School workshops: Dr Johnson’s House

Date Posted: 21/02/2014

The exterior of Dr Johnsons House.

Dr Johnson’s House in London, the original home of the creator of the first English dictionary, runs a lively education programme of tours, talks and workshops in the atmospheric interiors that were once home and workplace to ‘Dictionary Johnson’.

Workshops cover aspects of the History, English and Art Curriculum, with activities ranging from taking tea Georgian-style to investigating the special ingredients of a good dictionary.

School group sessions will last between 60 to 90 minutes and are free for students under 16. Dr Johnson’s House also welcomes requests to tailor workshops to specific interests.

Education Programme at Dr Johnson’s House

For Primary school groups studying History:

•    House and Home (KS1): Visit Dr Johnson's House to take tea Georgian style, see how rooms were lit by candlelight, dress in Georgian costume and hunt for clues about what homes were like in the 1700s.

•    Dr Johnson’s London (KS2): An interactive workshop with a carousel of activities relating to life in Georgian London, including a treasure hunt in Dr Johnson's House, word games, dressing up and some messier optional activities.

•    The Life of Francis Barber (KS2): Francis Barber started life as a slave on a Jamaican sugar plantation and ended it as a schoolmaster in Staffordshire. Using evidence including images, artefacts and 18th century documents, pupils piece together Barber's extraordinary story in the house where he once lived and worked.

For Primary school groups studying English and Literacy:

•    Johnson’s Dictionary (KS2): This workshop uses word games and drama to explore the differences between English today and English in Johnson's time, and introduces his famous Dictionary. After considering what makes a good definition, the group have the chance to create their own class dictionary.

•    Marketing Challenge (KS2): After undertaking a treasure hunt in Dr Johnson's House to explore the building, its history and its main selling points, students are challenged to design a leaflet promoting Dr Johnson's House to young people, considering the most effective language and presentation. Can be combined with other workshops. Resources available for use as a follow-up activity at school.

Dr Johnson's writing.

Secondary school sessions are based around a Dictionary Workshop; Black History and Dictionaries and Empire-Building.

A-level school groups studying English Language:

•    Language Change Workshop: Johnson's 1755 A Dictionary of the English Language is directly linked to the A-level English unit on Language Change. Dr Johnson’s House’s workshops focus on bringing the Dictionary to life and giving the students a sense of the context in which it was written, before taking a detailed look at the work itself.

Students have the chance to browse 18th century copies of Johnson's Dictionary from the collection, look at examples of change in the meanings of words and language use, and explore Johnson's attitudes to language change together with the impact of his work.

The Language Change workshop costs £3.50 per student and lasts 75 minutes. It includes a free teacher's resource pack. This pack is available to all teachers upon request.

For further school trip information visit

School Travel Organiser's Guide