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

    The Revolutionaries

    The Revolutionaries


    In this lesson, students will look further at the way that Dickens describes the Revolutionaries and try to uncover his opinion of the political situation in France. They will also consider whether or not Darnay can be considered heroic.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Create partner groups as you determine appropriate.

    Vignette Share

    • Give students an opportunity to share their writing. They may share digitally, trade tablets or read aloud, whatever works better for the group.
    • If time permits, consider creating an opportunity for students to share their experience with the exercise with the whole class.


    • Join a partner as directed and share your vignette.

    Submit your vignette to your teacher.

    The Wayfarer

    • Divide students into partners and ask them to find and mark (or copy) the key passages that describe the wayfarer.
    • SWD: Make sure students understand what wayfarer means and are able to recognize the difference between more important and less important lines and phrases about the character.

    Work Time

    Join a partner as directed and do the following.

    • With your partner, find the five most important lines or phrases that are used to describe the “wayfarer” who stops and meets the Mender of Roads.
    • Highlight and annotate those in the text.

    The Wayfarer Discussion

    • Discuss the representation of the traveler.
    • Write down student observations and brief phrases that students find. Encourage students to notice the traveler’s savage, almost mythic qualities.
    • See if you can get students to discover that he walks across the land as a symbol of the spread of revolution.
    • As you discuss the characterization as it compares to other revolutionaries, make sure that the students have understood the basic plot elements regarding the burning of the aristocrat homes.

    Work Time

    Rejoin the whole class and share the lines or phrases that you and your partner have chosen.

    • Discuss the image that Dickens is giving to this traveler.
    • Decide on five or six adjectives that you would use to characterize him.
    • What group in the previous chapters might you use these adjectives to describe?
    • What significance do you see in that similarity?

    Texting or Tweeting Darnay

    • Students will likely be very familiar with texting and tweeting. The challenge is to communicate all that must be said in so few characters. Encourage them to be concise.
    • As you introduce to the students their task of creating a text message or a Tweet for Gabelle, in order to get them to appreciate the difficulty Gabelle faces, remind them of the geographic distance between London and Paris. Remind them that horses had to travel the miles in order to deliver news. SWD: This can be a good opportunity for visual students who struggle with reading to contribute to the class understanding of the text. You can have these students use maps to show their classmates likely paths that Gabelle may have taken and some of the obstacles and geographic features he might have encountered.
    • Make it clear whether students will be allowed to use abbreviations and substitutions like “KWIM” (“know what I mean”).
    • Ask them to ponder the risk and the consequences of sending a message in such circumstances. ELL: Capture student responses to the board, and have students vote on the message that is the most useful. This can help you check for understanding and address any questions that students may still have from the reading.
    • Another goal of this exercise is to clarify the plot and to help the students to understand the relationship between Darnay and Gabelle. Check in as necessary about those elements.

    Work Time

    During the days of the French Revolution, there were no telephones, cell phones, or computers. In order to get word to Darnay, Gabelle had to write a long letter.

    Today, Gabelle would want to send word as quickly as possible. He would send a text or a Tweet. With that in mind, do the following.

    • Imagine that Gabelle can tweet or text his message to Darnay. Review carefully what Gabelle needs to say.
    • In 140 characters maximum, write out Gabelle’s message.
    • Share your message with your partner.
    • From your two versions, create a collaborative version of Gabelle’s message.

    Open Notebook

    When it is your turn, share your message with the whole class.

    Darnay's Journey

    • As the class explores Darnay’s reasoning, be sure to look carefully at the comments made by Stryver and the others at Tellson’s about the nobles.
    • Define the term Noblesse Oblige for the students. (Noblesse Oblige refers to the responsibility of the nobles to care for the welfare of the countryside.)

    Work Time

    Discuss with your classmates the following question.

    • Why does Darnay go to France?
    • Use support from the text to explain his decision.

    Darnay's Departure Quick Write

    • Give the students a few moments to quick write their responses. You may or may not want them to share with the whole class since the goal is to raise curiosity about Darnay.
    • ELL: If you have students who are more comfortable speaking than writing, this is a good opportunity to allow them to demonstrate their understanding via a quick conference with you. You can also lead a small group discussion.


    In leaving, Darnay does not explain anything to Lucie. He just leaves. In a Quick Write, address the following.

    • Do you find Darnay’s way of leaving heroic?
    • Why or why not?

    Open Notebook

    Book III, Chapters 1 and 2

    • Remind students to read and annotate carefully. You might consider asking for a certain number of annotations per chapter, such as five or six, to help students gauge your expectations.


    Read Book III, Chapters 1 and 2 of A Tale of Two Cities and annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.