Comedic Moments: Tone Shift Between Chapter 10 and Chapter 11

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SWBAT analyze how language sets the tone of the story by acting out scenes and charting tone shifts.

Big Idea

Acting out a funny scene can make deciphering tone more engaging.


15 minutes

Our reading of the fight scene at the end of chapter 11 was rushed, so that we could finish it before the bell. Therefore, the students didn't really get the enjoy the humor of the situation, nor did they quite know what to do with the pale young gentleman, who meets Pip and immediately asks him to fight, albeit politely. In order to highlight this scene, I decided to let a couple of students act out the last two pages of the chapter, while three other students read the lines. Here is a sample.

I purposely chose two outgoing, respectful girls to "fight." I knew that they would have fun with the scene, but not let it get out of control. I am hoping that this short activity helps the whole class see the humor of the situation.

Tone Chart

30 minutes

After we finish acting out the fight scene, students will be given a worksheet for chapter 11 and a list of tone words. I made the worksheet so that it assumes a different tone for each speaker in the chapter. Working in pairs, the students should use the list of tone words (which was given to me several years ago by a colleague) and their copy of the novel to complete the chart (SL.9-10.1).

Students have a hard time discussing tone, I think, because their language is so limited. They know, for instance, that each character has a different personality and therefore a different sound, but they often don't know how to put it into words. So I give them some words! They have to work through the language of the text and decide if Miss Havisham is indeed forthright, or if cynical is more fitting (RL.9-10.4). I expect that it will be a challenging activity, but doable.

Building Knowldge by using a Venn Diagram

10 minutes

Once students have thought about the tone in chapter 11, we will compare it to chapter 10. I will ask students to draw a Venn Diagram in their notebooks and I will do the same on the board. I don't expect that we will have time to complete the activity, but I would like to get them started and explain the expectations, so that they can finish it for homework. Here are two examples: diagram 1 and diagram 2.

These two chapters are a good example of how Dickens plays with the reader and makes us experience a full range of emotions, from tension and fear to humor.  And of course, he does it all through diction. I want students to understand this before I send them off with the novel to read on their own, which they will be doing more of over the next three weeks, while we work with their choice read in class. The Venn Diagram will show me how ready they are for this next step.

Wrapping Up

5 minutes

In the last few minutes of class, I will go over their homework: the Venn Diagram and reading chapter 15. I routinely skip chapters in the middle of the novel, so I will discuss what happens in chapters 12 through 14 and why we are skipping them. I explained at the beginning of the novel that each chapter was published separately, and now I will remind students of that fact and explain that these chapters, in humble opinion, were a way for Dickens to earn some extra cash. Still good, but unnecessary for the overall story.