Chris Adcock
English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • Characters
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Morality
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    A Turn Towards A Revolution

    A Turn Towards A Revolution


    In this lesson, you will think about the way the politics of France have taken a turn toward Revolution, and you will reflect on the ways that private individuals confront public politics.

    In this lesson, students will think about the way the politics of France have taken a turn toward Revolution, and will reflect on the ways that private individuals confront public politics.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Determine a plan to split the class into two debate groups.
    • Decide on a format you wish to use for debate, and prepare a readily understood introduction.

    Political Unrest and You

    • Give students time to think and to complete the Quick Write.
    • Facilitate a brief discussion about politics and families. Perhaps ask students to consider the Civil War in America and to think about the way that it pitted relatives against one another.
    • For another more recent example, consider mentioning that during the Vietnam War, dissenters and draft resisters sometimes left the country, choosing to live in Canada or farther away rather than in the US with friends and family. You might also need to explain the Draft in that scenario. ELL: Some students may have experienced a similar separation from family, if they have been refugees or have come from countries in which there is a great deal of political strife. Remind students to be respectful and kind to each other if the discussion becomes personal.
    • Some students may also be familiar with Les Miserables (as a novel, a musical, or a movie) and can make connections between the two stories.


    Imagine how you might respond in a difficult political situation. Then in a Quick Write, record your thoughts.

    • If the United States were to descend again into civil war or some other major internal conflict, would you move away from your family members, to never see them again, if you didn’t agree with their politics?

    Open Notebook

    Share your thoughts with the whole class.

    Debate Preparation

    • Divide the class in half, one half arguing for the Marquis and the aristocracy (in favor of the status quo), one arguing for Darnay and those who seek revolution.
    • Consider providing a specific resolution beforehand to focus the preparation for both sides. It could be something like, “Resolved: The dangers represented by revolution far outweigh any benefits to be obtained through overthrow of the social status quo.”
    • Set up a minimum number of quotations that you expect each team to find in order to ensure they are looking carefully for text support. Six different quotations, for example, might work well. Set up clear time limits both for the planning and the presenting of the debate.
    • Allow each team a few minutes to prepare.
    • SWD: There are a number of online resources that provide guidelines and rubrics for classroom debates. If you have students who would benefit from a more in-depth review of how the classroom debate will go, select one that is appropriate for your students and review it thoroughly to give everyone the chance to prepare and participate successfully.

    Work Time

    Darnay and his uncle see the world quite differently. In order to help you see their points of view, prepare a mini-debate in which you defend the side that your teacher assigns.

    • Join whichever side of the debate you are assigned.
      • Side One: Darnay and those who seek revolution.
      • Side Two: The Marquis and those who would preserve the aristocrats’ rule.
    • Independently, look through the novel, using not only the chapter that you have just read but also all of the previous sections.
    • Write down your various ideas, making sure you have text references to support all of your thinking.
    • Share your findings with the rest of your group.

    Open Notebook

    Revolution or Status Quo Debate

    • Decide on the degree of formality that would best suit your group. Some structure would yield a better discussion and discourage off-topic and non-textual argument.
    • Consider making some members of each team responsible for affirming a position, others for anticipating and rebutting the other side’s arguments.
    • Alternatively, consider some sort of less formal point/counterpoint presentation depending on available time and your group.
    • Underscore the requirement for textual support of arguments on either side.
    • If time permits, take time after the debate to reflect on the two arguments, and see if students have a sense of which side prevailed. ELL: Encourage all students to actively participate in the debate and make any accommodations that may be needed to help ELLs comfortably contribute. For some, this may be participating as a debator; for others, it may mean providing evidence and support to their teammates if they are not comfortable speaking in front of the class.

    Work Time

    Work Time Revolution or Status Quo Debate

    Follow your teacher’s directions for the debate format.

    As you debate, make sure that you incorporate the text support that you have found into your discussion.

    Fountains Quick Write

    • Since students often enjoy a good debate, you may not have time to look at the fountains and their symbolism. You may want to skip to the closing. However, if you have some time to explore them, these symbols deepen the sense of doom and foreshadowing in the novel.
    • Ask the students to turn back to the ending of Chapter 8, from “The sweet scents of the summer night rose” and compare it to the description of the fountain from “The fountain in the village flowed … faces of the chateau were opened” in Chapter 9.
    • Consider including an earlier reference to the fountain in Chapter 8, the sixth paragraph, beginning with “The village had its one poor street.” Point out, if necessary, the repetition of “poor” in that section and encourage students to include that in their thinking.
    • If necessary, consider using The Symbolism and Allusion Annotations as a resource and reference for students who are struggling.
    • After the partners have done some investigating, facilitate a Whole Class Discussion on the symbolism and foreshadowing in the fountain descriptions. SWD: To support visual learners, create a table on the board that lists the attributes of the two fountains being compared, and capture student responses.

    Work Time

    Work Time Fountains Quick Write

    Look carefully at the description of the fountain in Chapter 9 and compare it to the fountain at the end of Chapter 8.

    • Make a list of ideas that you see echoing and things that seem to be symbolic.
    • Jot down some ideas about the significance of details you see in each fountain scene.

    Open Notebook

    Share your observations about the fountains with the rest of the class.

    The Gorgon

    • Facilitate a Whole Class Discussion of the Gorgon.
    • Direct the students to the image of the Gorgon and explain the Gorgon’s ability to turn people to stone. Explain that Medusa is another name for one of the Gorgons.
    • Try to encourage a murder mystery feeling of suspense at the close of this chapter.


    Closing The Gorgon

    Although Book II does not end here, Chapter 9 is certainly a cliffhanger chapter that gets the readers interested, encouraging Victorian readers to go out and buy the next section of the serial.

    The chapter includes many allusions to a Gorgon, a mythical creature that could, with a look, turn a person to stone. Discuss the following questions with the rest of the class.

    • In what sense did a Gorgon’s head survey the chateau “when it was finished, two centuries ago”?
    • If the Marquis is the face that is now “stone” in death, who is the Gorgon? Is it the murderer of the Marquis?
    • And who is the murderer? Is it Darnay? Someone else?

    Writing Assignment Two: Prewrite

    • Review the writing assignment with the class and explain that they will be working in class on the prewriting of their vignettes using the Your Vignette form. SWD: Check for understanding of the instructions for this homework assignment, and communicate clear expectations for student homework submissions. Some students may benefit from seeing examples of vignettes before beginning to consider their own.


    Homework Writing Assignment Two: Prewrite

    • Read over the writing assignment, Your Vignette Instructions, and brainstorm some ideas for your vignette.
    • Use the example Your Vignette form here to create your own in your Notebook.
    • Come to class with a short paragraph that summarizes what you hope to show in your scene.