Charles Dickens {Victorian Unit}

Charles Dickens

This week our focus was on Charles Dickens and the Victorian poor.  Oh my, I had fun this week!  The children not so much, but I took huge delight in threatening to starve my children with a Poor Law diet….in fact, I ‘made’ them be poor Victorians for a day.  Yes, a day.

The fuss I got from my son would have indicated a much longer period of time, say a few months, but it was just a day.  And it was not even a whole 24 hours.  No, the children just needed to live the life of a poor Victorian during day light hours, after which they would be served their favourite meal!

Again, you would have thought that I had made them go back in time for the rest of their lives, the moaning they all did 🙂  And I even abandoned the whole ‘Poor Law Diet’ in favour of a regular working class diet.  Who could say fairer than that?

Charles Dickens: Resources

This was a book rich study, but please know they did not read all of these in one week!  I had bought most of them before I started the Victorian study and they began reading straight away.  Charles Dickens wrote endless novels recording the plight of the poor, of which he had first hand experience.  Although we focused on Charles Dickens this week I had the children read lots of books prior to this week (not written by Dickens) to help them to understand just how tough life was for the vast majority of the Victorian people.


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During the actual week we did read one book pertaining to Charles Dickens (the one on the right) whilst Charlotte was gifted the biography on the left to read when ever she had a chance:

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We had already read and done a study on Great Expectations and during this week we watched the BBC series of Great Expectations, which was beautifully done:


I had also read out loud A Christmas Carol, which we then watched the Muppets’ version of (as we do every Christmas).

Charles Dickens: Writing Assignments

The older children wrote some articles for our Victorian Paper all about the poor houses and the ‘Poor Law’:

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Charles Dickens: Extending our Vocabulary


When I saw this book, I just knew I had to buy it for Charlotte.  She adores words and both she and I are very good at unwittingly making up our own words!  We believe it is a sign of our higher intelligence but her IGCSE online teacher doesn’t seem to agree, sprawling across her work ‘this word does not exist!’.  As Charlotte says, it does in her literary world!

During dinner I would read out a few Dickensian words and children and Gary had to guess what they meant based on the sentence which contained the word from one of Dickens’ books.  Oh my goodness, this was so much fun!  I LOVED all the new words I learnt and it was particularly interesting to see how grounded in Latin they were.  Often their root would come from the Latin, and their meaning also.  This is such a great little book!

Living as a Working Class Victorian Family for a day half a day a Few Hours

Sometimes things don’t always work out how they were supposed to.  And this was one of those times.  It may have been because I was enjoying teasing them a tad too much.  Or it may have been the fact that I was reducing their food to negligible amounts.  Yes, it was definitely the later……

If you are interested in just how I winged a potentially very unsuccessful day and turned it into a day where much learning was done (just not about the food) then do click on the photos below:



Charles Dickens: Field Trip to Barnardo’s Ragged School


The children standing outside just before going in:


Inside there was a really great presentation (click to read):




The old Victorian kitchen:


The old school room:



Gary threatening the girls with the cane.  They don’t look too concerned do they?


The dunces of the class room:


Thomas trying out the desks for size (they were waaaay too small for him)  Children in poverty would have had stunted growth and so these desks would have been fine for them:


There were lots of case studies up on wall displays, which I grabbed a photo of a few of them:




This was a very worth while field trip.  It was shocking (really shocking) to discover just how poor some of these children were.  We are not only blessed by much food (and possessions?) but we are also blessed by antibiotics and far better hygiene:


We will be looking at the prominent scientists of the 19th century next term and I was definitely looking forward to teaching the children about Germ Theory and how it revolutionised the ideas of being ‘clean’.


  1. Love your units! Now you have me curious about the Dickens language book. Love your writing style.

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