Integrating Arts into the Classroom--This is a good one!

I am sooooo flippin' excited to share with you what I learned today!! Many of you may already have your own idea of what Arts Integration looks like, but hopefully this will give you a whole new idea on what a variety of things it can mean.

When we started this professional development today, we were asked to think about what our idea of art integration was. I wasn't thinking very broadly and my brain settled on things like collages, painting, and drawing, (Yeah, I know. I wasn't exactly thinking outside of the box. It's been a day, okay!) but it is SO much more than that! Movement, drama, poetry, you name it-are all elements of art integration! I am sure you all already know that, but I think we all need a little reminding sometimes.

I often have my students create hand motions to help them remember abstract concepts in Science and Social Studies since they tend to be so filled with content so I was impressed with myself that I was already doing these things. 

Once we come up with these bodily pictures, it sticks and I know my kids remember what I taught because they have made that mental image of their movements and it's been burned into their mind. Maybe not forever for some...but you just have to review them every now and then and they will remember without a doubt!

Okay, onto the good stuff. The first and most important part of what we did today was called "tableau." Now, call me a moron, but in my frazzled brain today I began thinking Oh, that's a land feature. (Insert remark about common sense here) Wrong! That would be a plateau. Don't worry, my mind isn't always that confused. It's been one of those days, but that's a rant for my other blog which you can visit here. =)

Annnd, back to the topic at hand. So, vocabulary word for the day-tableau-a frozen picture you create with your body to represent a mood, a feeling, or an idea. I realized that I've been doing these with my students all year, I just never knew the proper term for the word!

The activity that we learned today integrates this idea with Writing and major content areas like Science, Social Studies, and Math. We were given a chunk of text from a Social Studies book and broken into 6 groups. Each group was assigned one paragraph from that section and was responsible for creating a tableau or three for their paragraph. You can use more than one tableau for your section because there may be 2-3 big ideas that you want to express with your frozen pictures. 

After you've given adequate time for each group to create their picture stories, the students will perform for the rest of the class. The instructor reads each group's paragraph out loud--at a slow pace--while the group "performs" their tableau's.

Then, you can have a discussion about what your students got out of each performance because some ideas may be hard to see right away.

What a lovely way to teach boring Social Studies and Science texts!? Right?

After this has been accomplished, you have students write in the first person about what role they played in their performance. For example, in our reading today, this was our paragraph:

More than 200 years ago, canals were dug across the land to connect rivers. Canals made it easier for ships to carry good from place to place. The Santee Canal was built to connect the Santee River with the Cooper River. This canal made it possible for cotton to be shipped by boat from Columbia to Charleston. (Sorry, I teach South Carolina History...)

Boring, right?!

So, my group made frozen pictures of digging, rivers, canals, you get the idea. I was the river. Flowy and free and sorry...I promise I'm about to make my point.

Back to the roles each student plays, you have them think about their role and write about what they think, see (colors are important), smell, taste, that role. You need to give them a fairly short time limit for this part. We were given 5 minutes, but you can adjust according to your class.

As the leader of this activity, you need to preface this by discussing important ideas to include in that writing. Coach students with an example. Ask them questions like "What would you smell if you were a river? What colors would you see? What would you do? Be the river!"

I hope this isn't confusing anyone, so to satisfy my curiosity, here was my example:

Remember--I am the river. Okay, here is me writing about me being a river.

I am a river. (Gotta love that topic sentence) I flow on and on over smooth rocks and pebbles. I smell fresh and sometimes dirty when it rains and stirs my sediments. I am a deep blue on a cloudy day and when the bright sun comes out once again you can sometimes see right through me, except when those rains come again. They turn me into a dirty, murky, mixed-up mess. I feel free and wild like a bird, (How'd ya like that simile!) nothing to stop me from my carved path. I slither into the tiniest places that only the fish and tiniest creatures can find.

And my favorite part about this is the sharing! Call on some of those eager volunteers and let them read their little hearts out, because they WILL want to share. After the first student shares, do a recall. Recall is telling two to three words or phrases that really resonated with you when you heard the student read that. You may have to model a few times, but then have students start recalling words or phrases that really stuck out from what their classmates are sharing. I would do it after each person shares. This is great because it really makes students focus on listening intently to what each person has to say.

As an extension, they suggested having students revisit the tableau performance and have students write their own dialogue to go along with their idea. This is a great way to incorporate the use of languages devices like onomatopeia, simile, and metaphor.

I know some of you primary teachers may be thinking, well that's all well and good, but how does this apply to my students? You can have them create their frozen pictures and discuss what roles they played. Draw out those adjectives and verbs in a class conversation or have them draw a picture. Your tableau's will probably not be as in depth, but they will at least be able to SHOW you what they learned.

After discussing and reflecting on this as a faculty (side note--several of our teachers use tableau's already and have been trained in the SMART arts) one teacher quoted one of her students saying, "I like tableau's because you finally get to do something in school." WOW!

I mean, I don't have to tell you all the ways that using drama and the arts in your classrooms are useful because you are all intelligent human beings. BUT, the one thing I will say about this is that many subjects or concepts that you teach to students are so abstract and packed with content that's it's often difficult to keep it all filed in their memories. When they can make that frozen moment in time, it makes it meaningful and connected to them personally and they will likely not forget, not to mention this is a gold mine for your ESL students who may have a very limited vocabulary. My school currently has a 42% Hispanic population, so you can imagine how useful this is for my little gems.

I know I was long winded today, but this is such an awesome tool for teachers across all grade levels and curriculums and can be adapted and used in SO many different ways.

I would love to know if any of you are already doing things like this in your classrooms and if not, how can you use this in your classroom?


  1. I had no idea about this, and now that I know I will definately implement it in my classroom! Thank you so much for sharing all your ideas along with what you are learning.

  2. Very cool! Thanks for the tableau tip. I have a similar blog about incorporating theatre into high school classrooms, no matter the subject. Please check it out and post a link to it on your blog. I'd be happy to do the same for you.
    Here is the link:


Treats for the Teacher