Putting Ourselves in Victorian England

Every year I teach A Christmas Carol, and every year I do it differently. I keep changing my mind on what I want students to get out of it, and I always end up with a different amount of time to do it. Last year, we made an iBook.

This year, I was inspired by speaking with Carla Dunavan & Nicole Van Wilgen, two seventh grade English teachers at Union Middle School. They do a lot of great things with the Victorian era as they teach the play version. I took a lot of their lesson plans and adapted them for my classroom.

This year I also decided to listen to the audio book instead of asking students to struggle through Dickens's complicated sentence structure. This made all the difference in the world. Not every reader is wonderful on this recording, but it was definitely engaging enough for my squirrelly seventh graders. I will definitely return to this recording.

At the end of Carla and Nicole's unit they throw a Victorian party for their students, complete with games and food and costumes. I didn't have the bandwidth (or time) for that, so I decided to do a photo project instead.

Throughout the unit, students did research on Victorian England and created a character's persona so that they could pretend that they were attending Scrooge's New Year's party. We culminated that by making a photo of Victorian England with ourselves superimposed.

We started by creating a Google Drawing and dropping a

Creative Commons

-licensed photo that was okay for us to modify. We added in a speech bubble for our character to introduce him or herself and included a proper citation of our image.

I then made a simple green screen with some felt I stole from an elementary school teacher and asked students to bring in different clothes that they thought could help with our photo booth. Not everyone brought something, but we definitely had enough for everybody to wear something. They posed, and I shot some photos with my iPhone.

As I finished the photo, I uploaded them to a folder in Google Drive that I shared with the class. They downloaded their photos and dropped them into a Keynote presentation. We instant-alpha-ed the background so that they just had the outline of themselves. They copied the image and then went into Preview and created a "New from clipboard" image. They saved that and then uploaded it to their Google Drawing. This allowed them to take their outline and move it in the picture and move their speech bubble to fit it.

I expected my students to be really overwhelmed by all the steps, but it honestly went really smoothly. I anticipate that they'll use this idea to do something for another project in the future.

They're not professional quality, but they look pretty good, and we had a lot of fun. I loved watching my students consider their character and what he/she would have worn. I think it really helped them understand the time period.

This is definitely an activity I'd do again, but I also think I'd expand it. I think it'd be interesting to have them create a variety of different photos that represented the different classes. I also considered adding QR code to a verbal introduction to put speaking into it. But I also think there's something to be said for the fun we had doing it.

(Looking back, I really could have done this all in Keynote. I'm not quite sure why I thought Google Draw was best, but it's good to know we could even do it on Chromebooks!)