The writings of Charles Dickens have a justifiably important place in the English curriculum. Educational visits which include a trip to the house in which he lived and worked will be a useful tool for breathing life into his words for modern pupils. The Charles Dickens Museum, in London’s literary Bloomsbury area, will not only give students a fascinating glimpse into the writer’s personal world, but into the Victorian era in which he lived.
A Victorian Home
There are so many literary sites for educational visits in London that it can be hard for teachers to decide which to focus on. The Charles Dickens Museum, set in the house in which he lived and wrote some of his best-loved novels, is quite unique. Your pupils will get the chance to see the study in which he wrote, some of the original manuscripts and even the quill and ink that were the instruments of his trade.
As well as giving an interesting insight into the man and how he lived, the house also illustrates something of the ‘world’ he wrote about. They will be able to venture ‘below stairs’ to see where the servants lived, as well as into the bedrooms of the writer and his children (all maintained as they would have looked during his lifetime).
Seeing this world, being able to explore it, will give students a key into the descriptions and details of Dickens’ work, as well as that of other nineteenth century writers. Of course what you and your students are looking for from your trip will depend on the age and curriculum of your class, so the museum runs a selection of workshops to capture the imagination of different age groups.
· Special Workshops for Key Stage Two
For Key Stage Two the focus is on tactile interaction with the ‘things’ of Dickens’ world. Your pupils will be able to investigate various items from the writer’s household and discuss what they can tell us about the Victorian age.
· Special Workshops for Key Stage Three
The workshops for Key Stage Three concentrate on the way Dickens’ work reflected Victorian society back at itself. Looking at texts from the curriculum including A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist (written while he lived at the house), the educational experts at the museum encourage students to think about what they say about the way he felt about the society he lived in.
· Special Workshops for Key Stage Four
Bringing together subjects from GCSE English and GCSE History, the Key Stage Four workshops use Dickens’ writings as ways to explore social inequality during the Victorian era. The workshops focus on texts including A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations.
A Guided Walking Tour
In much of Dickens’ work, London and its streets are almost a character in their own right, so what better way to bring this environment to life than on a walking tour of the streets highlighted in his texts? Available to Key Stage Three and Four students, the walking tour is guided by an expert and aims to explore the streets through the writer’s eyes.
Educational visitscan be a fantastic way to really help your students engage with a text. At the Dickens Museum the curators have worked hard to ensure the experience they provide helps expand a pupil’s understanding, bringing the writer’s words dramatically off the page and into their world.
John Gardiner is the Managing Director of The School Travel Company, a tour operator specialising in educational visits for school and youth groups to the UK, Europe and beyond. As a father and avid traveller, John is very passionate about providing students with valuable and engaging learning experiences outside of the classroom. By sharing his expert advice with teachers, he allows them to inspire their students and bring their studies to life.