Tuesday 15 April 2014

Tableaus and Technology: A New Twist On An Old Idea

Tableaus are something I've been using with Lit Circle units for a while.  The idea comes from Faye Brownlie's book "Grand Conversations" (an awesome resource if you want to try Lit Circles in class). Tableaus are frozen scenes  (like capturing a still shot in a movie). Students re-create a frozen scene from the novel they are reading that captures a key theme in that novel. In the past I have had students present their tableaus in front of the class, but this year I was short on time, and the novels are also testable material on the provincial exam (for English First Peoples) so I wanted something more permanent that the students could go back to for studying purposes. 

Enter "Thinglink"- a web based program that lets you upload photos and then add interactive links such as text, video or audio. Instead of presenting the tableau in front of the class, each group (or set of partners) took a photo of their scene, uploaded it and typed in the explanations of the various elements of the scene. If you hover over the dots on the scene below you can see the explanation of the scene, the theme it represents etc. In the case of tableaus, "Thinglink" is very effective because it allows the students to add unlimited text without wrecking the picture- (where a program such as "comic life" would not be as effective because it leaves so little room for text). This program allowed me to keep all the benefits of tableaus (movement, visualization, creativity, collaboration) and let students record the information more effectively for long term memory and sharing purposes. I think this is a program that could work well in many different subject areas. If I really wanted students to present in front of the class, it could also become an option for students who were extremely shy and needed an alternative method of presentation.

For examples of traditional tableaus done in a Social Studies 9 class click on this post.

Here is an OUTLINE SHEET that students use to organize their ideas before they are allowed to use the cameras.


  1. Great way of integrating technology to build efficiency and engagement at the same time. Really forces the students to think about how they will represent the theme from scene. Awesome job Naryn!

  2. I LOVE this assessment and will be using it with my 9th grade World History students as they study the French Revolution and with my 10th grade American Studies students as they look at the events of early America. If you have a rubric for this assessment, might you be willing to share it. If not, no worries. Thank you for sharing the idea.

  3. Hi Dan,

    I don't formally assess the tableaus because the students later write a paragraph on their novels that reflects the objectives in the tableau and prepares them for their provincial exam. I do give them an outline sheet to fill out before they are allowed to use the cameras. I check the outline sheet to make sure the students are on track and focused before they get carried away with the fun part of taking the photos :-) and I have added a link to the outline sheet at the bottom of the blog post. This is likely too late to help you, but I unfortunately didn't see your comment on this blog until now. Let me know if you need any other info. Hope it goes well for you!

    Take care,


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