By freezing the action in a piece of literature, it is possible to isolate any number of literary components: character, conflict, denouement, writer style. These "frozen portraits" provide an opportunity for students to investigate that component more thoroughly.
Freeze-Frame/Tableau: a silent, motionless depiction of a scene. A convention in which members of a group use their bodies to make an image or picture capturing an idea, theme, or moment in time, also called a group sculpture, freeze frame, still image, or picture window.
Tableau criteria-students should:
1. Display a character's sense of excitement, anticipation, suspense, and other emotions with exaggerated facial expressions, gesture, and body position.
2. Use a variety of levels when expressing their physicalizations.
3. Create some level of physical tension between characters.
4. Arrange their bodies in appropriate positions to create a "frozen moment in time." This should be frozen action, not posed. Posed physicalizations lack the energy required for an exciting tableau.
5. Use all available clues provided by the author of the text. Colorful character descriptions, mood indicators, and action verbs are most helpful.
Tableaus should answer the following questions (the 5 Ws): Who are the characters? Where are the characters? Why did they come together? When did the characters come together? What is happening to these characters and what will happen to these characters next?
Lesson: Freezing dramatic moments in literature
a. Introduce the concept of "freeze-frame/tableau."
b. Provide students with a synopsis of the selected literary selection or assign the literary work as home reading.
c. Provide appropriate (dramatic, full of action, easily animated) excerpts from the literature. It is most exciting to select excerpts that follow each other chronologically in a chapter or section of the literary work.
d. Divide the class into four groups. Assign one excerpt to each group. Groups proceed with creations, being sure to follow the established tableau criteria and addressing the 5 Ws (who, what, where, when, why).
e. Groups should present tableaus in order. The result is a silent picture dramatization of a chapter or section of the selected literature base. Audience members will be charged with identifying the 5 Ws as they appear in each tableau, along with any other discoveries about the text made through observation of the tableau.
Note: Polaroid or digital cameras come in handy to capture tableaus. These shots also help to preserve the moment. Groups may need to unfreeze and relax momentarily, as staying frozen for too long can be painful!