Jessica Keigan Horizon High , Thornton, CO
10th Grade ELA : Unit #8 - Literary: Analysis of Plot and Character Development in A Tale of Two Cities : Lesson #10

Deconstructing Two Cities: Plot Review and Analysis Workshop (Day 1 of 2)

Objective: SWBAT analyze and discuss the structure of A Tale of Two Cities by working with a small group to determine what Dickens is doing and why he is doing what he is doing.
Standards: RL.9-10.5 SL.9-10.1
Subject(s): English / Language Arts
60 minutes
1 SSR - 10 minutes

We will start class with ten minutes of reading time. I will use this time to touch base with my failing students to give them one final encouragement to get it together before our final day tomorrow.

2 Quiz Review - 10 minutes

As I mentioned in my reflection yesterday, my students REALLY struggled with the quiz we took yesterday. They struggled so much on very basic character and plot points that I decided to redesign my final two days of class around a basic review of the text. They will have to read three chapters on their own over winter break so that we can start second semester with the beginning of the third book of Tale.

This conversation is not going to be super pleasant for them, as I am going to call them out on lack of effort in the past week. Their brains have been slowly powering down as we plummet towards vacation and I need them to know that while I am willing to help them with their struggles, which are likely very legitimate, I also need them to be helping themselves by trying a little harder than they have been.

We will frame this "come to Jesus" conversation around what makes Dickens difficult and what we can do to cope with difficult texts. I will list their suggestions next to the challenges on the board so that we can identify a few that we feel comfortable using as a class.

3 Location 1: Timeline Creation - 20 minutes

My teaching partner is giving a big final tomorrow, so I am going to have to cut my instruction a little short today to make sure that he has enough time to review for the test.

That said, 20 minutes is a bit of a dream here, but once we've chatted about reading strategies, I am going to set them up for the first of their two part final activity for me.

To review the text and begin to discuss why Dickens structures the text in such a disjointed way (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5), I am going to ask the students to create timelines of events for both of the locations (Paris and London). Since not as much has happened in France, I will ask them to start with that today. This standard specifically asks students to analyze how a disjointed or overlapping plot line creates mystery or tension. This mystery and tension has not completely revealed itself yet, but I want students to notice that Dickens has been doing strange things with his plot structure so that when the mysteries start to become apparent in Book Three, students will realize that Dickens has actually been working towards this all along.

I will allow students to work collaboratively (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1) in their Faulkner squares (we are switching these up after break, so this can be their last hurrah with their current groups). I will ask that each student has their own paper. This is so that they will all have a copy of their timelines to use on the first day back to school to review what they might forget over vacation.

Before they move into their teams, I will do a brief whole class brainstorm of character locations on the board. Hopefully this will help them to differentiate between events when they use the book to review.

Resetting Our Focus

It is amazing to me what a frank and honest conversation can do for the work ethic of high school students. After our quiz review today, I gave the kids time to work on their time lines and I saw much more consistent engagement all over the class. Students all had their books out and were having great dialogue about event locations and chronology.

I had a very funny conversation with one student who was convinced the Old Bailey scene at the beginning of book two took place in Paris. One of his group members asked him if Jerry Cruncher had to swim the English Channel everyday to complete his errands for Tellson's Bank. Perhaps this is really only funny to me as I am knee deep in the book, but I take it as a good sign that the students can joke about the text, proving that they do have some comprehension of it.

Truth be told, they only have to make it one more day before we are all on a much needed break. At the beginning of next semester, I think we will be able to recalibrate even more intentionally. In the meantime, asking them to be accountable to what they are really struggling with vs. what they aren't trying very hard with seems to have set things on a better track today.

4 Wrap up and Next Steps - 5 minutes

Before the period ends, I will pull students back together to answer any questions and to remind them that they have a chapter that needs to be read for homework tonight. I will also ask them to be mindful of the fact that we need to be ready to dive into the British side of things tomorrow.