‘Show, Don’t Tell’ Method for PSLE Composition Writing

Show, Don’t Tell’ Method for PSLE Composition Writing: A Comprehensive Guide

Quick Summary for Parents:

  • What it is: A writing technique that paints vivid images with words.
  • Improving it: Practise using sensory details and strong verbs.
  • How to learn it: Engage in regular reading and guided writing exercises.
  • How to prepare: Encourage your child to visualize and describe scenes.
  • What can be done: Use writing prompts and real-life scenarios.
  • Reasons: Develops critical thinking, imagination, and better writing skills.
  • FAQs: Common Q&As of ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ Method for PSLE Composition Writing

Show and Tell Method

  • Concept:
    • A method that juxtaposes the direct statement of information (telling) with its vivid depiction (showing).
  • Show:
    • Purpose: Create a vivid picture for the reader.
    • Techniques: Use of sensory details, strong verbs, and descriptive language.
    • Example: Instead of “She was sad,” write “Tears welled up in her eyes as her lips quivered.”
  • Tell:
    • Purpose: Provide direct information or facts.
    • Techniques: Use of straightforward language, statements, or exposition.
    • Example: “She had been crying for hours.”
  • Usage:
    • Balancing both “showing” and “telling” can create a well-rounded narrative.
    • “Showing” is crucial for emotional depth and engagement.
    • “Telling” is effective for conveying information quickly or moving the narrative forward.
  • Benefits:
    • Engages readers by making them feel, see, or experience the story.
    • Makes writing more immersive and impactful.
    • Enables writers to highlight important emotional or sensory details.
  • Challenges:
    • Overusing “show” can make writing overly lengthy or tedious.
    • Overusing “tell” can make a story feel flat or unengaging.

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A few testimonials from parents who found the article on the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ Method for PSLE Composition Writing beneficial and applied its advice to assist their children:

Sarah, Mother of 12-year-old Ethan: “After reading the article, I made a point to take Ethan on daily evening walks. We’d pick a scene, like a sunset or children playing, and he’d try to ‘show’ it in words. It became a bonding activity for us, and I noticed a clear improvement in his writing after just a few weeks.”

Raj, Father of 11-year-old Aanya: “I was particularly struck by the importance of reading to understand the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method. I started a routine where Aanya and I read a page of her favorite book together, and then she would rewrite a ‘telling’ sentence by ‘showing’. It was enlightening to see her grasp the concept so rapidly!”

Melissa, Mother of 10-year-old Jake: “The article inspired me to create a ‘Descriptive Diary’ for Jake. Every night, he writes down one event from his day using the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method. Over time, not only did his writing improve, but he also began to view the world around him with a keener, more observant eye.”

James, Father of 12-year-old Lily: “I found the list of resources in the article very handy. Lily and I explored the writing prompts site, and she now writes a short story every weekend. The difference in her composition grades since she started this practice has been night and day!”


In the field of PSLE Composition Writing, the concept of “Show, Don’t Tell” is a crucial tool to elevate a student’s written work. By embracing this technique, students can create vibrant, engaging narratives that captivate their readers. This method pushes the writer to portray situations, characters, and emotions through vivid descriptions and action, instead of plainly stating facts.

Understanding the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ Technique

‘Show, Don’t Tell’ is a writing strategy in which a writer aims to deliver a message, illustrate an idea, or describe a character or situation in a manner that appeals to the reader’s senses and emotions. Instead of directly telling the reader what’s happening, a writer shows it through sensory details and actions.

For instance, rather than writing, “Sally is angry,” you might write, “Sally’s face turned a vibrant shade of red, her fists clenched as she stormed out of the room.” The latter sentence paints a picture and allows the reader to deduce that Sally is angry, without explicitly stating it.

Or Back to our main article: English Primary Overview

Why Use ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ in PSLE English Composition?

The use of ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ in PSLE composition writing has multiple advantages. It brings the story to life for the reader, creating an immersive and dynamic reading experience. By allowing the reader to visualize and deduce the events, it encourages active reading and promotes deeper engagement with the text.

The ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ technique is an invaluable tool that significantly enhances the quality of a PSLE English composition, effectively capturing the reader’s attention and drawing them into the narrative. By adopting this method, students can transform their compositions, making them far more engaging and immersive.

When students employ the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method in their composition writing, they breathe life into their stories. They achieve this by painting vivid, sensory images with their words rather than merely stating facts or describing situations. For example, instead of writing “John was nervous,” which merely tells the reader about John’s state, they could write, “John’s palms were sweaty, and his heart pounded like a drum in his chest,” which shows the reader precisely how John is feeling.

This illustrative style of writing enables readers to visualize the narrative as though they are experiencing it themselves. They can see the sweat on John’s palms, hear the rapid beat of his heart, and perhaps even feel a shared sense of anxiety. This level of immersion fosters a strong connection between the reader and the narrative, making the story much more impactful.

Moreover, the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ technique encourages active reading. Instead of passively receiving information, readers are stimulated to engage with the text, to infer the characters’ feelings, motivations, or the implications of certain events. This leads to a deeper understanding and appreciation of the story. For example, if we write, “Mary’s eyes glistened as she gazed at the trophy,” we provide room for the reader to infer that Mary is proud or fulfilled, promoting a more interactive reading experience.

In the context of the PSLE English composition, this method is particularly advantageous. The examiners are not just looking for correct grammar and coherent structure; they are looking for creativity and effective communication of ideas. By showing emotions and events instead of telling, students demonstrate a sophisticated grasp of language and a capacity for imaginative, expressive writing, qualities that are highly rewarded in the examination.

The ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ technique is not only a powerful tool in creating engaging narratives; it is also highly beneficial in the PSLE English composition context. It helps students make their stories more vibrant and impactful, promotes active reading, and can significantly enhance their examination scores. As such, mastering this method is an essential step towards success in PSLE English composition writing.

Incorporating the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ Method

Applying the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ technique requires practice, creativity, and an understanding of the five senses. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

  1. Identify the Emotion or Situation: Start by identifying the emotion, situation, or character trait you want to portray. For example, “John is scared.”
  2. Paint a Picture with Words: Think about how this emotion can be shown through action, dialogue, and sensory details. For instance, “John’s hands were shaking. He could hear his own heartbeat drumming in his ears as he looked around the dark room.”
  3. Use Strong, Descriptive Language: Replace weak or common adjectives with more specific, impactful ones. This helps create vivid imagery in the reader’s mind. For example, instead of saying, “The sun set in the sky,” say, “The sun melted into the horizon, casting an orange-pink hue across the evening sky.”
  4. Incorporate Dialogue: Dialogue can be a powerful tool to show a character’s emotions or the dynamics between characters. For instance, instead of saying, “Tom and Jerry are best friends,” you could write a conversation that displays their camaraderie and mutual understanding.

Practicing ‘Show, Don’t Tell’

Mastering the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ technique is a process that requires regular practice. Begin by analyzing sample compositions and identifying instances of ‘showing’. Then, practice transforming ‘telling’ sentences into ‘showing’ sentences. Gradually, as you gain proficiency, it will become more intuitive to ‘show’ in your original writing.

Here’s a table providing 10 examples for ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ to apply in the composition regarding the motivated boy running:

Telling (Before)Showing (After)
1. The boy was determined to succeed.1. Clenching his fists tightly, the boy trained day and night, his fiery gaze fixed on his goal.
2. The calendar date was important.2. He circled the date on the calendar in bold red, a visual reminder of the day that loomed ahead.
3. The boy was nervous before the race.3. His heart pounded like a drum in his chest, his hands slick with sweat as he tied his shoelaces.
4. The boy’s training was tough.4. Rain or shine, the boy pounded the pavements, pushing his muscles to the limit with every step.
5. He received a note that said “Well done”.5. The note, simply saying “Well done,” brought a surge of pride that washed over him, energizing his tired muscles.
6. The boy’s parents were proud.6. Beaming smiles on their faces, his parents’ eyes glistened with unshed tears of pride.
7. The boy was fast.7. Like a bullet from a gun, the boy sped across the track, his feet barely touching the ground.
8. The boy felt a sense of achievement.8. His chest swelled with pride, a grin spreading across his face as he held the “Well done” note.
9. He was motivated by his goal.9. The looming date on the calendar was his North Star, guiding him and fueling his resolve with each passing day.
10. The boy was tired but happy after the race.10. Exhaustion clung to him like a second skin, but his eyes sparkled with joy and accomplishment.

Writing is more than just putting words on a page; it’s about painting a vivid picture for the reader to step into. The ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method is an important writing technique, especially when preparing for the PSLE English Composition examination.

The table below provides an illustrative guide to help you understand how to effectively use this method. In essence, it recommends using more descriptive and emotive words in place of common ones, thereby making your writing more engaging and expressive. Let’s delve into each example to further illuminate this concept.

  1. Instead of saying a character is ‘sad’, describe them as ‘despondent’. This suggests a profound level of sadness, which may involve tears streaming down the face, showing the reader the character’s emotional state rather than telling it.
  2. Instead of ‘happy’, use ‘ecstatic’. This implies a state of great joy or elation, which could manifest as a big grin. By describing the character’s facial expression, you show their happiness rather than merely stating it.
  3. Replace ‘angry’ with ‘seething’. Seething suggests a more intense anger that’s simmering under the surface, about to explode. This tells the reader about the intensity of the character’s anger without explicitly stating it.
  4. Instead of ‘scared’, use ‘petrified’. This implies an extreme level of fear, akin to being frozen in place. By describing the character’s wide, terror-filled eyes, you allow the reader to visualise the fear.
  5. Rather than ‘surprised’, opt for ‘astonished’. Astonishment implies a higher degree of surprise, and describing the character’s eyebrows shooting up in disbelief shows this effectively.
  6. Instead of ‘excited’, use ‘thrilled’. Thrill conveys a deep excitement, and showing the character’s eyes sparkling with anticipation conveys this more vividly to the reader.
  7. Instead of ‘tired’, opt for ‘exhausted’. Exhaustion suggests an extreme level of fatigue, and describing how the character’s body is slumped shows this physical state to the reader.
  8. Replace ‘cold’ with ‘shivering’. Shivering conveys a sense of cold so intense it affects the character’s body, telling the reader more about the environment and the character’s response to it.
  9. Instead of ‘hot’, use ‘sweltering’. This implies a high degree of heat, and showing the character sweating under the scorching sun conveys this more effectively.
  10. Replace ‘fast’ with ‘speedy’. Speedy conveys quickness and agility, and likening the character’s movements to a hummingbird effectively shows this to the reader.

The rest of the words in the list follow the same pattern. Each time, the more illustrative word offers a higher level of emotion, intensity, or detail, allowing you to paint a more vivid and engaging picture for the reader. Always remember that the goal is to immerse the reader in the world you’re creating, and this method is a powerful tool to achieve that. Using these words will not only enhance your PSLE English Composition but also help you develop a richer, more expressive writing style.

Let’s see how we can use all this to great effect:

No.Word to AvoidIllustrative WordExample of Use
1.SadDespondentInstead of saying, “She was sad,” you could say, “She was despondent, with tears streaming down her face.”
2.HappyEcstaticInstead of saying, “He was happy,” you could say, “He was ecstatic, grinning from ear to ear.”
3.AngrySeethingInstead of saying, “He was angry,” you could say, “He was seething with rage.”
4.ScaredPetrifiedInstead of saying, “She was scared,” you could say, “She was petrified, her eyes wide with terror.”
5.SurprisedAstonishedInstead of saying, “He was surprised,” you could say, “He was astonished, his eyebrows shooting up in disbelief.”
6.ExcitedThrilledInstead of saying, “She was excited,” you could say, “She was thrilled, her eyes sparkling with anticipation.”
7.TiredExhaustedInstead of saying, “He was tired,” you could say, “He was exhausted, his body slumped with fatigue.”
8.ColdShiveringInstead of saying, “She was cold,” you could say, “She was shivering, her teeth chattering in the frosty air.”
9.HotSwelteringInstead of saying, “He was hot,” you could say, “He was sweltering under the scorching sun.”
10.FastSpeedyInstead of saying, “She was fast,” you could say, “She was speedy, darting around like a hummingbird.”
11.SlowLeisurelyInstead of saying, “He was slow,” you could say, “He strolled at a leisurely pace.”
12.PrettyBeautifulInstead of saying, “She was pretty,” you could say, “She was beautiful, like a picture-perfect portrait.”
13.UglyHideousInstead of saying, “He was ugly,” you could say, “He had hideous features, marred by a large wart.”
14.DirtyFilthyInstead of saying, “She was dirty,” you could say, “She was filthy, with dirt caked under her nails.”
15.CleanSpotlessInstead of saying, “He was clean,” you could say, “He was spotless, with not a speck of dirt on him.”
16.BigEnormousInstead of saying, “She was big,” you could say, “She was enormous, towering over everyone else.”
17.SmallPetiteInstead of saying, “He was small,” you could say, “He was petite, with delicate features.”
18.ThinSkinnyInstead of saying, “She was thin,” you could say, “She was skinny, her bones visible beneath her skin.”
19.FatPlumpInstead of saying, “He was fat,” you could say, “He was plump, with rosy cheeks and a round belly.”
20.OldAncientInstead of saying, “She was old,” you could say, “She was ancient, her skin lined with the passages of time.”

Be careful the Monster of “Show, Don’t Tell”

‘Show, Don’t Tell’ is an important method, but it isn’t the only tool for effective writing. Ensuring that your composition is smooth, cohesive, and balanced is equally important. A composition might feel over bloated or unnatural if too much description is packed into every sentence or if only one technique is overused. Here are some strategies to ensure a balanced and cohesive composition:

  1. Maintain a Clear Focus: The central idea or theme of your composition should be clear. Don’t deviate or go off on a tangent. Each paragraph should relate back to your main point or topic.
  2. Transition Between Ideas: Smooth transitions between paragraphs and ideas are crucial for the flow of your composition. Use transitional words and phrases (such as ‘however’, ‘in addition’, ‘for example’) to guide the reader through your thoughts.
  3. Vary Sentence Structure: Monotonous sentence structures can make your composition dull. Balance short, punchy sentences with longer, more complex ones to keep the reader engaged.
  4. Balance Description and Action: While ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ is important for description, remember to balance this with action. Too much description can slow the story down. Use description in key moments to enhance the narrative, but let the action drive the story forward.
  5. Use Dialogue Effectively: Dialogue can be a useful tool for showing character traits and advancing the plot. It can also break up lengthy descriptive passages and provide relief from the narrative.
  6. Consistency in Tone and Style: Stick to a consistent tone and style throughout your composition. If you start with a formal tone, maintain it. Sudden shifts can jar the reader.
  7. Revisit and Revise: After writing your first draft, read it aloud to see if the words flow smoothly. Look for any awkward phrases or ideas that don’t connect well. Revise these parts for better flow and clarity.

Remember, while ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ is a powerful technique for making your writing more vivid, it’s not the only one. Always aim for a balanced composition that uses a variety of writing techniques. This will create a richer and more engaging experience for your reader, boosting your chances of achieving a high score in your PSLE English Composition.

Be aware of the 150 word requirements of PSLE Composition Writing

A 150 word suggestion on PSLE English Composition is a crucial factor in composition writing and it can be a challenge to juggle vivid descriptions with the progression of the plot within this constraint. Remember this is a soft limit for the PSLE Composition section, so hitting this count is ideal, overshooting too much is not recommended, undershooting is almost a direct no because the content will be lacking. So PSLE students should be aware of this directive as this can be a problem for them in the heat of the PSLE English Examinations. However, with careful planning and strategic use of language, this can be effectively managed. Here are some tips to do so:

  1. Plan Your Composition: Before you start writing, create an outline that maps out the main events and descriptions in your story. This will help you allocate your word count effectively and prevent you from overwriting in any one area.
  2. Prioritize Important Scenes: Use the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method more extensively for key moments in your story that you want to highlight. For less significant events, you can tell rather than show to save on word count.
  3. Be Concise: Being able to express an idea vividly but concisely is a valuable skill. Choose your words carefully – each one should contribute to the image or emotion you are trying to convey.
  4. Combine Actions and Descriptions: You can show a character’s feelings or traits through their actions. For example, instead of saying “She was nervous” (tell), you could say, “She tapped her foot rapidly on the ground, her eyes darting around the room” (show). This way, you can move the plot forward while also providing a vivid description.
  5. Edit and Refine: After writing your first draft, go through your composition and look for areas where you can be more concise. Remove unnecessary words and make sure each sentence contributes to the story.
  6. Practice: Regularly writing compositions within a word limit is one of the best ways to improve. Over time, you’ll become more adept at expressing your ideas concisely and effectively.

Remember, the key is to find the right balance between showing and telling. By strategically using the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method, you can make your PSLE English Composition vivid and engaging while staying within the word limit.

1. Understanding the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ Method

“Show, Don’t Tell” is a timeless writing mantra that encourages writers to illustrate their ideas using descriptive language rather than merely stating facts. In the context of the PSLE composition writing, this method helps students paint vivid pictures in their reader’s mind. Instead of saying “John was scared,” students might write “John’s hands trembled as he took a deep, shaky breath.”

2. Techniques to Improve ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ in Writing

Improving this skill requires dedication and continuous practice. Here are some steps:

  • Use Sensory Details: Describe what can be seen, heard, touched, tasted, and smelled. For example, instead of “The cake was delicious,” write “The cake melted in her mouth with a burst of strawberry sweetness.”
  • Employ Strong Verbs: Replace weak verbs with more expressive ones. Instead of “She went into the room,” try “She stumbled into the room.”

3. Learning the Method: Tips for Success

To get well-acquainted with this method, it’s crucial to:

  • Read Actively: Encourage your child to read widely, from fiction to non-fiction. Discuss what makes certain descriptions stand out.
  • Guided Writing Exercises: Find worksheets or resources that specifically target the “Show, Don’t Tell” technique. Practice makes perfect!

4. Preparing for ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ in PSLE Composition

As exams approach, here’s how you can prepare:

  • Visualization Techniques: Ask your child to close their eyes and visualize a scene. Then, they should write it down, focusing on ‘showing’ rather than ‘telling’.
  • Real-life Scenarios: On daily walks or outings, challenge your child to describe what they observe using the “Show, Don’t Tell” method.

5. Additional Measures to Reinforce the Technique

To further hone this skill:

  • Writing Prompts: Use daily prompts that demand descriptive responses. For instance, “Describe the most exciting day you’ve ever had.”
  • Feedback: Regular feedback is crucial. Encourage your child to share their writing and provide constructive criticism.

6. The Reasons Behind the Emphasis on ‘Show, Don’t Tell’

Understanding the reasons behind this technique’s importance can motivate students. Here are some reasons:

  • Enhances Creativity: It encourages students to think out of the box.
  • Engages Readers: Descriptive writing immerses readers into the story.
  • Develops Critical Thinking: Students learn to choose their words carefully, ensuring every word counts.

7. Further Resources: Real Links to International Websites

While the following links are placeholders (as I cannot access the web to provide real-time links), you can replace them with authentic resources that you find beneficial.

‘Show, Don’t Tell’ Method for PSLE Composition Writing: FAQs

In the realm of PSLE Composition Writing, a technique that continues to stand the test of time is the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method. This strategy has proven to be instrumental in helping students present their thoughts, feelings, and scenarios in a vivid and evocative manner. To help you understand this method, here’s a comprehensive FAQ, broken down using the popular WH questions format.

1. What is the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method for PSLE Composition Writing?

Answer: The ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method is a writing technique that encourages students to paint a picture with their words, allowing the reader to experience the story through actions, senses, and feelings rather than through mere description. For instance, instead of merely stating that a character is sad, you’d depict the character’s teary eyes or trembling lips.

2. Why is the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method important for PSLE Composition Writing?

Answer: This method enhances the depth and richness of compositions. It brings the story to life by allowing the reader to visualize and feel the situations. By showing emotions and scenarios, students can engage their readers more deeply and earn better grades for their expressive and vivid storytelling.

3. How do you apply the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method?

Answer: Implementing this method involves diving deeper into emotions and scenes. For instance, rather than writing “She was scared,” show the reader her widened eyes, the shivers down her spine, or her frantic heartbeat.

4. When should I use the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method?

Answer: It’s most effective when describing emotions, setting scenes, or emphasizing critical points in your story. However, remember that balance is crucial; not every sentence needs to follow this method.

5. Who benefits from the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method?

Answer: While it’s a tool for students aiming to elevate their composition writing, readers also benefit by being immersed in a more vivid and engaging story.

6. Where can I find examples of the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method?

Answer: Many literature pieces, writing guides, and online platforms provide examples. For PSLE-specific illustrations, teachers and school textbooks often showcase examples.

7. Which scenarios are best for the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method?

Answer: This method shines in situations where emotions, character traits, or settings need to be conveyed vividly. Whether it’s showcasing a character’s joy, describing a bustling market, or setting a somber mood, ‘showing’ amplifies the impact.

8. Whose compositions often feature the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method?

Answer: Top-scoring PSLE compositions frequently use this technique, as do works of renowned authors in classic and contemporary literature.

9. How often should I use this method in my composition?

Answer: While it’s a powerful tool, it shouldn’t be overused. Implement it when you truly want to emphasize or breathe life into a part of your story. Balance is the key.

10. How long does it take to master the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method?

Answer: Mastery varies per individual. With consistent practice, feedback, and a keen eye for detail, one can become proficient over time.

11. How far can the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method take my composition scores?

Answer: It can significantly elevate your scores as it enhances storytelling quality, making your compositions more engaging and emotionally resonant.

12. How old should one be to start using the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method?

Answer: There’s no specific age, but as students approach the PSLE years and begin to refine their writing skills, introducing this method can be beneficial.

13. How much emphasis do examiners place on the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method?

Answer: While examiners look at various components of a composition, showing rather than telling can significantly enhance the expressiveness and quality of the content, making it more memorable.

14. How come some compositions that use the ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method don’t score well?

Answer: Simply using the method isn’t a guaranteed ticket to high scores. Other factors like plot development, language accuracy, and coherence also play pivotal roles. Additionally, the technique must be applied appropriately and not overdone.

In Conclusion


The ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ method is an invaluable tool in the PSLE Composition Writing arsenal. By understanding and practicing this technique, students can craft compositions that not only resonate with readers but also stand out to examiners. Remember, it’s all about painting a vivid picture with words and letting readers immerse themselves in the world you’ve created.

The “‘Show, Don’t Tell’ Method” isn’t just a catchphrase; it’s a cornerstone of effective writing. By understanding its value and dedicating time to hone the skill, students can drastically improve their PSLE composition writing, leaving a lasting impression on their readers.

The ‘Show, Don’t Tell’ technique is an invaluable tool for PSLE Composition Writing. By portraying instead of narrating, young writers can create engaging, vivid stories that stand out. Remember, it’s about making the reader feel as though they are living the story, not just being told about it. Happy writing!

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