Expressive movement and freeze frames

Please note: this guide was written before the 2014 National Curriculum and some of the advice may no longer be relevant.

Why use freeze frames and expressive movement?
Children need help if they are to understand and sympathise with the feelings of people in history - their life experiences and knowledge are not as great as ours. However, their youth also means that they bring a sense of wonder, freshness and excitement to new situations. Freeze frames and expressive movement tap into this sense of wonder. This teaching approach offers a way for children to work creatively, within a clear structure.

Like drama and dance, freeze frames and expressive movement open the door to understanding the thoughts, feelings and actions of past people. Participants express action, motivation and emotion through the language of the face and body. They communicate through gesture, movement, and their relationship to other performers.


What do freeze frames and expressive movement involve?
Both freeze frames and expressive movement ask pupils to depict a sequence of events through a series of scenes or tableaux, telling a story enactively. With freeze frames, children move only as they change from one still frame or tableau to the next. When doing expressive movement children also move within each frame. Like drama, expressive movement incorporates words. These express the meaning of a situation for the participants, to provoke a response from them, or to convey a mood.

The end result is a performance in which the whole class takes part enactively. The children can communicate their knowledge and understanding with deep engagement and feeling.


Organising freeze frames and expressive movement
Freeze frames and expressive movement need careful thought and preparation if children are to understand past situations and emotions from the inside. Here is a teaching sequence when using this approach.

1. Tell the story, including detail to help the children imagine the scenes they will be creating. We usually tell only the first part of the narrative. The remainder is kept back to build up suspense.

2. Select the first scene. Break it up into parts for different groups of children to enact, using their own interpretations.

3. Groups of children work on freeze frames of the initial scene. Time must be strictly limited - 'You have three minutes to create a tableau showing your reaction to the death of the king.'

4. Each group presents its tableau to the rest of the class.

5. The children work on two further scenes, repeating steps 2 and 3.

6. Sequencing: the children enact the three scenes in sequence. Either you or a child makes a short statement to mark each sequence.

7. Tell the final part of the story.

8. Discuss with the class how the work is to continue.

9. The class work on the final scene or scenes, as for points 3 and 4.

10. Finally, the narrative is enacted, scene by scene. Adding music or poetry can heighten the mood and meaning of the story.


Lesson and short exemplar lesson links

Freeze frames:
Caesar lands
Henry at boarding school

Expressive movement:
Roman market (KS1)


The tomb of Tutankhamun

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