Reading lesson: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

Home learning focus

Using the novel Oliver Twist you will learn about explaining what the main purpose of an extract is, summarising and expressing you opinion.

This lesson includes:

  • two videos of comedian Russell Kane reading extracts from the book

  • three activities

Watch comedian Russell Kane read this extract from Oliver Twist.

Have a think about the following:

  • how do the adults interact with the children?

  • are you surprised by these interactions?

Now watch Russell read another extract from Oliver Twist and think about the following:

  • does the punishment fit the crime?

  • how far would you go if you were as hungry as Oliver?

Practise

Activity 1

Extract 1

‘Boy,’ said the gentleman in the high chair, ‘listen to me. You know you’re an orphan, I suppose?’

‘What’s that, sir?’ inquired poor Oliver.

‘The boy is a fool – I thought he was,’ said the gentleman in the white waistcoat, in a very decided tone. If one member of a class be blessed with an intuitive perception of others of the same race, the gentleman in the white waistcoat was unquestionably well qualified to pronounce an opinion on the matter.

'Hush!’ said the gentleman who had spoken first. ‘You know you’ve got no father or mother, and that you were brought up by the parish, don’t you?’

‘Yes, sir,’ replied Oliver, weeping bitterly.

‘What are you crying for?’ inquired the gentleman in the white waistcoat. And to be sure it was very extraordinary. What could the boy be crying for?

‘I hope you say your prayers every night,’ said another gentleman in a gruff voice, ‘and pray for the people who feed you, and take care of you, like a Christian.’

‘Yes, sir,’ stammered the boy. The gentleman who spoke last was unconsciously right. It would have been very like a Christian, and a marvellously good Christian, too, if Oliver had prayed for the people who fed and took care of him. But he hadn’t, because nobody had taught him.

The classic story of a young boy who seeks his fortune on the streets of London. After Oliver Twist has to flee the workhouse, he meets the Artful Dodger, who leads him to Fagin and his gang of pickpockets. Published by Puffin.

Read extract 1 and think about what Charles Dickens wants the reader to know.

Write a paragraph to explain what you think the purpose of this extract is.

  • Why did Dickens include this extract in his novel?

  • Is Dickens informing the reader about society at this historical period?

  • Is the writer trying to build sympathy or empathy with a character?

  • Is hierarchy established for the reader within this extract?

Activity 2

Extract 2

The evening arrived; the boys took their places. The master, in his cook’s uniform, stationed himself at the copper; his pauper assistants ranged themselves behind him; the gruel was served out; and a long grace was said over the short commons. The gruel disappeared; the boys whispered to each other, and winked at Oliver, while his next neighbours nudged him. Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table, and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said, somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:

‘Please, sir, I want some more.’

The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupefied astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder; the boys with fear.

‘What!’ said the master at length, in a faint voice. ‘Please, sir,’ replied Oliver, ‘I want some more.'

The master aimed a blow at Oliver’s head with the ladle, pinioned him with his arms, and shrieked aloud for the beadle.

Write down the top five most important events or revelations that happen in extract 2

Think about the events that unfold and what hit a chord with you.

Now number these events or revelations from 1-5 in order of importance.

Activity 3

Read extract 2 again. The focus of this extract is extreme hunger.

You are writing the opening paragraph to a magazine article for teenagers. The title is ‘There is no excuse for children to be hungry in modern-day Britain’.

Think about the following points to guide your writing.

  • What do you know about food banks and hunger in today’s Britain?

  • Consider society today.

Think about how you will organise your opening paragraph and use a range of sentence structures and vocabulary.

Briefly plan your ideas so that your paragraph includes cohesive devices, such as conjunctions and adverbs, and is coherent.

These study guides to structure and paragraphs and sentence types will help you write a powerful opening paragraph.

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