Show-Not-Tell: Senses in Poetry

Building on our previous lesson in sound play, students at Bret Harte explored the use of the five senses to “show-not-tell.”

This concept is important for advancing poetic expression as it encourages the use of vivid imagery, and thinking of each poem as an experience.

Using Carl Sandburg’s Chicago, students then wrote a poem incorporating the five senses that focused on their city, their favorite place, or another image rich setting, like the lunchroom.


Lyric W.

Chicago is big and tall
but nah
its not stormy at all
hot dogs smell across town
don’t take pity
on our big city
you can go touch the big buildings
you can see the teal house from here
we keep it it real
hear the noise from the cars
see bars on the windows


My Bed
Aidan P.

My bed is blue
my bed is messy.
I’m not in the mood
please don’t test me.
I just want to sleep
please do not wake me.
I’ll flop in my bed after
homework and baking.


The Lunchroom
Jada E.

Paper airplanes crashing to the floor
kids yelling and getting hurt
the food is hot and steaming from the kitchen
the chicken is salty
my friends are giggling
the teachers can’t take it
so they sit down and just watch.



“Writing poetry makes me feel like I can see myself, like I can see my reflection, but not in a mirror, in the world. I write and I know I can be reflected.”
-Oscar S.

“Writing poetry makes me feel free.”
-Buenda D.

“Writing poetry is like your best friend.”
-Jessica M.