Teaching Students About the Dickens’ Novel, ‘Great Expectations’
Incorporating classic literature into a school curriculum is essential for students to develop a strong foundation in understanding complex themes, historical context, and the value of timeless stories. One such classic novel is Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” a bildungsroman that teaches important life lessons. This article will explore how to effectively teach this novel to students, ensuring engagement, understanding, and appreciation.
1. Introduce the Author and Historical Context
Before diving into the story, it’s important to provide students with background information about Charles Dickens and Victorian England. Discuss Dickens’ biography, including his upbringing in poverty and his experiences working in a factory while his father was in debtor’s prison. Emphasize the impact of these experiences on his writing and advocacy for social reform. Additionally, touch on the class system and industrialization in Victorian England to help students understand the societal issues prevalent throughout “Great Expectations.”
2. Analyze Literary Elements
“Great Expectations” is rich with various literary elements, making it an excellent opportunity for students to practice identifying and interpreting them. Analyze plot structure, conflict, characterization (with emphasis on dynamic characters such as Pip), setting, and imagery. Encourage students to discuss how these elements contribute to the overall development of the narrative.
3. Focus on Themes
Several themes run through “Great Expectations,” offering excellent discussion points for students. Some key themes to consider are:
– Wealth and social class: Examine Pip’s changing perceptions about wealth and happiness throughout the novel.
– Love and redemption: Discuss how love functions as a catalyst for change in various characters.
– Crime and punishment: Explore crime’s stigmatization and its influence on several characters’ lives.
– Ambition and self-improvement: Assess Pip’s journey of self-discovery as he learns important lessons about identity, values, and relationships.
4. Use Engaging Teaching Methods
To ensure that students remain interested in the novel, it’s crucial to incorporate engaging teaching methods. Activities can include:
– Group discussions: Assign group activities where students can actively discuss themes, character development, and moral dilemmas.
– Creative writing: Ask students to rewrite scenes from different characters’ perspectives or create alternate endings.
– Role-play: Encourage students to act out key scenes in the novel, enabling them to better understand the characters’ motivations and emotions.
– Multimedia presentations: Have students create visual representations of the novel’s key events or research and present Victorian England’s historical context.
5. Assess Comprehension
As with any literary study unit, assessing students’ comprehension of “Great Expectations” is essential. Employ a mixture of evaluation tools, such as quizzes, essays, presentations, and projects, to measure their understanding of the plot, characters, themes, and historical context.
By following these comprehensive steps to teach Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations,” educators can ensure that students not only appreciate this classic piece of literature but also develop essential skills in interpreting meaningful themes and messages from any work they encounter.