One of the arts integrated teaching strategies that has been greeted most enthusiastically in my work is the one I call Human Slide Shows. Also called “Freeze-Frames” and simply “Slide Show,” here’s how the drama strategy works:
A group of students playing characters create several Tableaux or slides. When these slides are presented in sequence, they show the progression of events in a scene from a text or an episode in history. Although the student actors remain frozen in each individual slide, the slide show depicts a sequence of action.
The student actors vary their poses and facial expressions from one slide to the next. This Human Slide Show is a synthesis of their decisions about 1.) which events or moments within the scene are the most important to represent as slides, 2.) the order of events—what happened first, second, third, etc., 3.) how characters in this dramatic circumstance would likely think, feel, and move, and 4.) how actors use their faces and bodies to communicate actions, circumstances, and emotions.
In each slide, the student actors remain silent, still, expressive, and focused as they strike the rehearsed sequence of poses.
Observers participate in the Human Slide Show presentation by closing their eyes when cued with the word, “Blackout” to simulate a lighting blackout while actors change positions. When they hear the cue, “Lights up,” observers open their eyes to view each slide.
It’s a simple, but powerful classroom drama technique. My grad students have been examining their curriculum materials (from Kindergarten to 12th grade) for Human Slide Show possibilities and they’ve come up with quite a few illustrative sequences, which I’ll share here. The video that follows will more fully explain the drama strategy with photos of students performing Human Slide Shows.
The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton (1967) (Special thanks to KD)
1. Dally, Johnny and Ponyboy sit behind Marcia and Cherry at the movies.
2. Dally arrives and starts taunting the girls who try to ignore him. Johnny and Ponyboy are extremely embarrassed by Dally.
3. Cherry finally turns around and talks. This amuses Dally and humiliates Ponyboy and Johnny.
4. Ponyboy and Cherry walk to the concessions stand. Dally and Johnny sit with Marcia.
The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis (1995) (Special thanks to SL)
1. Joetta spreads her arms and stands between Momma and Byron while Kenny watches. Joetta is begging her mother not to hurt Byron.
2. Momma picks up Joetta and moves her aside. Byron watches fearfully.
3. Momma goes to light a match and burn Byron’s fingers.
4. Momma consoles Joetta and explains she doesn’t want to hurt Byron, but has to.
5. Momma lights another match and Joetta blows out the match.
The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis (1995) (Special thanks to KD)
1. Byron checks himself out in the side view mirror while Kenny clears snow and ice off the car.
2. Byron gets his lips stuck to the side view mirror because he was kissing his reflection. Kenny looks on in disbelief.
3. Byron tries to free himself as Kenny runs inside for help. The family looks to see what happened.
4. Momma pulls Byron’s head and rips his lips from the mirror.
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe (1987)
(Special thanks to SL)
1. Nyasha and her father descend the hill toward the city gates.
2. Manyara runs up to her sister crying and hysterical.
3. Manyara begs her sister not to go see the King.
4. Nyasha comforts her sister but heads inside to see the King.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (1963)
(Special thanks to CS)
1. Max make mischief and his mother sends him to his room.
2. Max lands at the island of the wild things and they growled at him.
3. Max tells them to be still.
4. Max becomes king of the wild things and they all have a big party.
5. Max says goodbye and ends up in his own room.
Macbeth by William Shakespeare (1605)
(Special thanks to HC)
1. Macbeth kills King Duncan.
2. Macbeth meets with Lady Macbeth still holding the bloody daggers.
3. Lady Macbeth returns to the murder scene and frames the guards.
4. Other lords arrive to wake the king.
5. They discover that the king has been murdered.
“Landing in Plymouth: The Voyage”
(Special thanks to KS)
1. The Pilgrims board a ship call the Mayflower to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
2. They live in cramped quarters on board the ship. Each person has about the space of a small bed.
3. They hit a period of severe storms. The Pilgrims are uncertain if the Mayflower is strong enough to withstand the storms.
4. After more than two months at sea, the Pilgrims spot land.
Abel’s Island by William Steig (1976)
(Special thanks to RS)
1. Abel seeks shelter from a huge storm in a cave with wife, Amanda, and many other friends.
2. Strong winds pull away Amanda’s scarf.
3. Abel leaps to grab the scarf.
4. Abel gets pulled by the storm and gets lost in a flood.
5. Amanda screams for Abel.