Creative Writing Lesson Plan: Using Details

Creative Writing Lesson Plan: Convert Telling Sentences to Showing Sentences.

I lost my will to live after grading 318 poorly written essays. Instead of tying a cement block to my knees and hurling myself into Lake Mead, I decided to look for a new job. That’s when inspiration hit.

ELA Common Core Standards

After teaching students how to create lively characters and to use imagery, I felt good about myself until I read their next assignment. My creative writing lessons had failed. Littered with a lot of telling and very little showing, my students’ writing made me want to rip off my toe nails with needle nosed pliers. Seconds before the cuticle ripped, I thought of a great way to teach students how to show instead of tell. I released the pliers, wrapped some tape around my big toe, called my wife, and told her I’d be home late.

I had work to do. I had to find a better way of teaching writing style, a way to help students convert telling sentences into showing sentences. Here’s what I came up and here are the ELA Common Core Standards covered.

  1. W.9-10.5  Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of L.9-10.1-3.)
  2. W.9-10.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
  3. L.9-10.5  Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.
  4. L.9-10.5a  Interpret figures of speech (e.g., euphemism, oxymoron) in context and analyze their role in the text.
  5. L.9-10.5b  Analyze nuances in the meaning of words with similar denotations.

The Six Important Questions

Answering the news reporter questions–who, what, when, where, why, how–turns bland writing into active writing.

  1. Write the following sentence on the board: “Mr. Smith is celebrating.”
  2. Ask students the following questions:
  • Does this sentence paint a picture for the reader?
  • Does it leave questions in the reader’s mind?
  • Does it answer the questions who, what, when, where, why, how?
  • How could it answer who, what, when, where, why, how and paint a picture for the reader?

3.   Instruct students to answer the following questions:

  • Who is Mr. Smith?
  • What does he do when he celebrates?
  • When does he celebrate?
  • Where does he celebrate?
  • Why is he celebrating?
  • How is he celebrating?

Procedures for Creative Writing Lesson Plan

1.  Instruct students to convert the aforementioned telling sentence into a showing sentence. Here’s my example:

  • After 12 years of teaching chemistry, Mr. Smith lost it. He began oinking like a pig and shouting, “I love Bastille Day” as he ran through the halls of Foothill High School. It didn’t matter to Mr. Smith that Bastille Day was over a month away.


  • “I’m going home and watch my favorite team in the NBA Finals!” Mr. Smith, my new boss, shouted while giving me a high-five followed by an elbow in the face. He stood over me for a few seconds and growled…

2.  Write the following sentences on the board and instruct students to rewrite them using the reporter’s formula

  • Bill is handsome.
  • Susan is athletic.
  • I am enjoying school today.
  • Eggs are fun to throw

3.  Allow several minutes for students to write their new sentences.
4.  Ask students to share their sentences. I recommend a sentence challenge, similar to the paragraph challenge, the most motivating writing assignment I have ever seen.

Creative Revision

Creative writing lessons can be used for revision as well. In fact, teaching writing style becomes more effective with revising. Follow these steps to help students apply their knowledge of changing telling sentences to showing sentences:

  1. Instruct students to read their rough draft to a partner.
  2. The partner should listen for telling sentences.
  3. Instruct partners to listen for telling signal words: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been.
  4. Instruct author to highlight telling sentences and rewrite using the news reporter formula.
  5. Post rewrites on the board or read aloud to the class.

This lesson has been adapted from Mini Lessons for Revision by Susan Geye, 1997, Absey & Co. Spring, TX.

Make Writing Come Alive

Tired of reading blandness. These lessons may help.

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