Digging into texts…how do authors “show not tell”?

My current reading and writing unit is asking students to dig deeper into familiar texts to see some of the “craft” of writing.  The other day I really wanted my students to see what Patricia MacLachlan does in Sarah, Plain and Tall to help the reader “see” what is happening.  We have been working on “showing” not “telling” in our own writing, but students seem to be struggling with the concept.  I figured they needed to see it for themselves!
I sent small groups with the text to go back and reread a chapter (each group had a different chapter) and hunt for box examples of descriptive language where they could really “see” the story–and other examples of text that merely gave the reader information.  They talked through them together and had to come up with one good example of each to write on a sticky note.  It was a lot of fun to eavesdrop on the groups as they defended their choices and talked about specific words and phrases that they felt helped them visualize.

We then got together as a whole class and talked through the examples.  As we talked, we had some debate about whether or not the examples really fit into the two categories!  Students defended their ideas and eventually we got all our sticky notes stuck someplace.  You’ll notice a few riding down the middle–we just couldn’t get consensus on those!
The students had a lot of fun with the activity, and then I sent them back to check out their own writing journals to try the same activity.  Overall the students were in agreement that they need MUCH more descriptive language in their own writing!  This is a lesson I will repeat again in a few days to see if they are continuing to tune in to how the author uses description.  Have a great weekend!