Street Child (extract)
24 May 2017Add to My Folder
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Originally published 1 January 2009
Berlie Doherty’s novel Street Child is based on the true story of the orphan who inspired Dr Barnardo to set up his children’s refuge. The novel raises issues of poverty and child labour, and discusses themes like cruelty, injustice, resilience and humanity.
This activity focuses on chapter four, ‘The Workhouse’. This activity can linked to the activity Street Child, the play, which looks at the play adaptation of the story and compares it to the novel.
- What do the children know about life for poor children in Victorian Britain? Have they read or seen a film version of Oliver Twist? Clarify what a workhouse was and explain how children might have ended up in one.
- Read the first few paragraphs. How does the author convey Jim and his mother’s struggle? Which phrases emphasise this? Is his mother really just asleep? Predict her fate.
- Stress the use of dialogue by asking individuals to role play different characters. Contrast Jim’s mother’s emotional last words with the use of short direct questions and orders by the adults around Jim.
- Pause to list additional scene-setting information – eg, ‘it was growing dark’, ‘the snowy road’.
- Notice how the descriptions and pace alter from noise, voices and movement before Jim enters the workhouse, to silent images and slow actions once inside. Provide headings: Sights; Sounds; Actions; Feelings; and find descriptions for each aspect.
- Look at the use of similes in the description of the man and woman by the steps. Find other examples.
- Find adjectives that emphasise the gloomy atmosphere of the workhouse.
- Establish the meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary – eg, infirmary, broth, shawl.
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