Tale of Two Cities Crime Scene Investigation

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SWBAT analyze Dickens' strategy of using flashbacks and parallel plots to create mystery and tension by working in small groups to investigate the charges brought against Charles Darnay in A Tale of Two Cities, Book 3.

Big Idea

Is Charles Darnay guilty or innocent of the charges brought against him by the French revolutionary tribunal? Let's see what evidence Dickens provides.


10 minutes

We will start class with ten minutes of silent reading time. My teaching partner is out at a training for today, so we will also need to use this time to introduce our substitute teacher and to collect an assignment for his class.

Crime Scene Investagative Strategies Overview

15 minutes

Yesterday, students received a startling piece of evidence in the case against Charles Darnay. His own father-in-law, Dr. Manette, seemingly sealed Darnay's fate by cursing the entire Evermonde family. His letter, discovered in the Bastille, is one of many clues (i.e. flashback, foreshadowing, symbolism, parallel plot lines) that Dickens provides over the course of the novel to create a sense of mystery or suspense (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5). Now that students see what he was doing more clearly, I will ask them to analyze how he did it.

To do this, students will take on the role of the prosecution or defense in this case and use the evidence gathered from over the book to determine if Darnay deserves to be punished or if he should be cleared of all charges.

I will ask students to work in small groups of their choosing (no more than four and no fewer than three students per group) to create crime scene investigation boards using clues I provide. I will allow students to determine which side of the court case they would like to argue, but they must do so prior to receiving their set of clues.

To give them a frame of reference for what their investigation should look like, I will show them a short clip (and advertisement for a crime investigation series, Cold Case Files -- see video below). If time allows, I may show some still images from my favorite show, Breaking Bad too (sorry--they are copyrighted, so I can't post them here). After watching this brief clip, I will ask them to comment on what they noticed in regards to clues and guide them towards the understanding that sometimes clues can be misleading or can be used by both sides of a case. I will ask them to brainstorm strategies for analyzing evidence before I send them off to their groups to dive into their cases.


Small Group Clue Analysis

25 minutes

I will allow a few minutes for students to move into their groups, then I will go around and have them choose seven random clues from the 21 available. I am doing this to make sure there is some variety and varied levels of challenge for each group.

While they work, I will be monitoring their functionality as a team. One reason I am letting them choose their own partners today is to see if that allows them to navigate some of the group dynamics differently than when we choose their groups for them. Today, specifically, I will be assessing the following standards through my observation of their collaborative efforts:

Additional Detective Work

15 minutes

After they have worked for a chunk of time on the clues that I provided to them, I will stop the class and tell them that they have just been given a whole mess of evidence (i.e. their novels) that they need to cull through for their investigation. I will ask them to find at least three additional "clues", or pieces of textual evidence (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1), to add to their evidence boards. I will then give them additional time to work on their analysis.

Opening Statement Creation

20 minutes

Once it looks like the majority of the class has finished their analysis of the evidence, I will ask them to work on creating a written summary of their findings. This synthesis should take the form of an opening statement that shows whether or not they are prosecuting or defending Charles Darnay.

I will be looking for their ability to write persuasively as well a clear synthesis of their clues/evidence (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1). To do this, I will ask them to provide a clear thesis statement and then a detailed summary of their evidence. I will collect this opening statement in addition to their evidence boards at the end of class.

Wrap Up and Next Steps

20 minutes

To ensure they are able to answer the question of how Dickens used his plot structure to create a sense of tension or mystery, I will save the last 20 minutes of class for a debrief and discussion. I will ask three groups to voluntarily read their opening statements and then ask the students to push their thinking towards the style analysis level and think about how Dickens laid out the clues we have been analyzing all day. I will then ask them to make a prediction about what Darnay's fate will be by the end of the novel.

I will end class by reminding them of what they need to read over the weekend.