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

    Old Bailey Courtroom

    Old Bailey Courtroom


    In this lesson, you will become part of the Old Bailey courtroom and think about Dickens’s opinion of this British court.

    In this lesson, students will become part of the Old Bailey courtroom and think about Dickens’s opinion of this British court.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.


    • Begin by posing the question asking whether Darnay is receiving a fair trial to spark interest and to return to the notion of justice.
    • Facilitate a Whole Class Discussion of justice, drawing together the ideas from the previous lesson and taking the opportunity to review or clarify as necessary. ELL: Brainstorm with students to create a class definition of justice to start the discussion with a clear shared understanding of the topic. Be aware that the concept of justice can vary greatly from student to student and it may be hard to come up with a definition that the entire class can agree on. If this is the case, you can also ask students to definejustice as they think Dickens may have done.
    • If the question of justice (and the justice system) was adequately explored in the previous lesson, move more quickly into the next task.


    We are starting to see a pattern of unfairness—or injustice—in the novel. With your classmates, discuss the following.

    • In general, where do things seem unfair in England? In France?
    • As you read about Darnay’s trial, you probably had opinions about the way the court was conducted. Do you think Darnay is getting a fair trial?

    Close Reading, Book II

    • Begin by reading aloud the first paragraph, helping students to understand the narrative point of view and the way that it shifts throughout the scene.
    • Introduce the literary term jargon and show how Dickens uses legal jargon to capture the voices of the court. ELL: Overly dramatize the changes in voice or role as you read alone, to better illustrate the changes as they occur.

    Work Time

    Listen as your teacher reads aloud the opening paragraph of Book II, Chapter 3. Notice that the narrator himself takes on different voices or roles.

    • Annotate the paragraph and mark the shifts as you hear them.

    Darnay's Trial Group Reading

    • Assign the appropriate roles: Barsad, Stryver, Attorney General, Cly, Lorry, Lucie, and assign one student to be Sidney Carton throughout the Group Reading.
    • As you see fit, you can have students share the roles of Stryver or Attorney General, but for visual clarity, consider allowing one student to keep each role.
    • Students who are not playing a reading role should be “blue flies.” The “blue flies” should “buzz” their opinions, as an audience might applaud or murmur.
    • The student who plays Carton should spend the activity with his or her feet up on a desk, trying to look as bored as possible.
    • SWD: If you have students who are not comfortable in a speaking role but who may find it difficult to focus during this activity without a clear job, consider adding extra roles with specific tasks. For example, you can assign a student to act as a newspaper reporter who takes notes or a courtroom spectator who looks for specific things.

    Work Time

    First, listen as your teacher assigns roles. Then, follow the instructions to perform the script.

    • If you are assigned a character, look over your script briefly and prepare to perform.
    • If you are assigned the role of courtroom spectator, you will need to contribute as well, so be ready.
    • While the script is being performed, notice the feeling that the scene creates in you and in your classmates.
    • Notice too whatever you may not have noticed in silent reading about any of the characters.

    Darnay's Trial Discussion

    • After the scripts are performed, ask the students to comment on the effect of reading the scene aloud, and what they gained from performing the text.
    • In addition to comments about the main characters, ask students about the effect of the “blue flies” and Dickens’s naming them that way.
    • If the ideas don’t come up organically, ask students to comment specifically on the corruption of the court, Carton’s wisdom, and the character of Lucie.

    Work Time

    After the performance of the script, join the whole class in a discussion about what you created and saw.

    • What feeling did this court scene create in you? Point to specific moments that contributed to that feeling.
    • What did you notice about the main characters? Did the performance change or deepen your impression of any of the main characters in the scene?
    • What is your opinion of Lucie? Of Carton? What specific language or behavior creates those impressions?

    Book II, Chapter 4 Read Aloud and Quick Write

    • Read aloud, and/or ask students to read aloud, the final three paragraphs of Book II, Chapter 4. Then give students time to do a Quick Write about Carton’s self-esteem and his un-heroic demeanor.
    • Encourage students to refer to the text when expressing their opinions.


    After listening to your teacher and your classmates read aloud the final three paragraphs of Book II, Chapter 4, in a Quick Write, answer the following questions.

    • What is your opinion of Sidney Carton at this point?
    • How does Carton feel about Lucie? How do you know?
    • Carton saves the day in these chapters, yet does he fit your idea of a hero?

    Open Notebook

    Book II, Chapters 5 and 6

    • As usual, remind students to read and annotate carefully.
    • Consider checking students’ annotations occasionally to identify and support those who are struggling.
    • Consider inviting or assigning individual students from time to time to share their annotations of a given section of text with the rest of the class.


    • Read Book II, Chapters 5 and 6 in A Tale of Two Cities.
    • Annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.