Tackling Dickens's Style: A Tale of Two Cities Book One Analysis (Day 1 of 2)

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SWBAT analyze Dickens's choices in regards to symbolic language and text structure by working in small groups to determine key ideas and connections from book one of A Tale of Two Cities.

Big Idea

Dickens is the master of the bread crumb trail writing style. Helping students to determine what is essential information vs. superfluous information in his novels is a complicated task.

SSR/Social Studies Quiz

20 minutes

Because I will be gone on Friday chaperoning the Colorado State Thespian Conference (woohoo!), my teaching partner and I swapped some time today. I am going to take the majority of the period and he will do the same on Friday.

Unfortunately, it is a Wednesday and a short day, so that means I am still going to be crunched for time.

We will start the period with a short reading quiz for Social Studies. We will instruct the students to read as soon as they are finished and make sure that they have their full ten minutes in addition to their time for quiz taking.

Speech Delivery Make Ups

15 minutes

I only have six kids who still need to deliver their speeches (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4 and CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.6). Five have been absent or unprepared. One asked to deliver her speech in front of the whole class because she felt like her topic was important (cool, huh? =).

I'm not sure how long this will take, but we will do our best to get all of the speech delivery finished today.

Tale of Two Cities Book One Bread Crumb Analysis

20 minutes

Now that we are done with our speeches, it's time to dive into A Tale of Two Cities in earnest.

My goal over the next two days is to check for comprehension while also analyzing the unique style of Dickens' writing and acknowledging how that complicates our ability to comprehend what is going on in the story. I will point out that his style is purposefully difficult to decipher and ask them to think about why this might be the case.

I try really hard to build comprehension checks that are not identification based. I recognize that identification is often a base level/entry point to deeper analysis, but I am also very aware of high school students' desire to stay in this lower level of thinking. The standards require more of them and, therefore, I must as well.

I am going to attempt to push them to this level by "giving" them some answers about what bread crumbs Dickens has left us a readers and asking them to dig into the text to determine what each of these things is and how they contribute to the plot development so far. I am purposefully giving them symbolic language instead of character names so that they can do some inference about the significance of each (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5 and CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.5a).

The key ideas/words/symbols I will have them work with their groups to define are:

  • Cask of Wine
  • Golden Hair
  • The Dover Mail
  • "Recalled to Life"
  • "An Honest Tradesman"
  • The "Wild Woman"
  • The Shoemaker
  • St. Antoine
  • Knitting
  • 105 North Tower
  • Tellson's Bank
  • Jacques

Wrap up and Next Steps

5 minutes

If there is time left at the end of the hour, I will ask students to share their groups' findings and remind them to write things down so that tomorrow they can accomplish the next layer of this task, which is to connect each of these figures, ideas, symbols, etc. together.