1840 Monitorial Lesson

Key questions:

How was school in 1840 different to school today?

What was life like for children in 1840?

Why was life different in 1840?

 Curriculum Map KS1 Monitorial  Curriculum Map KS2 Monitorial

Session overview:

Pupils and their accompanying adults will be transported back in time to 1840 in this role-play session that takes place in our 1837 Monitorial Schoolroom and uses a method that would have allowed one teacher to teach 300 pupils using just one book. From the moment the Victorian teacher arrives, pupils and adults assume their roles and must obey the strict discipline standards of school life. Lessons will be conducted with military precision by the teacher assisted by the Monitor of Order and a number of monitors. The school rules will be recited and hands inspected before lessons are conducted in the Monitorial style. Reading lessons will be led by the monitors at their stations at the wall, while writing and arithmetic will be conducted at pupils’ narrow desks. ‘Tickets’ will be awarded for excellent work, while badges of shame will be hung round the necks of pupils who misbehave, are idle or come to school with dirty hands.

Each session finishes with the teacher returning to his or her friendly modern self and pupils will get a chance to ask questions and discuss the session.

Additional information:

Costume will be provided for pupils (pinafores for girls, collars and waistcoats for boys), but you are welcome to come in your own costume.

To get the most out of this session we advise you to discuss what might happen in the lesson with your class before the visit. Please remind them that it is only role play and that, although our teachers are strict, none of them are nasty. To get the most out of the session they should take it seriously.

The Monitorial system relied upon monitors assisting the schoolmaster. For Year 5&6 pupils we request that you select one monitor for every 10 (or part thereof) pupils that you are bringing. They will be told everything that they need to do on the day but should be able to listen to and follow instructions well and have the confidence to lead a small group of their peers in simple reading activities. For Years 1–3 the monitors will be taken from visiting adults. If you are a Year 4 teacher we will leave it to your discretion, you know your class best.

Session links:

To enhance what pupils have learned during the Monitorial lesson, consider adding one of these sessions to your visit.

1880 Gallery lesson – find out more about how schooling changed over time by comparing this experience to an 1880 Gallery lesson. Your pupils will be able to identify what changes took place once a bit more money and equipment was available for schooling, but they might be disappointed to discover that there were more punishments and fewer rewards.

Toys, Play and Design – “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” Find out what toys Victorian children played with, what they were made from and how they worked as well as what the toys tell us about the everyday life of children from different classes.

People and Places – find out more about the types of people involved with the school and what their lives were like by taking part in this hands-on investigative session that includes a visit to the Headmaster’s house, which was built in 1857 and is furnished to reflect circa 1880.