The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse
Students read and discuss “The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse”—a gentler type of satire, known as Horatian. Then they create concrete details to modernize the story.
- Read the lesson and student content.
- Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
- OPTIONAL: Find a video of a cartoon version of “The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse” to show in class.
- As you circulate around the room, prompt students to recall two concepts from Lesson 5, paradox and juxtaposition.
- You can engage some of your struggling readers with the following questions:
- ✓ Did they like Gordimer’s story? Why or why not?
- ✓ Should she have made it gentler?
- SWD: As you prompt students to provide explanations of those two concepts, ask probing questions to be sure they fully understand each of the concepts and they know what we mean when we say Juvenalian and why. Since they have been studying these topics for some time now, they should be able to explain fully. Allow them to work in pairs if they don’t fully understand. Additionally, group those students who are struggling and offer support if needed.
As you discuss these questions with a partner, refer to the story and jot down notes to use in a class discussion.
- What were some of the harsher or more Juvenalian details in the story “Once Upon a Time”?
- What made it satire?
- Encourage students to identify specific lines and examples from the story to support their ideas.
- SWD: A Quick Write is a good opportunity to assess the stamina and ability of SWDs. If you still think some SWDs need the additional support, provide them with sentence starters or prompts and limit the number of sentences.
Complete a Quick Write. Identify specific lines and examples from the story to support your ideas.
- What is tone in literature?
- What makes something harsh or gentle?
Then talk about your responses with your classmates.
The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse
- Beginning broadly and moving more and more narrowly into the satire, ask students what actually occurred in the satire. Ground them in the plot before moving to analysis.
- SWD: Be sure that all SWDs feel encouraged and welcomed to share even though they may work at a slower pace and need more wait-time than other students. As you’re facilitating the discussions, be aware of how much SWDs are sharing. If you consider it necessary, speak to students about the importance of allowing enough time for everybody to participate.
- ELL: Monitor that ELLs do not avoid this activity by staying quiet and not sharing. Always make sure that all ELLs feel encouraged to share even if their command of the language is weaker and their pace might be slower.
- A sample annotation is provided, noting aspects of Horace’s tone and concrete details.
- You can introduce the term situational irony here since students will most likely have expected the country mouse to fall in love with life in the city. Situational irony occurs when the audience expects one thing to occur and something else happens instead.
- Next, consider the story in terms of satire:
- ✓ Why is it satire?
- ✓ What is Horace criticizing in society?
- Ask students to consider the tone of the story, which is certainly gentle.
- Ask students for lines or descriptions that are especially gentle.
Reread “The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse.” Discuss with your classmates what happened in this story.
- What did you think would happen when you first heard that the country mouse would visit the town mouse?
- What do you think Horace is criticizing in society?
- Would you say it’s a harsh story in tone or a gentle story?
Juvenalian and Horatian Satire
- Encourage students to share their Venn diagrams of Juvenalian and Horatian satire. Use their responses to create a class version.
- Discuss with your classmates the Venn diagram for Juvenalian satire and Horatian satire that you began as homework. Update it as necessary.
Appropriate for Children
- Students may be interested in some of the differences in the story as it’s presented today.
- Consider showing one of a number of cartoon versions of the story before the Whole Group Discussion. You may not need to show the whole video since the story is fairly familiar.
- ELL: Be sure that all ELLs can follow the video. If needed, pause as many times as necessary to check for understanding and to monitor that all students are on board. Realize that the speech might be hard for non-native speakers to follow. Allow all students, but especially ELLs, to ask questions as needed. Since students might lose the flow if the video is paused so many times, it might be a good idea to show it without interruptions once and then show it again with pauses.
The story of the city mouse and country mouse has appeared in many children’s books and has been the feature of a number of cartoons.
Discuss the following questions with your classmates.
- How many of you are familiar with this story?
- Why is this story especially appropriate for children (versus “Once Upon a Time”)?
- Are there any popular movies or television shows that have played with the same central idea?
- As you circulate, you’ll notice who’s struggling with this assignment, and who’s flourishing.
- ELL: In forming pairs or small groups, be aware of your ELLs and ensure that they have a learning environment where they can be productive. Sometimes this means grouping them with native speakers so ELLs can learn from the native counterparts’ language skills. Other times it means grouping ELLs with students who are at the same level of language skills so they can take a more active role and work things out together. Yet other times it means grouping ELLs with students whose proficiency level is lower so that ELLs get to play the supportive role.
- Those who are finding it easy might consider coming up with details that are more Juvenalian.
- Those who are struggling might receive a narrower task:
- ✓ How would Horace describe suburban or rural life today to make it sound attractive?
- ✓ Or how would he describe urban life to make it unappealing?
- Be sure students remember how specific they need to be for concrete details to be truly concrete. The first Horatian reading has some wonderful concrete details if they need reminding.
- Look for a group to use as an example in the Closing.
Consider how you might retell the story “The Country Mouse and the Town Mouse.”
- How would you modernize this story?
- What concrete details would you use today to contrast the lives of those in the cities with those in the suburbs or country if you wanted to show that a simpler life is best?
Work in trios to come up with concrete details, and share them with your classmates.
Example From Modern Mice
- You’re aiming to get students started on their homework, which will be to comment on each other’s details.
- SWD: If some students with disabilities still struggle to share with the whole group, continue having conference time to build self-confidence.
- You can invite them all to make their details more Juvenalian, if they like.
- Share one example from your modernized story with the class.
Reaction to Modern Mice
- Encourage students to read several of their classmates’ stories before commenting on at least two.
- ELL: Be sure that students who come from cultures where critiquing is not regarded as something positive understand that in this country we appreciate clear and specific comments, and we consider other’s feedback as an important element in improving ourselves and our work.
Take some time to comment on at least two other trios’ details from their modernized mouse story.
- What details were especially apt?
Also, read the article on director John Hughes and his movies, which include The Breakfast Club , another classic satire.