"To a Mouse" Connect Robert Burns’ Poem to Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, CCSS

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Laura Randazzo
Grade Levels
8th - 11th, Homeschool
Resource Type
Formats Included
  • PDF
  • Google Apps™
2-page PDF + Google Drive version of student handout
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Laura Randazzo
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The Teacher-Author indicated this resource includes assets from Google Workspace (e.g. docs, slides, etc.).


“So, what does the title mean, anyway?” If you’ve ever taught Of Mice and Men, you know that you’re bound to be asked this question by the end of your unit. In this one-period Common Core-aligned lesson, introduce students to the poetry of Robert Burns as you help them make connections between the classic poem and their study of John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men. And, yes, they’ll answer that question about the title for themselves before the class period is over.

Toward the end of our novel study, I give students a copy of the “To a Mouse” poem (Steinbeck references the great Scotman’s poem in the title of his tragic novella) and have them work in teams of two to answer the layered questions that will lead to a deep understanding of Burns, Steinbeck, and the belief about the nature of life that united these two great writers. This assignment would work just as well as a solo in-class activity or as a homework assignment with discussion on the following day.

The 2-page PDF includes a student worksheet with the public domain poem and a detailed answer key for easy grading and class discussion starters. A Google Drive version of the student handout/question set is included.

Note: This assignment uses a standard English translation of Burns’ poem, as the Scots dialect of the original proved too difficult for some of my former students to decode. Numerous versions of the original are available online. The worksheet questions apply to whichever version of the poem you prefer.

Please note that this lesson is included in my money-saving FOUR WEEK UNIT covering Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men. No need to purchase this lesson separately if you've already own the Of Mice and Men bundle.

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Cover image credit: Pixabay, Public domain

Total Pages
2-page PDF + Google Drive version of student handout
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
45 minutes
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work (e.g., how Shakespeare treats a theme or topic from Ovid or the Bible or how a later author draws on a play by Shakespeare).
By the end of grade 9, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 9-10 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.


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