What do we think we know about Victorian England?

Learning objectives

  • To record their preconceptions about the period so as to reflect upon these at a later stage.
  • To realize that there is no single correct view of the 19th Century.
  • To reinforce key terms of ‘Victorian', 19th Century' 1800s


Possible teaching objectives

Starter (initial stimulus material)

  • Explain that you wish to find out how much pupils already know about the Victorians. Lead a class discussion and put suggestions on the board. On a slip of paper, ask each pupil to draw an ear, eye and nose and next to it write I can see...etc. Ask them to complete the sentence for what they think of in terms of sight, smell and noise, associated with the term Victorians.


Can't see the video? Download it here


Through a spider diagram collect together their views on the Victorians. It is important not to comment on misunderstandings aside from dates at this stage, as it will affect the outcome of the next task.

From the above discussion pupils complete a single sentence challenge. They complete the sentence "I think that Victorian England was ... "On a slip of paper expressing their current view of Victorian England. These are put in an envelope to be referred to later. At this stage comment on any misunderstanding that came out in the spider diagram. Often they will see the19th Century as lots of poor people and then some rich people. This can be an opportunity to explain a simplified view of the class system. The teacher might illustrate this in simple terms by putting on a posh accent for the upper classes and regional accents for the working class".


Can't see the video? Download it here


Show the students the first two minutes of the BBC "Curriculum Bites" on interpretations. This is enough to give some factual information so as to challenge some of their early views.


Human continuum

Collect 30 varied images of Britain in the 19th Century (take care to observe any copyright restrictions on the use of images).

Pupils are then given the series of images (some will be more complex than others and the teacher should use their discretion as to who should be given what). Ask pupils to stand in a line at the front of the classroom with their image. Explain that one end of the line is really positive about Victorian England, the other negative.

Ask them to reorganise themselves in the line from positive to negative depending on what they think their image tells us about Victorian Britain. They then talk to their neighbours before moving themselves. If desirable this can be done in small groups moving the images on the table in front of them, though this does limit the opportunity for discussion. This task is an ideal opportunity to use an interactive whiteboard pulling up each image as it is discussed.


Can't see the video? Download it here

Can't see the video? Download it here


Finish with a plenary - Have our views changed about Victorian Britain? How do the images reflect the variety of 19th Century Britain?


Learning outcomes

  • Describe their impressions of Victorian England.
  • Record views of 19th Century Britain.
  • Discuss different images of the 19th Century.



  • Slips of paper.
  • Envelopes.
  • Interactive whiteboard.
  • BBC "Curriculum Bites"
  • Thirty images of the 19th Century.

Previous page     Next page