Drama is everywhere these days….on the news, in our workplaces and plenty of it in our daily lives.  But when it comes to teaching, drama is something that we normally shy away from.  Most educators (and administrators) want a tried and true strategy that is preferably quiet and keeps students in their desks.  Yet, this is not the way we humans learn.  We are wired to interact with others and to create new neuro-pathways based on the outcomes of these interactions.  So why not use this in our teaching strategy toolbox?

I’ve already posted an article on using the Actor’s Toolbox in your classroom to see dramatic results in student attention, focus, and cooperation skills.  Extending that idea a little bit, today we’re going to look at using drama and tableau to enrich your language arts content objectives.


Tableau is simply a frozen picture of a moment in time. These are another “low risk”
vehicle for arts integration. Teachers are not asked to do things which are
uncomfortable and students love to stretch their imaginations with this task.

Here’s how to create a basic tableau: Each student chooses something from the story to “be”. For instance, in the book Iʼll Love You Forever, there is a page that talks about the boy when he is 9 years old and walking through the house. One student might be the boy, one might be the sink with dirty dishes, one might be his backpack on the floor. Have students think about ALL the elements in this one scene. They should pick things that are at all levels – low (floor, items on the ground), medium (things that are at eye level) or high (what is happening above the main object). Give students just a few seconds (no more than a minute) to decide what their tableau will look like and tell or ask them which Actorʼs Tools to activate. When the teacher says “Action!” student groups will all freeze in their tableaus. This is the moment that you will first assess the assignment. Then, the teacher will highlight a group with a spotlight. When the spotlight is on a group, the teacher can ask each object/character what they are and what they think about the current scene as that character. This the second way you can assess student learning – by what and how they are describing their point of view as part of the story.

Tableau is a powerful tool that can be used with students of all ability levels. From
special needs students to gifted/talented students, all children can use this method to
demonstrate their learning.


Rather than a frozen picture from a moment in time as in tableau, using drama to
become each character in the story can have a deeper impact into student learning and
skill development. In this case, the teacher uses the story as a means to creating a
class drama and leaves the story open-ended, allowing each student the chance to
imagine what would happen later on in the story if they were the character. For
example, in Where the Wild Things Are, Victoria Brown, author of The Dramatic
Difference suggests having all students become Max so that they can experience the
story intimately from his point of view. How would it feel to be in that forest with the Wild Things? What would you do with the Wild Things? This create a richly deep experience for many students to go beyond the surface and really experience these moments.