Chris Adcock
English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Dickens
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Justice
  • Vengeance
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Dramatic Language

    Dramatic Language


    In this lesson, you will have a chance to involve yourselves in the dramatic language of Dickens by performing parts of the text.

    In this lesson, students will have a chance to involve themselves in the dramatic language of Dickens by performing parts of the text.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Create appropriate dramatic reading groups.
    • If your classroom has limited connectivity, find and share images for Task 4.

    Reading Aloud Quick Write

    • Introduce the idea of Dickens reading aloud.
    • Give the students a moment to think and to jot down ideas in response to the questions posed, then facilitate a discussion about being read to.
    • SWD: Students who have trouble processing written text may be able to identify benefits of listening to a text and, if they have been listening to an audio version of the book, may be able to share their own insights about hearing Dickens’s words aloud.


    Dickens had a flair for reading aloud. In fact, he gave public speaking tours, reading sections of his novels aloud in Scotland, France, England—even in America. His writing style is dramatic, after all, and we can imagine Victorian families sitting before their fireplaces, listening to a literate family member (often the father, sometimes the mother) read about Charles Darnay.

    Complete a Quick Write.

    • What is your experience of being read to? Do you enjoy when someone reads to you?

    Open Notebook

    Share your response with the class.

    Passage Readings

    • Divide students into small groups for dramatic readings, assigning them specific passages of the text. You might want to provide props, yet the focus should remain on the sounds of the words themselves. Be sure to set a time limit for the group readings so that you have time for discussion later.
    • SWD: You can choose to guide students who struggle with reading fluency towards shorter speaking roles, possibly as characters in the text. You can also allow them the option of supporting the dramatic reading in another way, either through visuals or behind-the-scenes support.
    • If possible, position the groups so that they are hidden from one another as they prepare. Encourage variety. Model things like hand motions, or props. (For smaller classes, or if time is limited, focus on the passages starred.)
    • ELL: Model reading one sentence in a variety of ways, to show techniques for interpretive reading of the same text. Discuss (briefly) how emphasizing different words each time can change the message of the same sentence.
    • Encourage students to speak individually or in a group, and consider requiring that each group member speak at some point.
      • ✓ Tellson’s description (the paragraph beginning “Thus it had come to pass” to “Abyssinia or Ashantee”)
      • ✓ Put to death passage (the paragraph beginning “But indeed …” to “the establishment”)
      • ✓ Jerry Cruncher’s flat description (the paragraph beginning, “The scene was Mr. Cruncher’s” to “are you?”)
      • ✓ Old Bailey description (the paragraph beginning “They hanged” to “was wrong”)
      • ✓ Bailey mirror description (the paragraph beginning “The accuse” to “herbs away”)
    • Allow the sounds of performance to fill the room, then facilitate a brief discussion about the experience.
    • You might want to ask students how performing the sounds felt to them, whether the feelings fit the meanings.

    Work Time

    • In your group, develop a creative, original reading of the passage that you are assigned.
    • Be sure to get all of your group members involved.

    Present your readings to the class.

    Group Dramatic Readings

    • Review each of the passages using the questions provided. If time allows, read each passage aloud once more before discussing it.
    • You need only review the passages that the students have performed.


    The mystery around Jerry is fun to keep up, so try to discuss his fear of prayer without giving away his occupation. ELL: Review the use of the word atmosphere in this context. You can ask, “Is it referring only to the air or weather, or is it a metaphor for a bigger idea?”

    Work Time

    As a whole class, review your passages for meaning and implication. Consider these questions.

    • What does Dickens seem to think of the justice system? What are the things Dickens disapproves of? How can you tell?
    • Who is Jerry Cruncher? Why doesn’t he want his wife to pray? Can you find clues of Dickens’s opinion?
    • What is the atmosphere  of the Old Bailey? Does this sound like an atmosphere of fairness? Why or why not?
    • In this mirror, we see a reflection of the people and place. What seems to be Dickens’s opinion of the court? How do you know?

    Visualization Research

    • Students may still struggle to visualize the novel, so viewing images might help them to “see” the settings.
    • SWD: Capital punishments were brutal in that time, and images of people being quartered may be disturbing to students who are highly anxious or sensitive to graphic images. Be aware of your students as you assign them images to research.
    • Encourage students to look for things in black and white or to look for paintings.
    • Split the class up in a way that they can jigsaw and show one another the images that they find.
    • If time permits, consider inviting students to come up with additional objects or sites that are mentioned in the text that make them curious.

    Work Time

    To help you visualize your reading, look at illustrations of the places that you just discussed.

    • View  images of the following, as your teacher directs:
      • Temple Bar
      • Old Bailey
      • Bedlam
      • Pillory
      • Quartering
      • Victorian court scenes
      • Victorian London street scenes, Victorian slums, or poverty
      • Victorian fashion

    London Quick Write

    • Set a time frame for the students to complete their Quick Writes.
    • If time permits, offer them the opportunity to share with partners or in small groups.


    Imagine that you are time traveling to London during the early Industrial Age, and in a Quick Write, do the following.

    • Which of the places mentioned in the previous task would you be most curious to see? Why?
    • What else would you be interested in exploring?

    Open Notebook

    Book II, Chapters 3 and 4

    • Remind students to read and annotate carefully.
    • Review annotations periodically to gauge comprehension.


    • Read Book II, Chapters 3 and 4 in
      ATale of Two Cities .
    • Annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.