Show Don’t Tell!



Here are some sample of some of the “Show don’t Tell” step. Students have found this a great ( and effortless) way to really enhance their writing. ¬† I really love this step and so do the students!

ūüėĄ Mrs T

Ban the Boring Bits!

During our daily writing sessions I try to encourage innovative and original ideas. For the “Ban the Boring” step, I have created a simple poster that is added to when necessary. Originally the students determined what constituted what was boring, this was added to the poster. After our daily “sharing” of our seven steps writing, ¬†the students review their work ¬†and add to the poster (if necessary). I ¬†love that we have this visual reminder to support the students and they can refer to it during any of their writing work. ūüôā Mrs T ¬†image

Treasure Island Sizzling starts and just who is this Alan Peat?

I felt like I was getting a bit behind with the trial for a number of reasons, one being the Easter holidays and the second being the usual issues with technology that I’m sure schools worldwide face. ¬†In order to catch up I decided to combine a whole collection of elements that I felt would inspire my class to write, and write well.

These elements were:

  • Sizzling Starts
  • Lend Me Your Literacy
  • Treasure Island
  • Alan Peat’s Exciting Sentences

I absolutely love the idea of a ‘Sizzling Start’ and decided that the best way to introduce this to the class was to use a writing feature we know well and enhance it. ¬†At Tollgate, we have been working with a group of teachers who run a website called Lend Me Your Literacy ( and @literacylender) for just over 6 months. ¬†The idea of the website¬†is that children’s written work is uploaded and published online for a potentially worldwide audience. ¬†Since October our children’s writing has received over 7500 views, which is a huge motivation for producing a higher standard of written work¬†across the school. ¬†The website is a fabulous teacher resource as well, and one of its best features is the Picture of the Day. ¬†This is the element that 4A have used the most effectively to stimulate creative writing. ¬†This Monday’s Picture of the Day was the front cover of the Penguin Classic Treasure Island. As a class we read an abridged version of the story in the term after Christmas the children loved using the story as a stimulus for writing. ¬†We wrote letters, sea shanties, instructions, recounts and newspaper articles based on the adventures of Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver. The task accompanying the Picture of the Day was a competition, in association with Penguin Classics, to write an adventure story in no more than 500 words. We embraced the challenge with enthusiasm.



So now came the Sizzling Starts.  I desperately wanted to get my head around the use of Padlet, particularly as I want to use it to explore more international links, so I set up a wall that could be seen on the IWB while children used the 8 class iPads to add to it with their own ideas.  I started it off by including 5 different examples of sizzling starts that would hook the reader straight into the story.  I used sentence types that the children were familiar with, but took them a little out of their comfort zone by getting them to use these as starters for a story.  The Padlet we created shows how much they got into the idea of going straight in with action.

image image


The sentence types we used are from a collection of ideas that have been collated by Alan Peat. You can find out a little more about his resources at and @alanpeat. Basically from a teacher’s point of view, what Alan has done is to take a large selection of sentence types that through their use will improve the quality of pupil’s writing, and made teaching and using them incredibly simple and straightforward. ¬†For example, in the past I would have taught my children about onomatopoeia and told them to try and include some in their writing. ¬†Now, using Alan’s Exciting Sentence approach, I teach Sound! Cause. ¬†This still uses the appropriate vocabulary, but through the inclusion of the punctuation and the more ‘punchy’ title, the children are more likely to remember to use it accurately. Another example is De:De or Description:Detail, the inclusion of the colon allowing the sentence to instantly become more complex. ¬†One of my class’ favourites is The more, the more and they also enjoy a good ‘if, if, if, then…’ as well. ¬†There’s nothing new in these sentences, but what is new is this approach to the teaching and implementation of them across a range of genres. ¬†(I’m thrilled to be attending a conference day he’s running in June)

So, with the help of Alan Peat’s books and apps (look on his website or search him on the App Store for the full range), the return to a book we really enjoyed: Treasure Island, the opportunity to have another piece of work published on Lend Me Your Literacy, and this new idea of a ‘Sizzling Start’, 4A have written some brilliant short adventure stories for the competition. ¬†¬†We’ll¬†try and blog some examples.

Oh, and time zone allowing, we’d definitely be up for some joint Padlet work now we’ve got the hang of it!


The Great Tightening Tension Challenge

Today 5SK  participated in an online writing challenge with classes from four other schools in Queensland and South Australia. We used Padlet to run our session as it publishes student work instantly. This is the second time we have run this type of activity. Last week students created sizzling starts with three other Australian classes using the same format.

Students were given a picture prompt and asked to brainstorm their senses – see, hear, touch, taste, smell and feel. Each group created at least two tightening tension paragraphs around the prompt and posted online with the help of Mrs Franklin (Principal), Mrs Gummow (Master Teacher/HOC) and Helen (our lovely parent volunteer).


As the day passes, and the night goes, I see something edging closer. The boat rocks, Brandy turns to me helplessly, I feel worried and scared. Then a loud grunting noise is heard, the taste of salt is sneaked through my mouth as the clouds clear. I’m stunned, I’m paralized with fear. I can smell something, it smells rotten, suddenly the dead fish rise. “I’m hungry” my brother complains, I want to go home. If only, I think to myself, I feel like crying, but then I would be looked as a weakling.¬†Charlee – Merinda Senior, Yr 6

Over the horizon I peer through the sun set drifting away. Ready to pack up I get a cold shiver down my boney spine, from the foggy mist. I can smell the salty fish that we caught earlier this morning. Suddenly I can hear water splashing beside the boat. Circling us were three pointy fins. Ivy, Chloe, Jasmine & Emily – Mount Gambier, YR 4/5

We were surrounded by 10 metre man killing sharks. We were all screaming. One nearly flicked us in the face. We could feel the boat shaking with the waves. There was a big hole in the boat. We didn’t know what to do.¬†Gypsy, Brody and Jack – Merinda 3/4R

Crack! The boat starts rapidly filling with salty water. All of a sudden grey pointy objects start circling like a cheetah chasing its prey. Sweat starts running down my face as I pace back and forth. Will this be my last moment? Zanna, David, Hugo, Ayden, Ellie & Levi – Queens Beach, Yr 5SK

The deep ocean started filling the boat.It entered in gushes of waves.We were filled with fear.We heard the waves crashing.Then we saw tiger sharks! They swarmed around the boat and started biting chunks off the boat.The boat started jerking and sinking like a rock!The Sharks are threatening us.We smell salty blood from their jaws as they bite the the side of the Oakwood boat.CRACK! Part of the boat is lopped off.We hear nothing but crunching and us screaming.The hot breath of our mouths was horrible so was our skin.We have no help now…..RAWR!!!¬†Elissa, Hannah, Hayley and Charlotte – Brisbane, Yr 5/6

CLUNK! CLUNK! What was that? Oh no our motor had fallen off into the deep black ocean. Fierce hungry sharks were surrounding us. That is not any shark, that is 5 Great White sharks! We were petrrified and nervous. Our hearts were hammering. 2 sharks were charging right at us. Would we live? Bobby and Cameron – Bowen, Yr 3C

Here is our completed Padlet

Created with Padlet

Show Don’t Tell and Dialogue – Year 3C

After learning how to write sizzling starts, we have been trying to develop the middle part of our stories. One of the ways we do this is through “show don’t tell”. We need to show actions that give us a visual image of how the character is feeling. We started by choosing an emotion, brainstorm words that show, with words, how a character is feeling. Then we write about the emotion. We practised writing about many different emotions.¬†We also used dynamic dialogue to make our characters more interesting.



This week we put all our skills together to write about the character Bill from the book ‘Matty Forever’. Bill has a secret he doesn’t want to tell Matty. However, ¬†Matty has told Bill her secret so he feels he has to let her know his. The author has not told us what Bill’s secret is yet, so we made up our own.

Bill's secret

Tullycrew’s Planning for success

imageimageAustin saxon planning

We have been working on the ¬†“planning for success” step. ¬†This process began in groups; then the students worked in pairs; ¬†then individually. We used different types of stimulus – including words, pictures and the “seven steps narrative resource book”. This process have evolved students ideas and has encouraged their creativity. ūüôā Mrs T

The Great Sizzling Start Challenge

Image by Kate Pruitt

“Glowing brightly from a distance the Queen Bee and her beloved King Cockroach open a door to their land of Bugsville.” – Natalia, Queensland.

“Knock, knock! The door screams as I open it. Little army men are marching quickly with their small pointy weapons heading my way.” – Ayden, Queensland.

“Bang bang! I pecked my head out of my mini door. The giant was walking towards the door. So I ran to my emergency hide out and listened to the giant’s “Fe fi fo fum!”…” – Jack and Oriana, South Australia.

Three of the original “sizzling starts” created by students in Queensland and South Australia.

On Thursday our class participated in “The Great Sizzling Start Challenge” with two other classes from Queensland. It was the first time we collaborated with other classes in real time, and it was FAN-TAS-TIC!

To start with, we skyped 5SK in Queensland to say ‘Hi!’. The sound came out loud and clear, but the students were a little surprised that the image was a bit blurry, especially when the camera was focused on the group of Queensland students waving at us. The reality is that video files are huge and the quality has to be compressed in order to be sent quickly over the Internet. No doubt this will evolve for the better in the future.

After that, it was time to start the challenge, in real time, on Padlet! All classes and students were presented with the picture prompt above and challenged to imagine a “sizzling start” to a story inspired by this prompt. A sizzling start need not be very long; rather it should consist of three to four carefully crafted sentences, designed to grab the audience’s interest and make them want to read on… As we started the experience, students working in pairs or trios on Padlet could see Padlet notes appearing on the collective board as everyone shared their writing online. Here is our Padlet Board:

Created with Padlet

After the writing phase, our class regrouped and shared our thoughts about the experience. There had been a tremendous buzz in the room as the activity was going on and the students all loved the challenge. We logged on to Twitter to share our thoughts with the other classes. Here is some of the feedback that was shared on Twitter:

Hugo, from Queensland – “I liked how the boxes kept popping up!”

Oriana, from South Australia – “It was exciting; we’d never done something like this and we would love to do it again!”

Samara, from Queensland – “It was the best writing experience I have ever had.”

This activity was very successful – there was a sense of purpose as we were sharing with a real audience, as well as excitement as the action was unfolding before our very eyes! It was inspiring to see what ideas and writing styles others contributed. It was a writing experience that made writing come to life in our classroom, and we can’t wait to do it again!

Thank you to 5SK and TullyCrew for their enthusiasm, meet you again soon!


I have to admit to assuming that the children in my class would know what it meant to brainstorm, but within a few moments of introducing the idea with the first group, I realised the age old adage of ‘assume nothing’ was once again relevant.

We’ve been without our iPads in class for ¬†2 and a half weeks (I feel like I’ve lost a limb) so I had to get started on the activities just using old fashioned pen, paper and talking it through. ¬†I had decided that the brainstorming activity would work best in mixed ability groups, leading into paired and then independent work. ¬†Groups of 8 were tasked to create a storm of ideas for what could be lost or found. ¬†This was interesting to observe as an activity, particularly as all 4 groups approached it slightly differently! One group were very possessive over the ideas, seeing each person as the owner of the ones they had written down. ¬†Another group worked with total calm, taking it in turns to pass the paper and pen around. ¬†The third group had really wacky ideas, ranging from ‘faith in yourself’ to a ‘BMW’ and the final group had a considerable number of Harry Potter inspired ideas.



Having read through the ideas from the booklet, I loved the idea of the oral storytelling using a chatterbox and we had great fun making up hilarious stories and sharing them in partners.  This was something we have done before, the idea of saying your story plan out loud before committing it, but the addition of the chatterboxes gave it another dimension.

We’ve started looking now at how to turn the brainstorms into more personal plans and with the imminent return of the iPad I’m hoping to develop the story graph. ¬†Today some of the class had a go and then talked their story through with a partner but I think more inspiration is needed. ¬†I’m also going to use the outside/inside sheet with them and hopefully will have some to share soon.

Since doing the brainstorming activity as outlined, we have adapted it for a number of class based discussion activities and with more time and repetition of the process they will start to see the benefit, particularly with tips like not just going for the first thing that pops into your head!

A great start to the project!





Our focus last week was brainstorming. Being able to brainstorm is such an important skill for writing. Without brainstorming, students find it extremely difficult to create written pieces. 5SK were broken up into small groups and given a series of word prompts to brainstorm story ideas around. They came up with many great ideas. Once finished they were then asked to pick their best idea and share with the class.

From there, students created two characters for their story and brainstormed complications. They were asked to circle a pebble (small problem), a rock and a boulder. They then mapped these on their story graphs and added notes for their sizzling start and backfill paragraphs.


On Friday, Mrs C and her class joined us in a brainstorming activity in the lab. We used a Shuttorstock image and augmented reality apps colAR Mix and String, to create our story graph together.

Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 2.31.13 pm

Why use images and apps?
The first paragraph of a story needs to hook the reader without giving too much of the story away. We used an image of a knight fighting a dragon in a burning field. Students brainstormed noun and verb groups around this image.

The backfill paragraph can be tricky at times to create. The app colAR Mix allowed the students to get a picture of the village and how the villagers would feel having a fire breathing dragon circling them constantly.

String was used for the climax as it shows the dragon breaking through the wall and they could visualise what the knight felt like when the dragon attacked.

We found that by using the visuals, students were able to gain a stronger understanding of  the sequence of the paragraphs.

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