The Development of a Declaration: Diction, Syntax and Rhetoric in the Age of Revolutions (Day 1 of 2)

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SWBAT analyze seminal U.S. documents for craft and structure by reading and completing analytical annotations for one of three revolutionary declarations.

Big Idea

Revolutions are cyclical in nature--and they all share similar ideas, documents and strategies. At the risk of starting our own revolution, helping students to create their own declaration is one way to dive into this historical concept.


10 minutes

We will start class with ten minutes of reading time.

Tale of Two Cities Reading Discussion

15 minutes

As we will be taking a short break from the novel tomorrow, I want to make sure that I check in with my students about their reading/comprehension. We are moving really quickly through the text and I am nervous about how well they are keeping up and understanding what is happening. A few specific challenges I anticipate they are struggling with is the disjointed plot structure and the ambiguous characterization and metaphors that are hallmarks of Dickens' style. 

We will specifically focus on the chapter title "Monsignor in Town", as this chapter introduces the readers to a key plot points and character relationships that connect Paris to London. I will assess the students on their ability to track and analyze Dickens' purpose for a disjointed narrative (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5) next week, but hope that through our discussion, we can establish some foundational understanding today that will make that more accessible for all my readers.

As we read, I will ask them questions to gauge their understanding. Typically on days like these, I don't prepare anything flashy to promote high level thinking--I just keep an eye on my class and watch for looks of confusion or frustration. If I see these, then I know I should probably pause and check in with my readers, asking specific and guiding questions about that passage of text.

I have some generic questions I will ask along the way too. Since our goal is comprehension and a firmer grasp of character and plot development, I will ask them basic things like:

  • Why do you think Dickens includes this character? 
  • What is the conflict in this chapter? How does this add to the larger conflict or themes of the novel so far?
  • We are back in France. Why do you think Dickens chooses to move us to another location at this point in the story?

Individual Analysis of Declarations

35 minutes

For the remainder of the period (thanks to my teaching partner for giving up his 30 minutes of class on this short day of instruction!), my students will be working individually through a reading task.

Each student will be assigned one of three seminal, historical documents, including two seminal U.S. documents (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.9):

We will assign students a text based on their reading ability. Each reading will have  guiding questions and annotation requirements that are meant to help students meet a variety of standards, including:

These documents will be used tomorrow for a jigsaw discussion activity where students will join groups with their peers who read different texts from their own. My teaching partner and I will wander around the room while students are reading to assist as we are needed.

This is the first part of a larger activity meant to analyze these seminal historical texts. Given where we are historically, it made sense to pause the novel here and dive into the informational standards for a few days. Additionally, given the challenges of hitting a standard so specifically geared towards American history in my World Literature and History class, my teaching partner and I are especially mindful of the potentially perfect pairing of French Revolution documents with revolutionary documents from the U.S.