Lesson Plan: Tableaux With a Twist
Dr. Janis Currence, Stephen Decatur Middle School, Berlin,
Currence's lesson plan is also available as a PDF
file. See Materials Needed, below, for links to student
activity sheets related to the lesson.
Using drama to engage students in meaningful responses to
literature, with a focus on character development
Student copies of novel, The Watsons Go to Birmingham
or other sound-making device for teacher
Students in Dr. Currence's class are studying a historical
fiction unit, examining the nuances of the genre and how actual
events in history affects the lives of fictitious characters
in significant ways. Here, students read a significant portion
of the book The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963,
so that they could begin to examine the characters' actions
and motives. In addition to reading this book, students were
required to select another historical fiction novel to read
on their own.
interacted with the novel through a variety of classroom experiences
designed to help them access the text and interact with it
in meaningful ways to increase their understanding of the
text. These activities included:
The teachers and students shared the experience of reading
aloud the novel.
Graphic organizers: KWL organizers are charts that ask students
to list what they know, what they want to know, and what
they have learned as the read a text.
Graphic Organizers: Students collect or draw pictures or
symbols to identify what a protagonist or antagonist in
a text may have thought. Dr. Currence provided students
with a silhouette figure into which they drew or pasted
symbols, pictures, and words that represented the interior
thoughts of characters in the novel.
Book Logs: In this form of journaling, students note their
personal reaction to a particular part of the text in one
column, and cite the page of the book that provoked their
reaction in the other.
order to assist students with understanding the fictitious
characters, their motivations, and how historical events influence
their actions and reactions, this lesson provides an opportunity
to participate in a dramatic activity called Tableaux With
explore and demonstrate the ways authors reveal characters
in a text through dramatic tableaux.
for personal expression, focusing on insight gained from
the tableaux experience.
Products From Lesson:
scene, based on a chapter of the novel The Watsons Go
to Birmingham 1963
reflection on the activity and their analysis of their own
learning as they participated in dramatic tableaux, examining
how it enhanced their own learning and understanding of
Structure of Class:
Students are placed in groups of four to five each.
Day 1: 10 Minutes: Model Tableaux With a Twist
the activity Tableaux With a Twist. Tell students that they
will be forming dramatic groups where they will create frozen
scenes from significant events in the novel The Watsons
Go to Birmingham 1963 for the next day's activity.
four students and identify a scene from the book for modeling
Tableaux with a Twist.
students to form a frozen scene representing the event from
the novel. Encourage the students to prepare the scene in
a corner of the classroom where classmates cannot see or
hear what they are doing. Allow students three to five minutes
to formulate their scene. Tell them that the audience will
be allowed to tap characters in the scene and hear what
they have to say about their situation and actions.
the model group is ready to present, ask students to put
their heads down. Explain to them that as long as they hear
the shaking of the tambourine, they are to keep their eyes
closed. Meanwhile, the group is forming its scene.
the group is in position, stop the tambourine with a single,
loud hit, and invite students in the audience to take a
look at the frozen scene.
will lead audience participation by calling on students
from the class to identify the scene and its importance
in the novel. Teacher can also invite students to tap a
character to hear what they have to say about what they
are doing in the scene and their thoughts about it.
1: 20 Minutes for Preparation
groups of four to five students each. Distribute the student
activity sheet Dramatic
Tableaux to each group. Ask students to select a group
leader for the purpose of organizing the scene and for communicating
readiness to the teacher. Groups should also select a recorder
to fill in the student activity sheet as they progress through
a specific chapter in the novel to each group. Allow students
to choose one significant scene from their chapter.
students to meet in their groups for the purpose of selecting
their scene, identifying the significance of the scene,
the roles the characters play, and how to form the tableau
with the group members and props (allow up to two props
students to meet in their groups for 15 minutes. Students
will present their scenes the following day in class, after
they have had time to gather their props.
2: Performance of Scenes
groups to meet for five minutes to work out last-minute
details of their scene.
scenes and allow time for audience reaction and tapping
students get comfortable with the activity, teacher may
select a student class leader to shake the tambourine and
call upon classmates.
groups have concluded their presentations, direct students
to complete student activity sheets.
and Follow-Up Activity:
Ask students to write a reaction to the tableaux activity.
Ask students to consider: What did you like about participating
in the activity? What went well for you? In what ways did
the activity help you to understand the characters, their
actions, motives, and relationship to the plot in The
Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963?
Dramatic Tableaux Activities
for suggestions for directing this reaction, and other activities
that can be used to assess students' understanding of the
characters and scenes they presented.
Activities or Culminating Activities:
a culminating activity, ask students to complete a project
that illustrates an important historical event that impacts
either the protagonist or antagonist in a historical fiction
book. Encourage students to select creative media for constructing
their projects, such as original chapters or one-act plays,
drawings, dioramas, games, or posters. Provide several weeks
for students to work on the project outside of class. Students
may also present the project orally, offering the class
an opportunity to ask questions about the book and give
the student feedback. Consider creating a project scoring
system in collaboration with your students, either individually
(as in student contracts for each project) or as a whole
Use the following Web sites to explore articles related
to the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963:
In the Memory of Four Little Girls
Dead After Church Bombing, Washington Post
copies of these articles for students if they will not
have access to computers during this activity.
these symbols on the board, or make a bookmark for each
student with them on it:
L Learning something new
S Something that surprised you
T-T Information in the text that connects to information
you have read in another text
R Reminds you of something else you read
C Confusing information
I Important information
W Wondering about why something occurred
Students' successful participation in the tableaux activity
is assessed through teacher observation. Students are also
required to submit a reflection on the activity.
suggested criteria for evaluating their presentations include:
and attention to audience
self-evaluation of project
brief oral presentation, including:
of the main events in the story and the historical context
in which the story is set
discussion of the ways the main character(s) was (were)
affected by the historical events, and the student's
opinion about the historical accuracy of the book, offering
non-fiction evidence to support opinion