Year 8 Trip to the Museum of London: Dickens in Context Exhibition

On the 28th February 2014, 70 Year 8 students travelled to one of the oldest parts of London, London Wall, to take themselves back in time at the Museum of London. Having recently studied a unit of work dedicated to the novels of Charles Dickens in their English lessons, students were taken to the exhibition to gain a sense of English literary heritage and to engage with important texts in it. Through the exhibition, students developed their understanding of how the texts have influenced culture and thinking (e.g. current perceptions of Victorian society and social justice). The exhibition enabled students’ understanding of the appeal and importance over time of texts from English literary heritage.

The students took part in three different activities during the day. Pic 1The most exciting part was when the students met Dickens himself and his personal assistant! Staged in the style of a modern day press conference, this session took place in the Museum’s recreated Victorian street. Students took on the role of journalists gathered to meet Dickens in his final days. The aim of this humorous and interactive session was to develop students’ understanding of contemporary reactions to Dickens and his role as commentator on the main social issues affecting London at the time. Through the interaction with the two actors, the students were able to explore Dickens’ opinions and experiences thus developing their understanding as to why his writing has been influential and significant over time.

Pic 2Another part of the day was spent in the Victorian ‘Handling Workshop’. This writing workshop allowed our students to explore the sights, sounds and smells of Dickensian London by using objects, images and extracts from Dickens’ novels in a creative way. Working in pairs, students began by investigating short examples of Dickens’ descriptions of different parts of London, identifying aspects of his Pic 3writing style. They then investigated Victorian artefacts from an imaginative perspective in order to explore ‘stories’ the objects could tell. Working in groups, students used their objects to create a scene from Dickensian London and write their own descriptive prose.

The final part of the day was spent in the Peoples’ City Gallery in the museum. Gallery activities and worksheets were available for our students allowing them to focus on key themes explored in Dickens’ work such as, poverty, child labour and the effects of industrialisation on London.

Students clearly enjoyed their day and felt that they gained a great deal of insight from it. They commented:

Pic 4I enjoyed going around the museum, filling in our booklet. Although we had specific questions to answer, we also had the chance to gain knowledge on other areas aside Charles Dickens. For example, I observed several thought-provoking quotes from many people! I also like how at one point we went into a place which looks like 19th Century London. (Yasmin, Year 8).

I would recommend the exhibition to a friend because it is fun and you learn a lot not only about what Dickens was like but also what 19th Century London was like. (Samuel, Year 8).

Pic 5The writing workshop made me build upon my own knowledge and as we had to guess the objects on the table we could value what we have now and also the special ornaments and garments people used to use. (Rachel, Year 8).

In the writing workshop, I learnt more about what London was like in the 19th Century and more about Dickens’ style of writing. (Paddy, Year 8). Pic 2

I found it very interesting to interview Charles Dickens and his assistant because it felt like we went back in time since the actor was dressed to represent the real person. (Bonar, Year 8).

I enjoyed learning about what kind of environment Dickens lived in when he wrote his stories. It was very interesting to interview Charles Dickens and his assistant because he answered useful questions. (Gracia, Year 8).

Our interview with Dickens and his assistant was a great way to retain new knowledge of Dickens. I found the questions to be very relevant to our learning in school and Dickens’ answers told us a lot about ‘how’ Dickens actually was as a person i.e. his characteristics and qualities. (Yasmin, Year 8).

redbridgearts concilssaatqissfairtrade fmsis healthy ystscofted