More with Tableau's in the Classroom

If you read yesterday's post, you know that I have been attending an arts integration professional development all week this week. For three days, we get immersed in each of the five art forms (Dance, Music, Theater, Visual Art, and Creative Writing). Today, I attended the Theater and Visual Arts immersion classes and they were wonderful!

As I said yesterday, my paired teaching artist will be a Theater artist so I thought I would share a couple of activities we learned today to foster learning in different content areas through tableau's. For more information on tableau's, visit my post here. To make it short and sweet, a tableau is a just a frozen picture you make with your body.

One activity we did was focused on reinforcing Social Studies. Specifically, Native Americans and conflicts between them and early explorers. The instructor asked us to brainstorm reasons why the conflicts occurred. We named land, resources, riches, protection, etc. After we discussed these reasons why conflicts started, we were asked to work with a group of five to create three tableau's. A before, a during, and an after tableau with four members making a tableau with their bodies and one student being the narrator, explaining what is going on in the tableau. It's important that each member makes a different tableau with their body, but that all of the tableau's work together showing a coherent picture in each group.

After we completed this tableau activity, we brainstormed a list of emotions that Native Americans may have felt as they watched the explorer's ships arrive on the shore and come on land. We also brainstormed a list of emotions that the explorers felt upon seeing the Native Americans for the first time. This leads me to the next activity, called Museum.

With our list of brainstormed emotions, we were asked to find a partner. One partner would be the potter and the other the clay. We were asked to first mold our partner into statue that represents one of the brainstormed feelings that the Native Americans might have had upon seeing the explorers. After each partner was in the tableau, we were able to walk around and view all of the statues in the museum. Then, we switched and our frozen partner molded us into statues that represented how the explorers might have felt when they first met the Native Americans.

It was really neat to see all of the different interpretations and examples of emotion. I really felt like I was feeling what they were trying to show. I think it's really important for this activity to remind your students of how important it is to remain focused and still. STATUES DON'T MOVE!

One thing you could do to practice this skill is to get your class in a circle and do a Focal Point and Distraction Exercise. Ask the students to find a focal point in the classroom and keep their eyes on that one spot. Choose a student (the class clown is always a wise choice) to go around the circle and try to distract each student in the circle by making them laugh or break their focus point.

I am so excited about being paired with my teaching artist to get started planning our integrated theater unit! I still have to decide what content area I want to integrate with the theater/drama piece.

Anyway, I hope these activities can be used in your classroom. Tableau's are really wonderful for children of all ages because sometimes children can express their thoughts and learning better when they're using their bodies instead of their words. I will share more later this week!


I signed up for the SMART Arts professional development in our district this summer and have been going to these classes all week. I am very excited because after you complete this week long program, you get to have an actual teaching artist come to your classroom to team teach an 8 session unit!

There are five disciplines of art, which are listed below. We will be immersed in each of these five disciplines throughout the week and then will be paired with our teaching artist on the last day to begin developing our units.  

1) Visual Arts
2) Music
3) Dance
4) Creative Writing
5) Theater/Drama

The teaching artist they have paired me with is proficient in Theater and Drama. At first, I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I am very much a visual arts and music person, but I am sure whatever unit we plan will be fabulous and fun. I do a lot of Reader's Theaters in my classroom and my kids LOVED it so I know it will be great.

Throughout the week so far, we have learned a few activities that you can do in your classroom to incorporate the arts. Here is one fun creative writing/visual arts activity. I will share more later.

Reading a Photo

We looked at a picture of a family native to our area and were asked to list just observations of the photo, not inferences. Then, we were asked to discuss what might be happening in this family's household at 7 am on a weekday keeping in mind what smells, sights, and sounds we might experience there. After we did the discussions with our groups, we did a writing activity where we chose a person in the photo (or would be person in the photo) and pretended we were them. Our instructions were to use a color and a sound, to begin with "What I need is...," and to keep writing until we were told to stop. We were asked to write for 7 minutes.

Just so you can get an idea, the photo was a picture of what "seemed" to be a family. I use that term loosely because when you don't actually know the story/history of a picture, you can only make assumptions and inferences about who the people are, what they are doing, and how they are connected.

There was a woman poking her head out of the door and an older man holding a baby while sitting on the front porch. It was an African American family and judging from the appearance of the home and the setting, we judged them to be low income.

So, when we were asked to discuss what we thought was going on in the photo at 7 am on a typical day, we figured that there were probably other school aged children living in the residence. When it came time to write, I chose to be a school aged child living there and my story went something like this -- (Note of caution: I hope this doesn't offend anyone, but I have taught in a predominantly African American school and this is how many of my children would speak to or treat me and each other.)

What I need is to be with my friends more after school. Mama is always yellin' and screamin' at me to do something around the house and get my homework done and then I don't have no time to go outside before she makes me wash up and go to bed. She's always wearin' that gray jersey. She wears is every day and I think maybe she should buy a new shirt. I don't tell her this though because she might turn right around and smack me right upside my head. I just want to go outside and play to get away from her just for a while so my mind doesn't have to always think about how much I want to be out there! There's too many people livin' up in here. That baby's always cryin' and needin' something and my other brothers and sisters just plain get on my nerves. Always arguin' with each other and touchin' my stuff.

I think this is a good activity to get students to think outside of themselves. You can do this with paintings or sculptures of art as well. When it comes to abstract art, which is my forte, people interpret things differently so I think it would be interesting to have your students look at something and BE that thing. Write about BEING that thing. What is IT thinking? Doing? Saying? I say "IT," but I mean it to represent whatever character or thing you make it.

Last year, I attending a story telling class that integrated visual art and we have to look at a gallery of one artists work and choose one that we really liked. We were asked to imagine ourselves in that work of art and JUST write without stopping.

Activities like these are such great tools to just get your students thinking and being creative. What kinds of art integration activities have you been successful with in your classroom?

Online schools has classes to increase your knowledge in the arts.

Social Studies: On the Cutting Edge Part II

Here are a few more activities I learned to make Social Studies more exciting, relevant, and meaningful for your students.

1) Bringing Art to Life - This activity should be done towards the end or after studying a unit/topic. Show students a painting of a person, a battle, an important event, anything really that is relevant to your Social Studies unit/topic. It could even be a photograph. Have students study the photo. Discuss the people in the piece of art. What might they be thinking, where are they, what are they doing, etc... Assign students a character in the photo. Have them mimic the character in the photo by talking and acting like the person in the picture. You can even interview them with a list of premade questions so students can rehearse! You can adapt this by having students write a memoir/letter/paragraph pretending they are the person in the photo.

2) Time Line Challenge - This activity can be used as a unit activiting or culminating strategy. Print 10-12 photos from a time period you are studying. Mix up the photographs and distribute them to random students in the classroom. Have those students with photos come to the front of the room holding their pictures for the class to see. Ask the rest of the class to work with the students standing up to put themselves in the order they think they go in time. This will work best AFTER studying a unit, but it may be worth trying at the beginning of unit to see what students can recall from the previous unit and what knowledge they may already have of the unit you are introducing. If you use it as a unit activator, it will introduce students to the content and they may even remember a thing or two.

3) Zoom - In Inquiry - Take a picture from a previous or current unit you are studying and use paint to copy and paste one small, but important section of the photo to display to the class in a powerpoint. In the next slide, show a little more of the photo. By the third or fourth slide, the whole photo should be revealed. The object of the activity is for the students to guess who or what is being shown in the photo before seeing the whole picture.

4) Interactive Read-Aloud - This can be done with a variety of different books, but "How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World," by Marjorie Priceman is a great one to use to teach about geography and locating coutries on a map. While you read the story, have students locate each place on a map and place a sticker on it. This is a great beginning of the year activity to review continents and countries.

Social Studies: On the Cutting Edge - Part 1

First of all, I'd like to apologize for letting so much time lapse since my last post. I have thoroughly been enjoying my summer vacation. =)

I attended a class this morning provided by our school district on Social Studies. The presenter discussed the five main principals of teaching Social Studies effectively which are as follows:

  • Meaningful - Standards based EQ's, visual & integrate local history/resources whenever possible
  • Values Based - appreciate similarities and differences, service learning opportunities & multiple perspective activities
  • Active - student to student interaction, primary sources & geography connections
  • Challenging - engage in inquiry/problem solving, responding orally/written & analyze documents
  • Integrative - use variety of materials, technology & literacy elements
She presented us with several activities for each one, but I am going to share just a few. After all, there must be something left for Part II.

1) "We Are What We Treasure!" - To help students understand the idea of artifacts at the beginning of the year, distribute manila envelopes with one artifact about you (the teacher) in each of them to the class. Have students work with a partner to describe the artifact in their envelope and discuss what story they think is behind the artifact. In other words, why is it important to me (the teacher)? After all students go through the artifacts, have them sort the artifacts. Then, students can discuss what they think an artifact is (an abjoect that tells a story about someone). Students will then bring in their own artifact with a story about them. Hopefully, they will dig deeper than their PS3's. Some strategies for sharing include:

  • artifact show
  • gallery walk
  • brochure
  • timeline
  • memory box
  • photo story
Another version of this is for you to place the artifacts around your classroom and have students find them and discuss why each one is important to you.

2) Country Scavenger Hunt - Distribute laminated world maps to each group and have students find 5 items all from different countries in the classroom. It could be their clothing, school supplies or anything else in the classroom. Have them locate those 5 countries and identify them with a sticker on their map. Once each group has located their countries, go through the classroom and have students share the countries they found. Mark all the countries listed on a class map. Once all locations have been marked, discuss which continent most of the items were made in. This is a great discussion to have about how goods are transported from place to place!

3) Match and Compare - Distribute half the class a picture of an invention from it's beginning and the other half the modern version of the invention. See if students can find their match in the classroom. Some will look similar and others will not. Some examples are (the iron, baby walker, stove, refrigerator, etc...) Have students list two similiarities and two differences about their inventions once they have found their match. This is a good activity to teach about comparing or introducing a unit on technology advances. This can be adapted to a variety of other topics.

  1. Explorers and their countries
  2. Regions and their names
  3. Documents and their origins (i.e. Declaration of Independence and the Revolution)
These are just a few examples and can be adapted in many ways.

More activities will be forth coming soon, so stay tuned!