Tagged Pages Program

Artist Visit for the PAGES Program: Tableau and Narrative

PAGES icon jpeg

As part of PAGES, a literacy and arts integration program through the Wexner Center, a resident artist comes to the classroom before and after each of three art-integration field trips throughout the year.  The visiting artist has a direct, real-world connection to the experience the students have while at the Wex.  When I was part of the PAGES program, I had graffiti artists, cartoonists, actors, poets and others in my classroom working with students and co-teaching with me.

For Miwa Matreyek’s play This World Made Itself, theater educator Pam Decker came and worked with Mandy Bruney’s students using a technique called “tableau.”

Miwa Matreyek performs in her play This World Made Itself.  This image is from her website.

Miwa Matreyek performs in her play This World Made Itself. This image is from her website.

For the activity, Bruney had taken pieces of students’ narratives and distributed them to groups of three to four students.  They were asked to choose a beginning, middle and end of the story together.  After they have chosen the three moments, they had to decide how to create a “frozen” re-enactment of the scene using body language and facial expressions.  Each group then presented the three scenes to the rest of the class.

From watching Decker, I enjoyed how she “coached” students through the presentations.  For example, she asked questions of the students presented, modeled facial expressions for them and provided formative feedback for improvement.  This was a more “interactive” form of presentation that I had seen in the past.  I feel like students learned more from this style where the end product was about “process” and not a “product.”

Resources for Teaching Narrative

Last week I attended the Pages teacher orientation and professional development at the Wexner Center with Mandy Fetty, a teacher-partner this year, and the teaching artists we worked with had some ideas for sparking students’ creativity and interest in writing.  I will try to post some of these throughout the year.

This first learning activity would be helpful in acclimating students to narrative, which I think is the first unit in each grade level’s current curriculum plan.

Here is the activity:

We were asked to bring in landscapes, living creatures and inanimate objects from magazines.


Then, we put them all in the middle of a table and randomly picked from the larger pile, making sure to choose pictures from each category.  In discussion afterward, we all agreed that choosing one’s own images created an expectation that limited creativity- so this might be a situation to avoid with students.

We used these to create a scene by placing the pictures on top of one another- no glue required.

This was a piece of my scene created from magazine pieces.

This was a piece of my scene created from magazine cuttings.

The artist then asked us to create a story from the picture and write it out in ten minutes.  Before this part of the activity, it might make sense to review the narrative vocabulary and ask students to focus on a specific aspect (for example narrative arch, imagery etc.).  Melissa Larisch created this useful Academic Vocabulary for Narrative resource that follows along with the ACT Common Core rubric North is planning on using for the quarterly assessment.

To further collaborate and expand on ideas for writing, we discussed having students rotate around the collages first and discuss possible ideas or themes in the pictures.  We also discussed having students write a line for each one and then rotate to the next one.  After the activity, one could also have the students underline the protagonist, imagery, point of highest conflict etc. and turn it in as a formative assessment.  In addition, it might be helpful to discuss the process and see how students came up with ideas before they wrote to give a chance for reflection.

If you try this one, let me know how it goes in your classroom or send me pictures of your collages or pieces of writing so that I can post them on the blog.  Also here is a link to the Pages blog where you will find numerous resources for language arts educators.