Victorian Era Culture

CURRICULUM SUGGESTIONS
BASED ON THE VICTORIAN ERA
and CHARLES DICKENS'
OLIVER TWIST

This project on Victorian Era culture used an original script of Oliver Twist which was originally created for and performed by the students in the 6th grade at Intermediate School 302, in East New York, Brooklyn NY in 1999.

Background
The school was one of the lowest achieving middle schools in the City in that years' reading and math scores. This was partly due to a large Limited English speaking population. The population is ethnically divided between Hispanics and African Americans for the most part, and it is in East New York, an economically disadvantaged area. The school is now a SURR school (School Under Regents Review--in other words the state takes control of the administration because of poor performance). They have had 5 principals in the last 7 years.

Project Arts
This was their first year as a "Project Arts" School. Project Arts was a New York City-wide initiative to re-infuse the arts into the core curriculum of every child in the city. The school staff’s concept was to use theatre as a resource to get teachers to enliven the curriculum in all areas, especially language arts. They wanted a thematic curriculum focus, i.e., every subject taught related to a central focus, e.g., Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist. We went to work with the 6th grades on the Victorian Era culture.

They wanted to find ways of getting teachers to use theatre to teach any curriculum objective. This could mean all sorts of projects, e.g., readings of Charles Dickens and other Victorian Era authors, making costumes and studying movement styles of the various classes, improvs on the class structure in England, exploring political and social issues as they relate to today, anything involving a production of Oliver Twist, songs and music of that period, money and businesses of the times (it was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in England).

Below is the beginning of a list of topics which are related to Oliver Twist and Victorian England. Also there is much available Oliver Twist material, e.g., the novel, of course; there are several film versions--the musical with Ron Moody, a very recent version with Richard Dreyfuss as Fagin, and old classic with Alec Guiness as Fagin, and a cartoon version—even Cliffe Notes. Some of this you can find at the library or Blockbuster.

Thematic Curriculum
"Oliver Twist" - Charles Dickens


Geography

London
England
Waterways
Port Cities
Docks


Math
Money: English equivalents: pounds, shilling, pence
Budgets
Inheritances
Debtors prison


Literature
Dickens
installment writing
Bentley’s Miscellany - editor
Journalism - roles in
Other authors of the period:
Mark Twain
Hans Christian Anderson
Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes)
Robert Louis Stevenson
Little Lord Fauntleroy


Social Studies
Economics
The Industrial Revolution
Workhouses:
Child labor and its laws
Ragmen, undertakers, booksellers and other professions of the times
Economic classes in Victorian England
Inheritance
Debtors’ prison
The English Underworld
the Vanderbilts and other Entrepreneurs and Financiers of the times
Beginnings of women in professions

Institutions
Marriage - station
Criminal system - trials
Prisons- Old Bailey and Bedlam insane asylum

Transportation
Horses
Horse draw carriages - styles
Railroads
The Steam Engine

History
Queen Victoria
Events in other countries of the world and other cultures during this time period
Benjamin D'Israeli as prime minister
Suez canal built-Egypt
Exploration-source of the Nile

Culture
Fashion of the times - class
Shoes and boots
Boot blacking
Sigmund Freud in Austria

Religion
Church of England at its height - ceremonies
Theosophy starts

Education
Montessori educational system initiated


Natural Science
Birth
Pregnancy
Nutrition
Starvation
Darwin
Science is begining to be taken seriously


Family Health Care
Orphans, orphanages
Child abuse
Floggings
Child labor laws
Gangs
"Peaching"
Abusive Relationships


Arts
Portraits - Sergeant
Playwrights - Arthur Wing Pinero, Oscar Wilde
Music - Gilbert & Sullivan
The Music Hall in London

For a wonderful play script of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, click here.

For a wonderful play script of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, click here.

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