Ghosts from the Victorian age
Victorian Britain is a well-documented period of history, though much of the material in its original form would be inaccessible to junior pupils and the textbooks covering the subject tend to be selective in the topics they offer and lacking in depth.
Teachers looking for resources to extend their work on the Victorians would find this pack from Barnardos a good buy. Barnardos has extensive archives dating from the 1860s and the archivist wisely commissioned an experienced teacher, Tina Davidson, to produce the pack using them. The result is a wide variety of materials, including activity cards, fact sheets, teacher's notes, a wall poster and two story booklets.
These touch on all the national curriculum subjects and though history and language work naturally predominate, there are some well-developed maths activities using contemporary statistics. Possibilities for using the life of Thomas Barnardo in religious education are also well explored.
The pack comes as loose cards in a sturdy plastic wallet, divided neatly into sections, so that the various topics can be easily found. There are 15 topics covering aspects of children's lives such as the family, work, education and health. Each section starts from the archive evidence, photograph, document or, frequently, both. Chi1dren are then asked for a response, which could be oral or written, but usually requires close examination of the evidence. They also need to use different skills research, empathy or imagination.
There are several outstanding features to the pack. First of all, the tremendous documentary and visual material available in the Barnardos archives. Many of the photos are genuinely moving, as well as being good evidence. The author, nevertheless, had to select from an enormous range and this has been done with a keen eye as to what will work with children. It is particularly pleasing to see the use of written evidence which is accessible to children.
The activity cards are attractive and usually have just the right amount of text. Some ask the children to work from a number of photos or maps. Everything is produced in black and white, which makes it possible to photocopy the cards, but also gives the right feel to the material.
Although the pack was written before the Dearing Review of the national curriculum and refers to the "old" attainment targets, this should not affect the way it is used. The work has been designed to develop a child's skills in history as well as their knowledge. Several cards, for example, ask them to identify bias or points of view as opposed to facts.
Such a good resource demands careful preparation. Teachers will need to select from the large range of topics and activities, according to ability, experience etc, but as part of any scheme of work on the Victorians from a child's viewpoint, it has a great deal to offer.