Printed from


The name of this strategy comes from the term tableau vivant which means “living picture.”  In this activity, students create a still picture, without talking, to capture and communicate the meaning of a concept. Students must truly understand the meaning of a concept or idea in order to communicate it using physical poses, gestures, and facial expressions rather than words. This collaborative strategy is appealing to kinesthetic learners and allows all students to be creative while strengthening their comprehension of a concept.

How to use

1. Prompt

After reading a story or teaching a concept or idea, prompt the students to convey the meaning by creating a tableau. Explain the parameters of the activity. For example, you may allow them to use or create props.

2. Brainstorm

Have students work in pairs or trios. Assign them their topic for the tableau. You can assign a variety of topics related to a concept, or give one just one concept to the whole class.  Give students time to brainstorm ideas for their tableau and rehearse as well.

3. Present

Students present their final freeze-frame product to the entire class. After presentations, students can vote on the presentation that best captured the concept.

When to use

Use a Tableau as a way to check for understanding. This is most commonly done at the end of a lesson or unit.

Use Tableau to

  • check students' understanding of key concepts
  • see if see of students can apply content in a new way
  • formulate guided groups for students who do not demonstrate understanding
  • create extensions for students who demonstrate mastery
  • see if students can evaluate information and draw conclusions
  • see what new insignts students have gained during a unit of study


Guess the Tableau

Give each group of students their tableau topic as a secret they should keep. When each group presents, the class should guess what each group is presenting and provide evidence for their choice.

Tableau Series

Have students create a series of tableaus with short narration or dialogue in between to link the tableaus (assuming each group has a different prompt or concept that they are working on, within the same unit).

Tableau With a Twist

After the students "freeze" into their Tablear, the teacher taps a student in the Tableau on the shoulder and the student makes a short statement about their character in the Tableau.

Tableau Interview

After the students "freeze" into their Tableau, the teacher or a student acts as a reporter and conducts short interviews with individuals acting in the Tableau.

Printed from