It’s hot and sticky, your eyelids weigh as much as a cinderblock and you have to read page after page of, ‘In the holidays…’ followed by a blow-by-blow account of everything students did.

As a teacher, you may have 99 problems but let’s make sure boring holiday recounts are not one of them!

One of the main reasons students all write the same boring recounts is because they are simply writing down everything that comes to mind.

The solution is to think first, write second.

As with any piece of writing, brainstorming ideas before you start writing is the best way to ensure that your writing is original and engaging.

What makes a captivating holiday recount?

Have a read of the following recount:

“Beep” “Squeak” “Come on!” This is the fifth time in a traffic jam and we’re still two hours away from camp.

When we finally arrive, my Dad is relieved that we get there just in time to set up in perfect light. I really love helping Dad set up the tents on the inside.

Oh no! I’ve forgotten my sleeping bag!
– Lyla, Year 2

Holiday recounts shouldn’t run through every moment from the second students leave school to the night before coming back.

Students should be writing about the most interesting events and bringing them to life with descriptive language.

Have students use their senses to paint word pictures to engage the reader. It makes their readers feel like they are right there in the moment.

This approach also helps students focus on the most interesting parts of their holiday rather than just giving a blow-by-blow account of everything they did.

How do we create captivating stories and recounts?

Activity: Deconstructed Recount

A deconstructed recount is a fast and engaging activity to improve your students’ descriptive writing so that they show, rather than tell their reader what they did over the break. Here’s how…

  • First, brainstorm.
    Get your students to brainstorm things they saw, heard, tasted, smelt and felt during the holidays.
  • Then, ban the boring.
    Get students to pick the most interesting example for each sense and use the template provided to write a paragraph about each one.
  • Finally, get artistic.
    Ask your students to draw an image to accompany each paragraph.
  • Group activity:
    Ask students to share their deconstructed recounts in groups.
    Can the group guess what each person did based on their descriptions?

Template: Deconstructed Recount

  • Take recounts to the next level with this simple template that promotes descriptive writing.
  • Students write and draw in the template to describe their holidays using the Five + 1 Senses.

STEP Step 5: Show, Don’t Tell

Looking for more resources for spicing up your students’ recounts?

Check out Teacher Hub’s Resource Library for recount resources such as our Lesson Plan: Write Like a Witness or a Classroom Powerpoint about writing a wild food fight!

Not a Teacher Hub member? No problem, sign up for a free two-week trial (no card details needed!) and explore this and many other resources.


Alison Langmaid from Sunrise Christian School in South Australia kindly shared this activity idea and this fantastic example written by one of her Year 2 students. For more examples of captivating recounts read our blog, 4 recounts every teacher wants to read.

Click to read sample


For students trained in the Seven Steps, have them use the five paragraphs to construct a complete holiday recount. Prompt students to think about which paragraphs would work well as a Sizzling Start and an Ending with Impact.

Ask: How can they order the paragraphs to build momentum and interest in their recount?

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