebrated Multicultural Children’s Book Day and I posted a review of the book Enough of Frankie Already! Today I am happy to introduce the author of this book – Felicia Capers – an aspiring writer and a teacher, who shares her tips and ideas on how to inspire creativity in students.



As a creative writing teacher, it is often very challenging to keep my students motivated; to keep them interested in something more than music and pop culture. When I walk into class some days, you should see the looks on some of the faces. Because often when youngsters hear writing, they hear nothing else; added to the fact that children in the U.S. are being taught all subjects, including writing, as it would appear on standardized tests. There is no opportunity for expression and creative freedom in this type of teaching of writing. By the time my students see Ms. Felicia at the end of a long Thursday my students are exhausted from being taught THE TEST all day, and don’t wish to be bothered.

This challenhe requires much creativity from me. During one of my first lessons each semester I introduce this awesome ice breaker  to illustrate the power of words and the power of description when writing creatively. I use this lesson with students in grades 3-7. Feel free to adapt this lesson plan beyond the classroom and even into your own home. This is not only a creative writing lesson plan, but also teaches young people how to properly channel emotions. There are many powerful lessons at play:

  • the art of expression
  • using actions to express emotions
  • using words to depict actions

Show Vs. Tell Exercise

My students are instructed to pick a card, any card, from a stack. In the stack, I have written approximately 20 different emotions or actions on each card. ( angry, sad, annoyed, hungry, scared, sleepy, etc.)

One at a time, students pick a card and are asked to perform the action or emotion on the card with just one rule. Students are not allowed to speak but only to perform or “show” the action listed on the card.

Next I instruct the spectators, just like charades, that they are to attempt to guess which action or emotion thier classmate is depicting. Whomever guesses correctly gets to act next, but first must write down for me, five things they saw or heard that made them guess correctly.

For example, I say, “Don’t tell me she is illustrating hunger, write down what you saw her do to show you she was hungry.” I guide my students in writing what they saw  their classmate do that showed hunger: he winced his eyes, he held his stomach, he walked around the classroom slowly with his hand covering his forehead.

I force the guessing student to use only descriptive language to explain what he saw and relay this to the entire class in how they should treat writing. Use descriptive language to explain and describe characters, situations, and settings.

Often my students begin to show me and say: Ms. Felicia, she did this or that. They’d then repeat the actions of their classmate that we’d all just seen. I quickly stop them and say “no, describe to me why you guessed your classmate was angry. What did her eyes look like? How did she wave her arms in the air to show she was upset? Write it down.” I’d say, “Write it down!”

By participating in this exercise, my students understand that creative writing is not creative if one neglects to express the actions and emotions evoked by the subject. They learn that experiences cannot be depicted by merely naming them but by describing  the emotions they evoke. Make students realize that they can’t simply say their character is hungry or angry or annoyed, but by thier description of their character’s eyes, demeanor, actions and body language, any reader will  already know.


IMG_47579658794055Felicia Capers is the author of Enough of Frankie Already! an anti -bullying book for young readers. Felicia is also a creative writing teacher. To learn more about Felicia and upcoming projects, visit her on the web at frankiethebully.com. Contact Felicia directly for more information on this topic and other writing topics at feliciakidsauthor@gmail.com.


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