English Language Arts, Composition and Rhetoric
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Language
  • Vignettes
  • Writing
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Mood Establishment In Scenes

    Mood Establishment In Scenes


    In this lesson, students will review the ways in which Dickens establishes a mood in the scenes in Paris, creating suspense and shaping the readers’ opinions of the Revolution. They will also review the way the “two cities” (London and Paris) compare.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Create partner groups of mixed ability
    • Find places in the text where students will find helpful quotations in Task 3.

    The Wine Shop

    • Tell students that they are going to do a Quick Write from the point of view of one of the members of the Jacquerie.
    • Then you can say something like this, “Bonjour, members of the Jacquerie. Bonjour, conspirators of the French Revolution. For the next sixty seconds, you are having a meeting in the Wine Shop with the other rebels. Will you talk about destruction? Will you complain about your lives? What might you say? Oui, Oui ! Please begin to write your secret conversations.”
    • In your prompting here, you can offer as much clarification of the plot of the scene as you wish. Student writing need only last as long as a few moments, your goal is to get them imagining the scene.
    • ELL: For those students who struggle with written English, you can have them complete this task via discussion with you or a partner.


    The Wine Shop seems to have become a place for secrets: secret codes, secret meetings, secret plans for Revolution. In a Quick Write, respond to the following.

    • Imagine you are a Jacques. Write a short conversation you might have at the wine shop with another Jacques or Monsieur Defarge.
    • What would likely be your subject matter? How would you choose to express those thoughts?
    • Feel free to use techniques from the novel itself as models of the manner of speaking you see happening at the wine shop.

    The Mood of the Wine Shop

    • Ask the students to explain the mood they imagined. (They don’t need to share what they have written unless you decide they should.) Direct them to find passages in the chapter that capture this mood and/or direct them to some key passages that you want them to notice.
    • Find the passage about Madame DeFarge and the register. Check for understanding about the relationship between Madame DeFarge’s knitting and the register, and about the significance of her saying that she knits shrouds. ELL: Take a minute to check for understanding of the word shroud and to discuss how Dickens uses it here to create a mood.
    • If necessary, remind students of the definition of allusion and invite students to consider the ways in which the knitting is an allusion to the Fates.

    Work Time

    When you finish with your writing, join the whole class and address the following questions.

    • What is the mood of the wine shop?
    • What details in the chapter establish this mood?
    • How do the references to the register and Madame Defarge’s knitting  affect your sense of the mood?

    Cruncher and Defarge

    • Split students into partners and have them investigate the similarities between DeFarge and Cruncher.
    • If necessary, direct students to particular parts of the text to help them find quotations.
    • After they have completed as much of their charts as they can in the time allotted, ask them if they see significant similarities between the two men. Encourage them to share some of the text they have sited that reveals those similarities. SWD: For students who may benefit from focusing on a smaller portion of this task, you can divide the task of completing the chart among students and have them share answers.
    • Once there is a firm foundation for comparison established, ask if they can see reasons that Dickens is interested in the French Revolution. They may only see that both characters reveal struggles of the poor, yet try to encourage them to notice the frenzy in the funeral procession. (The mob in England foreshadows the French mob behavior, for example.)

    Work Time

    In this story of two cities, these chapters begin to draw clear parallels between London and Paris, especially in the two men: Monsieur Defarge and Jerry Cruncher. These two men are workingmen, and looking at the ways that they are related can help you think about Dickens’s interest in writing about the history of France. Join a partner as directed and do the following.

    • With your partner, look at the chart for comparing these two men.
    • Gather at least one quote from each man in response to each of the following:
      • How do they make money?
      • What is their relationship to laws and the authorities?
      • What secrets do they have?
      • What are their marriages like?
      • How much power does each have?
      • How do the processions that they witness in these chapters compare?

    Once you have completed your work together, your teacher will guide you through an analysis of the parallels between the characters.

    The Eyes of a Child

    • Facilitate a conversation about the presence of “children.” You can begin with the notion that innocence that can be corrupted, for example. NOTE: If you have added time in this lesson, you might consider having the students do additional Quick Write summaries of events from the point of view of Jerry’s son and/or from the point of view of the Mender of Roads. Allowing them to “see” from their perspectives might help the students “see” their innocence. Such an exercise can also serve for plot review/clarification.
    • Consider having students submit their Quick Writes to allow you a window into their grasp of the more subtle details of the novel, and of the implications of character and point of view.
    • In the Victorian era, children were viewed differently than they are today, and symbolized innocence. Knowing this might help some students answer this question more easily. SWD: To check for understanding, if time allows, during this task you can confer with students who are better able to express their understanding in conversation.


    Although the Mender of Roads is an adult, the Defarges (who don’t seem to have children of their own—a notable fact), refer to the Mender of Roads as a child. Young Jerry, of course, is a child. Consider those facts, and in a Quick Write, address the following question.

    • Along with adding another parallel between life in London and life in France, what does the presence and perspective of “children,” real and otherwise, contribute to the plot and to the meaning of the novel?

    Open Notebook

    As directed, submit your writing to your teacher.

    Book II, Chapters 16 and 17

    • Now that students are in the routine and you have a sense of their individual needs around the text, challenge and assist them as needed.


    • Read Book II Chapters 16 and 17 of A Tale of Two Cities and annotate for key ideas, personal reactions, questions, and vocabulary.