Susan Riley | September 2018

Tableau Strategy Video

Over the years, we’ve shared our love for using the Tableau Strategy in the classroom.  It’s an incredibly effective way to get students to understand author’s purpose, character traits, tone and inference in a variety of texts.  From fiction to informational text, Tableau can be a quick and easy way for students to dig deeply into a story.

But one thing we haven’t done is to show what this strategy looks like in practice.  That’s why we’re sharing this new video with you.  Now you can see how I introduce this strategy to children and how you can use it in combination with point of view as a model for your own classroom.

Like this? Then you’ll LOVE our Arts Integration and STEAM Accelerator.

This members-only area has access to a full library of videos demonstrating lessons and strategies like this one. PLUS access to all of our courses, conferences and curriculum.

Want in? Get on the Waitlist Here.


The first step is to pick your piece of text.  You’ll want to select something with multiple components that students could explore.  For example, in the video you’ll notice that I selected James and the Giant Peach and really zeroed in on the peach growing on the tree.  Both the illustration and the text itself are rich with possibilities for re-creating this with a frozen picture.  While I used a piece of fiction, you could just as easily use informational text or even a math process or method.

The process to this strategy is easy to set up.  You can do this with a full class in a single tableau or you can break students into small groups of 3 or 4 to have mini-tableaux. What is important is your intention for using it.  Do you want everyone in the class to focus on one area of the text?  Or would you like them to show you a progression of the story?  That will effect how you set it up as either whole group or small groups.


Once you know what text you’re using and the intention for using it, then investigate the levels of the scene as a class.  What is at the high level?  What about the medium level?  Is there anything at the low level?  Once identified, then it’s time for students to brainstorm how they’ll use their bodies to demonstrate each of those levels.

Don’t forget items that we often take for granted: the sky, the grass, the sun.  Things that aren’t the main focus of the text or illustration, but which give the scene context.  Look at each of these and notice what level they are – and then have students create these items with their bodies.


Now it’s time for the performance!  When you use the word “Action” students move into their positions and freeze in place.  This is where it gets interesting.  You can either have students performing multiple tableax in sequence or a single tableau where they can explore each component.  If you have students using tableax in sequence, you can say “cut” after each scene.  This would indicate to students that it is time to move into the next tableau of the sequence.

But if you’re using a single tableau as demonstrated in the video, students should be considering their perspective within the context of the scene.  They could be thinking about how they feel, how others in the scene feel about them, or what they see/hear from their perspective.  This is rich with options.


And that’s it – the whole process for using the tableau strategy in your own classroom.  There are so many different ways to tweak this based on what you’re teaching.  You can choose from a variety of text – fiction, informational, and even non-traditional text like visual art, music, or dance.  And, you can set up your tableau in an infinite amount of ways depending on what your students are studying.

If you’ve used this strategy in your own classroom, what are some tips you have for making it work?  If you haven’t used this before, what other questions do you have?  Let us know in the comments below!

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan