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 Inquiry Lesson

Student Situation Sheet

In London , during the 18th century, thousands of children were sent to work as _________________ .

The young children became ill because of this work. The government permitted this work because they were able to make money from forced cheap labor. At one point, some boys did not have to work anymore; yet, one boy continues to work without joy.

Our central questions are:   What is the job? Why did some boys not have to work anymore?  Why did the one boy keep working? (the occupation is chimney sweep; some boys died and one is left to continue working)

Anticipatory Set: Copies of the inquiry story will be passed out to the class. The class will be informed that they will be participating in a brain-teaser of sorts. The students are told to put on their detective hats.

Curriculum Standards: Standard 3.2, “All students will listen actively in a variety of situations to information from a variety of sources.” In this lesson, the students will have to listen to each other and the clues that have been discovered in order for them to collectively solve the puzzle. Standard 3.4, “All students will read various materials and texts with comprehension and critical analysis.” Students will have to analyze the text offered in the inquiry story and be aware of the subtle hints and clues that can help them decifer the true meaning of the story.

Goal: To explore the poetry of William Blake and the historical context that he presents. To give the students a creative way of learning through a lesson similar to a backwards design in which the students are forced to apply the knowledge they have earned as a group to a work of literature.

Objectives: Students will work together as a group to accomplish a task. Students will grasp the history of the poem. Students will critically analyze and evaluate a story in order to solve the puzzle. Students will feel a sense of pride and responsibility in working together as a group.


1.      Teacher will inform the group of the rules for the lesson.

a.  A Yes and No Chart will be filled out on the board as the questions are being answered by the teacher.

b.  If a student has a theory, the theory will be placed on the board for group consultation.

c.  Once the group has agreed or solved the puzzle within the 25 questions allotted, they will receive another piece of information to analyze.

2.      Students and teacher will evaluate the group process in a discussion format. 

3.      Teacher reviews the history and the poem, “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake.

Assignment: The students will be asked to read the poem, “The Chimney Sweeper” and “London” from the Songs of Experience and evaluate the poems based on the historical context and political commentary that Blake exposes.

The Chimney Sweeper
by William Blake

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
 Could scarcely cry " 'weep! 'weep! 'weep! 'weep!"
     So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.

    There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
     That curl'd like a lamb's back, was shav'd, so I said
     "Hush, Tom! never mind it, for when your head's bare
     You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair."

     And so he was quiet, and that very night
   As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight!
   That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
   Were all of them lock'd up in coffins of black.

   And by came an Angel who had a bright key,
   And he open'd the coffins and set them all free;
   Then down a green plain leaping, laughing, they run,
   And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.

Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
   They rise upon clouds and sport in the wind;
   And the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
   He'd have God for his father, and never want joy.

   And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark,
   And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
   Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm;
   So if all do their duty they need not fear harm.

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Roberta Devlin-Scherer, Seton Hall University
January 2, 2001
Updated  09/15/02