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

    Fair & Just Discussion

    Fair & Just Discussion


    In this lesson, students will discuss the actions of the Revolutionaries in France and discuss whether or not they are being fair and just.


    • 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 see fit.

    Miranda Rights and Darnay's Arrest

    • Ask students what Miranda Rights are. Have them recall what they have learned or seen on television and in film.
    • They are, with some varied wording state by state, as follows: “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you.”
    • Ask students to share their understanding of rights regarding trials and juries in present day America before turning the conversation to Darnay.
    • As students review what has happened to Darnay, make sure to underscore for them: no lawyer, no communication with outside world, no clear charges, the people doing the arresting don’t seem official, etc. ELL: Be aware that some ELLs may have had negative experiences with the police and justice system, whether in another country or in the United States. In addition, legal protection for documented or undocumented residents is not always the same as that in place for American citizens. As you make comparisons between Darnay’s circumstances and those of an American today, be aware that there could be a range of opinions and experiences.


    Begin by discussing the following with your class.

    • What are Miranda Rights?
    • What rights do American citizens have during arrests and trials?
    • What are the circumstances of Darnay’s arrest? Does he have any of the rights that an American today could expect?

    Darnay in Prison

    • Direct the students to read and mark the passages about Darnay’s prison experience. Direct them to these two sections:
      • ✓ From, “In the instinctive association of prisoners …” to “brought him to these gloomy shades!”
      • ✓ The section beginning, “There were in the cell, a chair …” to “voices that he knew, in the swell that rose above them.”
    • Remind students that a symbol is something that represents something else and that a metaphor is an indirect comparison between two unlike things.

    Work Time

    Join a partner as directed and do the following.

    • Read and annotate the designated passages, stopping after every two or three sentences to check in with each other for understanding.
    • Note new vocabulary words.
    • Find and underline words that suggest a symbolic or metaphoric meaning for the prison. For example, if the prison is compared to a belly, then the metaphor might be that Darnay felt as though he had been eaten, maybe by a monster.

    Darnay in Prison Discussion

    • Read aloud the passages to the class, and have partners in turn share their thoughts about the language they have observed.
    • Encourage students to explore the sad situation of the others in the prison, discussing the ways in which the prison becomes like death or hell. You might want to point out the way the bloated gaoler and the gates could be a kind of hell.
    • Be sure to have them note that there is sympathy for the aristocrats in these lines and to underscore that Dickens shows further signs that he doesn’t approve of the Revolutionaries here.
    • Consider referencing earlier scenes with Doctor Manette and his imprisonment.
    • Ask the students what the effect/purpose of the * may be? If these are to be read as blanks, then what would go in the blanks?

    Work Time

    Rejoin the whole class and do the following.

    • Share your observations about the descriptions of Darnay in prison.
    • Explore possible meanings for the metaphorical and symbolic language.
    • Discuss the parallels between Darnay’s imprisonment and what you know about Doctor Manette’s imprisonment.

    The Grindstone

    • Make sure students understand the function of a grindstone, then direct them to mark the paragraph that begins, “The grindstone had a double handle …”
    • Remind students to look for symbols and metaphors.
    • Allow students to choose how they wish to process the new material. Make yourself available for students who wish to consult with you.
    • ELL: If you have ELLs who have found the reading challenging, you can encourage them to check in with you during this task, even if only briefly, to check for understanding.
    • As you go over the passages with the students, be sure to ask students to note the hellish and savage qualities of the Revolutionaries.
    • If necessary, point out the echoes the Wine Cask scene from earlier in the novel, showing the reader how the poor have grown savage.
    • SWD: If you have students who would benefit from a particular way of working, consult with them as they decide how to approach the task and provide support as necessary. It may also be beneficial for some students to work in more than one way, such as beginning individually and then shifting to a small group.

    Work Time

    As you have done with the prison descriptions, look closely at the description of the grindstone.

    • Read and annotate, stopping after every two or three sentences to check for understanding.
    • Note new vocabulary words.
    • Underline, or mark in a way that you prefer, the language that suggests something symbolic or metaphorical.

    When you have completed the reading and annotating, discuss with the whole class the language of the grindstone descriptions, exploring what Dickens wants the reader to think about the Revolution.

    You Have A Choice

    First, determine how you will approach the work. You can choose to work independently; work with a partner; work with a group; or confer with the teacher.

    Manette's Efforts Quick Write

    • If time permits, give students an opportunity to reflect in a Quick Write about Doctor Manette’s attempted intervention on behalf of Darnay.
    • Again if time permits, consider having students share their predictions. SWD: You can allow students to share their predictions with you to make sure they are on track.


    In a Quick Write, do the following.

    • Predict how you think the Revolutionaries will respond to Doctor Manette’s efforts to save Darnay.

    Open Notebook

    Book III, Chapters 3, 4, and 5

    • As students near the end of the book, encourage them to go deep with their analysis.


    Homework Book III, Chapters 3, 4, and 5

    • Read Book III, Chapters 3, 4, and 5 of A Tale of Two Cities and annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.