Learning Description

In this lesson, students will form tableaux (frozen pictures) representing what they are reading or hearing. This is a great way to bring a story to life and to check for comprehension.


Learning Targets


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"I Can" Statements

“I Can…”

  • I can demonstrate my understanding of a story through tableau and improvisation.

  • I can demonstrate my understanding of a story excerpt through a written summary.

Essential Questions

  • How can theatre techniques increase reading comprehension?


Georgia Standards

Curriculum Standards

Grade 2: 

ELAGSE2RL1 Ask and answer such questions as who, what, where, when, why, and how to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text. ELAGSE2RL2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral.


Grade 3: 

ELAGSE3RL1 Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers. 


ELAGSE3RL2 Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text.

Arts Standards

TA5.CR.1 Organize, design, and refine theatrical work.

TA5.PR.1 Act by communicating and sustaining roles in formal and informal environments.


South Carolina Standards

Curriculum Standards

Grade 2:

READING – Literary Text (RL)

Meaning and Context (MC)

Standard 6: Summarize key details and ideas to support analysis of thematic development.

6.1 Use information gained from illustrations and words in a print or multimedia text to demonstrate understanding of its characters, setting, or plot.


Standard 7: Analyze the relationship among ideas, themes, or topics in multiple media, formats, and in visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modalities.

7.1 Retell the sequence of major events using key details; determine the theme in a text heard or read.



READING – Literary Text (RL)

Meaning and Context (MC)

Standard 6: Summarize key details and ideas to support analysis of thematic development.

6.1 Determine the theme by recalling key details that support the theme.

Arts Standards

Anchor Standard 1: I can create scenes and write scripts using story elements and structure.


Anchor Standard 3: I can act in improvised scenes and written scripts.

Anchor Standard 8: I can relate theatre to other content areas, arts disciplines, and careers.


Key Vocabulary

Content Vocabulary

  • Summary - A short version of a text that highlights key points and main ideas

Arts Vocabulary

  • Ensemble - All the parts of a thing taken together, so that each part is considered only in relation to the whole

  • Tableau - A “living picture” in which actors pose and freeze in the manner of a picture or photograph

  • Improvisation - A creation that is spoken or written without prior preparation



  • Story excerpts
  • Note cards with scenarios written on them: A train robbery, seeing a big bear, shopping at the grocery store, etc.



Instructional Design

Opening/Activating Strategy

Classroom Tips: If each of the activities are taking too long, have the students make one or two examples from “Family Portraits” at the same time as a whole class.


  • Play “Family Portraits”. 
    • Break the students into groups. Each group must go on to the rug and make a family portrait. 
    • The leader calls out a type of family and they must pose as that family. They have 3 seconds to get into pose and freeze when the teacher indicates (use a drum, a clap pattern, etc.).  
      • Types of families could include: Crazy family, sick family, magical family, loving family, fighting family, goofy family, circus family, dancing family, rock’n’roll family, gymnastics family, swimming family, movie star family, athletic family, lion family, teacher family.


Work Session

  • Discuss the meaning of tableau. A tableau is a “living picture” in which a group of people takes on various poses and maintains the poses silently in order to illustrate an idea or communicate an image.  
  • With the note cards that have different scenarios written on them, have the students pull different situations randomly from a bucket: 
    • A train robbery  
    • Seeing a big bear  
    • Shopping at the grocery store 
  • Students will practice making tableaux in their same groups from the activator demonstrating these scenarios.
  • Tell students that they will now be applying the concept of tableau to the stories they are reading in class. 
    • Read an excerpt from a story. Ask students to listen for the key points of the story, answering the questions who, what, when, where, how, and why.  
    • After reading the excerpt, ask each group to take several minutes to plan their tableau.
    • After a short (5 minutes maximum) planning time, announce, “On a count of three show me your tableau–1, 2, 3, freeze!”. 
    • Move around the room and discuss the success of each of the tableaux and how they show a summary of the passage.  
    • Read another excerpt and repeat the process. Give them very little time to make the next picture.
    • Read another excerpt and repeat, but plan to have this tableau come to life.  
      • Once the students are frozen, ask one student to say a line that the character would say at this point in the story. Then ask another student to do the same. Tell students that this is called improvisation.


Closing Reflection

Have students write a summary of one of the scenes that they enacted using tableau. Allow students time to share with other students who summarized the same scene. Students will then revise their summary with any information that they realized they did not include.




Teachers will observe students’ group participation and tableaux to express ideas and excerpts from a passage.




  • Students can demonstrate their understanding of a story excerpt through tableau and improvisation.
  • Students can demonstrate their understanding of a story excerpt through a written summary.




  • Students can write a script for their improvised scene.
  • Assign each group a different scene from a story. Each group will create a tableau to demonstrate that scene. Allow the class to guess which scene the group is enacting based on their tableau.

Remediation: Allow students to dictate their summary rather than write it.

*This integrated lesson provides differentiated ideas and activities for educators that are aligned to a sampling of standards. Standards referenced at the time of publishing may differ based on each state’s adoption of new standards.

Ideas contributed by: Mary Gagliardi 

Revised and copyright: June 2024 @ ArtsNOW