Show & Tell Activity Explained (Benefits, Drawbacks & Examples)

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There are so many things that both children and parents look forward to in the elementary school years.

There are fall festivals, holiday performances, field days, school picnics, and learning to read just to name a few.

One of the simple joys of childhood that many parents remember and children look forward to is show and tell.

Have you ever wondered why Show and Tell is such an elementary school staple? Is it just a fun activity, or is it actually an important part of the lesson plan?

Let’s take a close look at the Show and Tell activity, from why teachers do it, to how parents can help their kids prepare.

Show and Tell is a fun and easy activity for kids that comes with tons of learning benefits. It boosts self-esteem, helps develop confidence, sharpens speaking and other social skills, and opens the door for kids to make easy friends with each other early in the school year. It even helps develop listening skills for those in the audience. For teachers, it’s also a sneaky way to find new ways to bond and connect with students and evaluate strengths or areas for improvement.

Let’s learn more about how Show and Tell works, the benefits, and some quick and easy ideas.

What is Show and Tell?

According to “show and tell” is:

An activity for young children, especially in school, in which each participant produces an object of unusual interest and tells something about it.”

For a show and tell activity, students display an item that is important or special to them in some way and then explain its significance to their teacher and classmates.

(There may also be a theme for the Show and Tell activity that day, like the color red, animals, or the five senses.)

It is a time-tested tradition of many teachers over the years, with some references to the activity coming as early as the 1950s.

This activity allows teachers to assess oral communication skills, find ways to make a more personal connection with each individual student, and provides opportunities for more quiet or shy children to shine.

Teachers are also able to utilize show and tell time as an opportunity for teaching social skills including listening to a speaker or presenter and taking turns asking questions.

It is a way for teachers to begin emphasizing responsibility at an early age since students need to be able to transport the item to and from school without damaging it and be respectful and careful when handling items brought in by other students.

Show and Tell Benefits for Kids

Social skills, a self-esteem boost, and a low stress introduction to making new friends are some of the benefits of participating in show and tell for kids whether they are the speaker or in the audience.

Children learn how to be respectful and active listeners while their classmates present.

As a student watches his counterparts present, he knows that it will eventually be his turn and he is motivated to give the attention and respect he wants later when he is in the spotlight.

In a classroom setting with anywhere from 10-25 students, it can be difficult for a child to feel like they stand out or feel special. Show and tell gives every student the opportunity to be the center of attention, which can be a great self-esteem booster and even encourage them to be more confident and speak up more in class.

Presenting in front of an audience allows students to begin using their facial expressions, hand gestures, and overall body language to effectively communicate a message or explain a concept.

An added bonus is that show and tell can turn out to be an introduction for kids that helps them make friends.

Children sharing their interests and experiences with the class opens the door to finding out what they have in common with their classmates thus making cafeteria and playground conversations easier to start.

Show and Tell Benefits for Teachers

Show and tell is mutually beneficial to both students and teachers.

When the school year begins, teachers have a list of names in front of them but no other real insight into the personalities or stories that go along with the names on that list.

Hearing and seeing their students talk about special items, moments, hobbies, or people in their lives gives a teacher a way to personally connect and build a deeper bond with each student.

While children are sharing, teachers can take note of possible speech delays or impediments as well as areas of strengths such as strong vocabulary or the ability to sequentially tell a story.

Learning about what interests and excites students most can even help guide the teacher to fashion lessons that will keep kids more engaged in learning.

For example, if multiple students share stories about travel, the teacher may choose reading lessons that discuss modes of transportation or what the weather is like in various places around the world.

Show and Tell Drawbacks and Criticism (And Alternatives)

There’s a lot to love about Show and Tell, but not every teacher is a fan.

For starters, having children bring cherished items to school can be fraught in a number of ways.

Toys and exciting items can become a distraction. Or the potential to lose or have to share the treasured item can cause stress for young kids.

Next, some kids who are shy or have more social anxiety may struggle with the activity.

It’s good to develop social skills and the ability to present in front of an audience, but some children may experience a lot of fear and stress at the thought of standing up in front of the whole class.

Third, some teachers say the activity ends up being boring or repetitive.

Some kids don’t give the assignment a lot of thought and just bring a favorite toy to brag about, or scribble a quick picture right before it’s their turn to present. This leaves the kids in the audience squirming, fidgeting, and getting distracted.

Some alternatives to Show and Tell that can have similar benefits include:

  • Sharing in a small group
  • Reading journal entries
  • Showing off a favorite piece of art
  • Sharing a story or memory instead of an item
  • Etc.

Show and Tell Ideas and Examples

Since there are such great benefits to show and tell, every parent wants to make sure their child brings something to share that is “the perfect item.”

(And let’s face it, parents tend to get roped in to helping kids pick out a last minute Show and Tell object.)

So, what are the types of things that are ideal to show?

Photos of family and pets: 

Children know their family very well and are typically very comfortable talking about them. A family photo provides flexibility to talk about anything from their most recent family vacation, their parents’ jobs, or a favorite hobby or sport the family does together.

Also, a photo is very easy for young kids to transport in a backpack.

A Medal or Trophy: 

A child can talk about an achievement they are proud of and what they did to earn the award.

This really ties in the beneficial self-esteem boost that can be gained from show and tell.

An Item from a Collection:

The story of how the item was found, why it was chosen to be part of the collection, or even why the collection was started in the first place are all great material for a show and tell presentation.

A souvenir from travel or a special event:

Kids can share the excitement and other emotions they felt while describing to their classmates the sights, sounds, and smells they experienced in a new place they visited or a unique event they attended

Their own creation or invention: 

Sharing artwork, an invention, or craft they have made from scratch means a child will have an absolutely unique item or story to share and may demonstrate a talent they have or a hobby they enjoy at the same time.

Wrapping Up

Show and tell is a basic but valuable teaching tool that has many benefits to both teachers and students.

Particularly, at the start of any school year this activity is a great way to “break the ice” and help students and teachers get to know each other better and provide them with no stress conversation starters.

Since there is such a wide variety of things that can be used for show and tell, it is a great way to get every child in a class engaged and participating without any extra cost attached.

Show and tell is a low-cost or no-cost activity that adds some fun to the school day, can help build a great foundation for a class, and provides multiple social and educational benefits for students and teachers.

For more Show and Tell ideas and examples, check out:

Hope this helps!