English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Description
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Literary Devices
  • Metaphor
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Content Grammar

    Content Grammar


    In this lesson, students will focus on grammar as it relates to this section of A Tale of Two Cities.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Create appropriate partner groups.

    The Opening of Book II

    • Although this opening paragraph of the second book appears to be a straightforward description of a setting, the vocabulary, word and verb choices, pronoun references, and parallel syntax may present close-reading challenges for student readers.
    • Also note that many of these questions posed by the text provide opportunities for a variety of responses, and therefore the expectation that students will provide text support or appropriate background knowledge for their responses should be clear and frequently reinforced.
    • ELL: You can provide support to students with limited experience with Victorian-era history and literature via Internet sites including the BBC’s “Horrible Histories” website,, and As much as possible, provide what students need to know so that finding and learning background information does not become additional work.


    The second book of A Tale of Two Cities is called The Golden Thread . Listen as your teacher reads aloud the first paragraph, then join a partner as directed and work on the following. Here and throughout the lesson, note any questions you are unsure of for sharing with the whole class.

    • Briefly discuss with your partner what you think this second book may be about based on what you already know from the first book.
    • Together, read the opening paragraph aloud again. Highlight any vocabulary you are unfamiliar with or uncertain about. Jot down as annotations some possible ideas about the meaning of the words you highlighted based on what the paragraph tells you.
    • In a Quick Write, describe what you think it might be like to be an employee of Tellson’s.
    • When you have finished, share your Quick Write with your partner and talk about the differences you noticed between the Quick Writes.

    Open Notebook

    When you have finished this sharing, look up the meanings of the unfamiliar words and compare the appropriate ones with your partner’s thoughts.

    Dickens's Grammar and Word Choice

    • Work with the class on the grammar lesson. Remind students that learning these grammatical principles will make them clearer, stronger writers.
    • Circulate around the room and answer questions from the small groups.
    • SWD: If you have students who will benefit from being allowed to focus on only certain grammar questions, specify your requirements for them now.

    Work Time

    • Individually, answer the questions on the grammar lesson about specific aspects of the paragraph you have just read.
    • Discuss your answers with your partner.

    Open Notebook

    Share any remaining questions you and your partner have with the whole class.

    Dickens's Verbs

    • Students may need some support in locating and identifying forms of the verb “to be” and action verbs. Again, circulate and assign partner groups as necessary.
    • If the whole class could benefit from a short intervention and explanation, consider doing that.
    • The interpretation of grammatical elements may be a struggle for some students. Make sure that students understand “parallel syntax” as well as any other technical language before pursuing the interpretation of those elements.
    • The italicized “to be” and bolded active verbs are below:
      • ✓ “TELLSON’S BANK by Temple Bar was an old-fashioned place, even in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty. It was very small, very dark, very ugly, very incommodious. It was an old-fashioned place, moreover, in the moral attribute that the partners in the House were proud of its smallness, proud of its darkness, proud of its ugliness, proud of its incommodiousness. They were even boastful of its eminence in those particulars, and werefired by an express conviction that, if it were less objectionable, it would be less respectable. This was no passive belief, but an active weapon which they flashed at more convenient places of business. Tellson’s (they said) wanted no elbow-room, Tellson’s wanted no light, Tellson’s wanted no embellishment. Noakes and Co.’s might, or Snooks Brothers’ might; but Tellson’s, thank Heaven!”
    • ELL: Some ELLs may benefit from a quick review of how verbs usually function in English. It can be both helpful and interesting to them to compare how verbs work in their primary language and identify similarities and differences.
    • SWD: The use of the verb "wanted" in this context can be confusing for some students. If this is the case, help them parse the idea of a place, and not a person, wanting something and what Dickens means when he uses this verb.

    Work Time

    Dickens’s choice of verbs gives the reader additional and different understanding of both the “partners” point of view and the narrator’s point of view. With your partner, complete the following.

    • Highlight all the verbs that are forms of “ to be .”
    • Next, underline all the verbs that indicate action.
    • When you have finished highlighting and underlining, consider the sequence, number and parallel syntax of the “ to be ” verbs and theactive verbs .
    • Discuss what that might suggest about the nature of Tellson’s and its employees.
    • Do the sequence, number and parallel syntax also suggest anything about the narrator’s point of view toward Tellson’s?

    Your Response to the Text

    • The Writing Response to the Text may be assigned as class work or homework depending on individual student or class needs.
    • These are enriching exercises, and if you have time, they would allow many students to visualize the story more vividly, whether in actual images or in words.
    • If you do not have time to assign this work in class, consider making it part of the homework assignment.
    • If you do choose to use these prompts, also consider building in time during the next lesson for some sharing of the students’ work.
    • SWD: You can encourage students who are more visual learners to create a representation here that can serve as a reference point for the class as you proceed through the text and unit.


    Consider Dickens’s description of Tellson’s in the paragraph you have been working with. Light, sound, color, space, age, movement, and attitude are all revealed to varying degrees by the author’s word choices, including his verb choices, and syntax.

    • Write a narrative or dramatic scene, set in Tellson’s Bank, of a young man or woman who suggests some modernizations for Tellson’s to one of the old partners.
    • Include movement, dialogue, and a variety of descriptive words  that are different than Dickens’s choices but that still capture the gist of the paragraph.
    • Alternatively, draw a picture of the inside of Tellson’s that captures the gist of this paragraph.

    Open Notebook

    Book II, Chapters 1 and 2

    • Annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.
    • Remind students to read and annotate carefully. You might consider asking for a certain number of annotations per chapter, such as five or six, to help students gauge your expectations.


    • Read Book II, Chapters 1 and 2 of A Tale of Two Cities.
    • Annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.