Why I Don’t Do Show and Tell Anymore

Inside: An exploration of Show and Tell in the classroom.

I've stopped doing Show and Tell in my classroom: reasons why and alternative ideas.

Confession time: I dislike Show ‘n Tell. A lot!

I’ve been teaching primary for 27 years now and I’ve decided that this is the year I give it up completely!

I’ve been messing around with different formats for the last few years but I’ve finally had enough and I’ll tell you why.

Why Show ‘n Tell Drives Me Crazy

Now let me preface this by saying that I KNOW kids love Show and Tell (or Sharing Day) and I’m not trying to quash all the joy out of their lives. But honestly, I’m going to scream if I don’t get off this crazy train to nowhere.

What I’ve been finding, no matter how hard I work to avoid this, is (a) it’s BORING (and not just for me, many of the kids, too) and (b) it always seems to devolve into some form of bragging about possessions. And it’s usually toys.

Now I totally understand how kids feel about their special toys (I feel the same way about my iPhone and other gadgets) but I don’t think school is the place for sharing their special Pokemon or Shopkins or whatever the current favourite happens to be.

Other teachers might argue that it’s fun and harmless but I really think it helps promote our culture of consumerism.

Even when I ban toys from Show and Tell it somehow always morphs into a kind of one upmanship.

And that’s not what I want our classroom to be about.

Things I’ve Done in the Past

I’ve tried a variety of formats over the years to deal with both the boredom and toys, and while there were good things about all the different methods, none of them were totally satisfactory.

Sharing in Small Groups: To deal with the “it’s boring to listen to five people in a row talk about their stuff” I tried breaking the class into groups of five where everyone was assigned to one sharing person. So we would spend 10 minutes while persons A, B, C, D sat in a small circle and listened to person E do their sharing. The same thing would be going on with four other groups.

The problem? If I assigned the groups then invariably there were kids who complained that they’d rather be in a different group ’cause that person had a cooler thing to share.

If I let them choose their groups then there were always a couple of people nobody wanted to be with.

If we rotated groups so that we got to listen to everyone share, it took WAY too long.

One Sharing Day a Week: This is where we left Friday morning open and everyone brought in a sharing item. As you can image it took SOOO long, not to mention the one or two kids who were crying because they forgot their sharing and now they had to wait a whole week for the next Show and Tell.

Paper Bag Surprise Sharing: The kids really liked this one. They brought their sharing in a bag and then read out a few clues while their classmates guessed what’s inside. The big issue with this format was the parents who forgot to help their child get everything set up (i.e., choose a small enough item, write the clues, practice reading the clues).

Bring Something You’ve Made: This worked fairly well and put an end to toys. But I found that it led to a form of bragging, also. Last year kids were bringing in their Lego creations which was really cool. But then they started trying to outdo each other and the structures were getting so big they could barely carry them! And then there’d be problems with missing pieces. Sigh!

Only the Special Helper Shares: This worked fairly well, especially if there was also a toy ban, but if the Special Helper forgot to bring their sharing then we had to lump it into the next day.

When and Why Did All This Madness Start?

I’m only guessing here but I imagine it started at least back in the ’60s (I can remember having it in school when I was a kid) as a fun way to teach children a little bit about public speaking. Back in the day your desk was in a row and chatter and cooperative work was definitely NOT encouraged. The teacher did all the talking unless you were called upon to answer a question. So Show and Tell back then would have been an awesome way to give the kids a chance to speak in front of the class and share a little bit of themselves.

But things are VERY different nowadays. Our classrooms tend to be more child-oriented with the kids moving around and sharing ideas all day long.

I personally don’t think a formal sharing time is necessary anymore and I honestly feel like it’s a huge waste of precious time.

My Show ‘n Tell Alternatives

Instead of formalizing sharing time I’m going to build it in throughout the day. I’d prefer to have my students celebrating their thinking processes, ideas and hard work, rather than tangible items from home.

I actually do this anyway (as I’m sure we all do) but essentially I’m just going to put a little more emphasis on it.

For example, here are all the ways we naturally share our learning:

  1. Authors Circle: Take turns reading their journal writing to the class
  2. Art Gallery: After an art lesson everyone holds up their master piece and says, “I’d like you to notice ___ because ___.”
  3. Favourite Book: children sign up to share a favourite book after reading lessons
  4. Grand Conversations: After an especially good read-aloud we often sit in a large circle and discuss the book
  5. Centre Time: Structures and creations are briefly shared
  6. Momentous Occasions: Think lost teeth, birthdays, new babies etc.
  7. Projects: We often share completed science and social studies projects
  8. Class Meetings: Sharing ideas and concerns in weekly meetings
  9. Math Strategies: Sharing various strategies for solving math problems
  10. Turn and Share: During group read alouds, lessons or discussions, take mini breaks where students turn and share their thinking with a partner

So there you have it! I’m making it official. No more Show and Tell in my classroom. I’m keeping my fingers crossed there won’t be a huge riot. Haha!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Show and Tell. I know that not everyone feels the way I do, and that’s okay! That’s what’s so awesome about teaching, we have the freedom to decide what works best for us and our students.

Happy Teaching!


16 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Do Show and Tell Anymore”

  1. When I taught second grade, we had a Very Special Person of the Week. On Thursday of your week, you shared a talent of yours with the class. The students were very creative: musical performances, drawings, medals from competitions, demonstrating how to _____, and more. I didn't want it to be Show and Tell for the very same reasons you mentioned and this way it was only one person/one day a week. Even I could handle that!

  2. When I was in the classroom, I didn't do Show and Tell. I hated it. I felt like I could do so many other things during that time that would be more beneficial. But I know the kids love to share! I just couldn't do it. lol!

  3. I absolutely agree with you on Show and Tell, but I couldn't entirely dispense with it so I compromised. A couple of years ago I started having a Special Helper for a whole week (which works really well!). The helper could share (secret sharing, 3 clues) preferably on Tuesday (I had a stock note that I sent home the Friday before reminding the parents that it would be their child's turn the next week), but if they weren't ready Wednesday, Thursday or even Friday worked. That way sharing was kept down to 5 or 6 minutes/ week, they were thrilled when it was their turn because they had so long to wait for it, and it very rarely happened that they weren't prepared at some point during the week. It was a win-win.

  4. I do my show and tell once a month (I have a k-1 class so we do it the last Friday if the month when the k's are present). The students who wish to share must fill out and have an application form approved by me to participate. The item(s) must meet one of two criterion:-Be about something they are learning at home (pictures of hatching eggs, an all about me book they made, a special book-which I'll read to the class, gopher traps, a painted tile)-Add to something we're learning in school (deer antler in an animal unit, a balloon filled with water in solid form, a painting using just primary colors, a book that connects with a book we read in class) On the application they must write (or dictate) why they are bringing the item and what they plan on telling about it. The application puts some thought into what to bring, provided a task to do together home and allows me to budget the right amount of time.

  5. Oh wow, I love that, Judy! I've never thought of an application form. That turns it into a very thoughtful learning process. And one month is much easier to handle.Thank you SO much for sharing this!

  6. Yes and double yes! I keep promising myself that I will stop doing Show and Tell, but then I don't have the heart to say no when the kids ask to have it. For me, the problem is that so many kids come up to the front with their special toy and are unprepared and say very little about it. All in all, it just ends up being a huge distraction all day long. I'll try to keep my promise to myself this year 😉

  7. I do Me in a Bag once a week. I teach my kids what presenters and audiences do to support each other. I can totally understand your points though, and you've come up with very authentic ways of taking care of the issue. 🙂 (This year I'm going to do something called Identity Day. I read about it in The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros. I'm excited to try it.)


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