Using objects exemplar: questioning a Victorian doll

Children's questions can help focus an enquiry. When teaching Victorian Britain to a Year 4 class, we brought in a large Victorian doll. The teaching went as follows:

Questions about the doll
We put the doll on a chair so the whole class could see it.

In groups of two or three, the children talked about what they wanted to find out about the doll, then wrote their specific questions on a slip of paper.

We then went round the groups asking children for their questions, and writing them up on the board. Here is the list of questions.

Is it the doll Victorian?
What colour hair?
What is its hair made of?
Where is it from?
Does it have a wig?
How much did it cost?
Who made the doll?
Whose is it?
What is it made of?
Is it hungry?
Who made the clothes?
Does it walk?
How heavy is it?
Does it talk?
Does it wet itself?

We then passed the doll round so that each child had a good look at it. In turn each said one thing that they noticed about the doll. We listed their observations and ideas on the board.

Questions and research
Having studied the doll intensively, we focused on the first question: 'Is the doll Victorian?'
We asked the class: 'How would you find out?'

Again we fielded the answers, which included:

  • Look in books 
  • Look in a Flambards catalogue
  • Take it to a museum
  • Take it to an antiques shop.

This was the cue to search for answers in the Victorian topic books and other reference books we had in the classroom. The children's book searches resulted in extended knowledge about Victorian clothing, manufacturing practices, materials and childhood.

by Jon Nichol

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