If life was so hard for families in the towns why did so many leave the countryside and move to the towns in Victorian times? – a history mystery

Starting a lesson with an apparent contradiction is a good way of engaging pupils interest. This ‘history mystery’ makes excellent use of pupils’ thinking skills, enabling them to make their own meaning using information cards which they use to create different patterns of thought. The all-so-important debrief session  allows you not only to review their explanations for this seeming paradox but also to ask how they arrived at their conclusions.

Learning objectives

  • pupils can explain a range of reasons why people moved to the towns in the 19th century
  • they can group these reasons into simple categories
  • pupils can see that different family members would feel differently and show empathy
  • more able pupils can come up with categories of their own e.g. push v pull

Step 1

Start with a puzzle to remind children about the contrast in life expectancy between town and country.  Show them slide 3 which has a table of life expectancies.  What do they think the missing figure is? It is 18.  So why would any parents want to move a young family to the towns where health and hygiene were so poor.

Step 2

It is common practice in some schools to tell the pupils

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