A Dramatic Approach to Reading Comprehension: Tableau (Dr. Rosalind Flynn)

Tableau (Google images)

Freeze! Put your hands up! Be quiet! Don’t move a muscle.

What’s going on? According to Dr. Rosalind Flynn, it’s not a robbery. What it is, is reading comprehension.

I agree with Dr. Flynn, because I’ve used Tableau in the past. It’s a lot of fun. Fun for me, fun for the students. Learning is fun when it’s fun…

Where were we? “Tableau. Right.

Tableau is a French word that means: freeze.

“Tableau”, really means: A stage picture made by actors playing characters who “freeze” in position. It has often been used in drama to help improve reading comprehension.

How does it work in a classroom?

1. Students examine the texts they read and assume the roles of characters.

2. They freeze in poses that represent a significant moment in the text.

3. Their expressive faces, body poses, arm and hand positions, interaction, and how they pose in relationship to one another all contribute to the creation of a living photograph, sculpture, or painting, a “Tableau”.

What do good readers do?

As they read, good readers envision the action and events described in a text. They create a mental movie. A Tableau is one frame of that movie.

How is this done?

Students first read and imagine what the text describes.

Then they work together to create a live visual image of the words.

Through the planning and presenting of a Tableau, students strengthen their ability to visualise the written words, develop and present sensory images, and thus gain a deeper understanding of the texts meaning.

The Tableau is a synthesis of the students’ decisions about…

how actors use their bodies to communicate actions, circumstances, and emotions…

how characters in the text’s dramatic circumstance would likely think and feel…

and how using actions or expressions not explicitly stated in the text may enhance the Tableau.

The student actors remain silent, still, expressive, and focused.

High quality work is emphasised:

Students use and control their bodies.

They practice and maintain concentration.

They cooperate to create a community of actors who work together and support each other.

Within a Tableau student actors respond to sights, sounds, smells, that are not physically present.

Building and Activating Schema:

To choose poses and expressions, students use their background knowledge about people and circumstances.

Students ask and answer questions about the text in order to create a Tableau.

Students sort out the significant information in the text to create a meaningful frozen picture.

Students make inferences about characters, emotions, and circumstances. The inferences inform the choices about individual poses and the overall look of the Tableau.

Synthesis requires students to make something new based on information in the text.

A Tableau is a Synthesis of text that captures and communicates the meaning of the written words.

Shoulder Touch – The teacher touches a students shoulder. The student speaks the words or thoughts of his/her character. Students create dialogue as if this Tableau were a scene from a play.

Adding language deepens students understanding of the text.

“What we learn with pleasure we never forget.” (Alfred Mercier)



About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
This entry was posted in Education, EFL, Teaching Tips and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to A Dramatic Approach to Reading Comprehension: Tableau (Dr. Rosalind Flynn)

  1. brenda lara says:

    It´s an interesting Approach to Reading Comprehension, a different way to communicate the meaning of the written words. Wooow!
    Students are all the time using their imagination, creativity and personality in a funny way.


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