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A Christmas Carol - The Workhouse Teaching Resources

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A Christmas Carol - The Workhouse

GCSE English Teaching Resources: A Christmas Carol - The Workhouse (16-slide PowerPoint and 10 worksheets)

“And the union workhouses?” demanded Scrooge. “Are they still in operation?” 

In Stave One of ‘A Christmas Carol’, Dickens portrays his protagonist Scrooge as a proponent of the workhouse system. Deliberately designed to be a last resort for the poor and destitute, these austere buildings were described by Richard Oastler as ‘prisons for the poor’. 

This resource for KS4 enables learners to gain an insight into the reality of life for inmates of the workhouses. It includes:

A differentiated Do Now / starter activity, in which learners examine an image of a surviving workhouse and reflect on what its function might have been. At higher levels, learners will also consider their own responses to the image and think about why the building might be a tourist attraction today.  

The main activity is a group task in which learners read a range of sources on the subject of the workhouse and use the information to fill in a findings sheet. The questions on the finding sheet test a range of reading skills including comprehension, inference-making and analysis. 

After giving feedback, learners will reflect on a controversial statement that encourages them to think about how useful workhouses were as provision for the disadvantaged in Victorian society. 

This resource not only enriches learners’ understanding of the context of ‘A Christmas Carol’ but also provides an opportunity for learners to practise their reading of 19th Century texts, a requirement of the current English Language GCSE.  

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