Show and tell (education)

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In this "show and tell" activity, a child is explaining an umbrella they brought in.

Show and tell is a common expression about showing an audience something and telling them about it. In the United Kingdom, North America, New Zealand and Australia, it is a common classroom activity at early elementary school. It is used to teach young children the skills of public speaking.[1] For example, a child will bring an item from home and will explain to the class why they chose that particular item, where they got it, and other relevant information.


The modern usage of this term began in the 1940s,[1] but the general concept is older. For example, in one Shakespeare play, a character uses the same words to link a thing with words explaining it'

"... for if he show us his wounds and tell us his deeds ...."
Coriolanus, Act II, Scene 3[2]

In popular culture[edit]

  • The television series Timothy Goes to School regularly featured this practice, except that it was referred to as "In the Spotlight," which became the title for one of the program's stories.
  • In the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, show and tell in Calvin's class is an occasionally recurring theme.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ammer, Christine. (1997). "show and tell," The American Heritage dictionary of idioms, p. 580.
  2. ^ Bulman, James C. (1985), The Heroic Idiom of Shakespearean Tragedy, p. 20, citing Coriolanus, Act II, Scene 3, line 1429.