“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekov talking about the use of a well know literary device called ‘Show, don’t tell’ and more recently ‘Show, not tell.’
This method which has many proponents in the world of literature is not a new phenomenon. Ernest Hemingway opens his novel ‘To have and have not’ written in 1937 with the following lines:
You know how it is there early in the morning in Havana with the bums still asleep against the walls of the buildings; before even the ice wagons come by with ice for the bars?
Here Hemingway is painting a picture of early morning in Cuba, he could have easily written ‘One very early morning…’ some writers may argue that these examples are still ‘telling’ although somewhat elaborately. Calling it ‘Show, not tell though does simplify it for our students and is a great way of getting them to use vivid description.
Evan Marshall from http://themarshallplan.net/ says:
Don’t just write “The subway station was shabby.”
Write: “Near the edge of the platform, a man with knotted hair held out a Dixie cup to no one in particular, calling, ‘Spare some change? Spare some change?’ Swirls of iridescent orange graffiti covered the Canal Street sign. The whole place smelled of urine and potato chips.”
Perhaps both are telling but one is telling in much more detail. The latter has much more detail and drama.
I use film widely in my teaching and I use film to demonstrate this technique.
The following two extracts are from a music video called 'Titanium' by David Guetta.
These two excerpts are from one of my favourite films on The Literacy Shed, called 'Catch a Lot.'
There are many other examples in the films on www.literacyshed.com and I may follow this blog up with them if people think it is useful.
Thanks for reading and I hope you leave a comment.
On Tuesday I had the pleasure of speaking at a conference in Coventry, I was followed by Roger Black MBE who delivered a keynote speech about his career.
I sat and wondered what the relationship between his career and teaching would be. Roger spoke at length about overcoming adversity and teamwork, the type of thing that teachers do on a daily basis. One thing, however, struck a chord with me. Roger discussed his 'fear of failure' how this fear pushed him from excellent to outstanding.
I wondered... Do we instil this fear in children? Should we? Would our children in school perform better if they had a fear of failure? I thought about my own classroom setting, are my children striving to achieve at all times? No. Do they have a fear of failure? The majority don't.
I then began to think about how I deal with failure on a daily basis. In my Year 5 class what happens if a child delivers a substandard piece of work? The answer: not a lot! If they have been lazy, they may have to do the work again, but only if the work is substantially below standard. If they have failed to achieve due to carelessness, I will probably warn them about their effort or concentration levels. Is it my fault that these children do not have an intrinsic fear of failing? Do they just think they can get away with it or is there another underlying problem?
I have met a number of children throughout my career who don't seem to care about their work, who don't care about achieving. These children lack ambition, it could be down to social pressures, family traditions or a lack of aspiration.
We need to engage these children in a way that makes them care. We need to make sure they care about achieving and instil in them a fear of failure.
The question is how? [I will blog about this at a later date.] I am forming some ideas....
Rob from Literacy Shed