Reading Strategies: Tableau

Here is another in the series of reading strategies that I’m stealing wholesale from Carla, who suggested them.  This one involves having your students create a freeze-frame image from an important part of the book you are reading.  Grab any props you need to flesh this scene out, and have your students model what the scene looks like.

Let’s say you were teaching Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. You might choose to focus on the moment that Snow White bites into the apple–or right after it.  You would have a student biting into an “apple” (perhaps tennis ball or something), perhaps starting to pass out as the poison kicks in, and the Queen disguised as an old lady standing off to the side observing the process.

I was thinking that this would also be a good opportunity to check for comprehension when you are positioning your actors while creating the tableau in the first place.  “OK, class–what should Snow White be wearing?  She’s a princess, should she have a crown on? What was Snow White doing right before the Queen knocked on her door (and thus have in her other hand)?  Should the queen be wearing a crown? How does Snow White feel?  How does the queen feel? etc. etc.” The process of setting up the tableau could function as an acted out comprehension check–seeing how well they understood by how well they give you directions to pose the actors. I would imagine that you really wouldn’t want to circle these images wildly like you do with one-word-images, because you’re trying to faithfully illustrate the book for people in the class.

One of Carla’s ideas with this that I really like is to take a digital camera and record the various tableaus you create for later use.  (Is the plural tableaux? Any French teachers out there?) Then when you are looking at creating a re-tell opportunity, you could pull out the picture (or series of pictures) and ask your students to talk about what was going on.

This would also lend itself well to group work if you split up your class into groups, and instruct each group to set up one tableau for the rest of the class, so you could do several of these back to back, like at the halfway point or end of the reading.

As a way of extending this activity (and review) into another day, I think it would be fun to pull up the pictures you took earlier of each tableau, hand a copy to each group and ask them to re-imagine how that scene would play out.  In other words, each group creates a parallel-story tableau for the pictures you are given.  Somebody in the group (heavily scaffolded by you if necessary) could explain the new tableau, creating an authentic speaking opportunity that would be well supported by actors.  It could then be fun to compare and contrast the “official” tableau with the alternate version, and find out where it takes you.

6 responses to “Reading Strategies: Tableau

  1. This is a perfect idea for the first story I’m thinking of using with my advanced kids. It’s about a journalist who gets trapped on a bookshelf by a lion in the house of a women he plans to interview. (She leaves to get something at the store, and he inadvertently lets the lion out of his room, thinking it’s a dog.) You can see how there would be lots of tableaux there!

    I think I told you that the first plan I had was this: I was going to repeat a song with my students “I’m not afraid,” and do a cycle of what they’re not afraid of…(except that I had said I’d do what they ARE afraid of, and I want it to be more positive than that)…then will follow up with this piece.


  2. Michele, your idea made me think of the camp song: Goin’ On A Lion Hunt! I used to do that in Spanish with kids…lots of fun…if yiou don’t know it here is one version in English: I wish I could teach M-Thurs and spend Friday skyping with you all for ideas for the next week!!

    with love,


  3. So cute!! I am thinking I could put my native speakers onto this–get it into Russian–

    AND it reminds me of something amazing that I found out last night because my Russian daughter wanted to sing karaoke. Did you know that you can hunt for “karaoke (song title)” on YouTube and it often comes up? Try it!


  4. You know, as an extension of your “I’m not scared” phrase (perhaps during your reading day, where I usually have some time in some form) you might like to show this video of a first-person perspective video of a hiker going along the Spanish Camino del Ray trail, which is falling apart in several places (concrete paths poured almost 100 years ago with drops of hundreds of feet below):

    It starts fairly slowly on the scary spectrum, so you could stop every little bit and say “Who is not scared?” and just get a general running commentary in the language going about how “not scared” your class would be to hike this trail.


  5. “I’m stealing wholesale from Carla”
    Ha ha! All my reading ideas from that conversation were stolen wholesale from a reading strategies book. The only challenge was finding ones that could be used for beginner CI. Jeffrey Wilhelm is great! After reading You Gotta BE the book, i wanted to know a whole lot more about taching reading. The book was “Action Strategies for Deepening Comprehension.” the subtitle is something about using enactments/drama in the middle school reading classroom. I just looked for anything that looked as if it could succeed in a limited language proficiency/input oriented environment.


  6. Pingback: Freeze Frame | The Comprehensible Classroom

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