"The Best Laid Plans Of Mice and Men": Lesson Plan on Where the Title "Of Mice and Men" Comes From

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After teaching students about allegory, imagery, characterization, and plot in Of Mice and Men, I felt good. I bragged to my supervising administrator and demanded a raise. Then a student asked, “From where does the title Of Mice and Men come?” I didn’t know. I had failed my students. In shock, I ran back to my supervising administrator, rescinded my raise request, gave him my most recent paycheck, and cancelled my weekend trip to Jamaica.

I had work to do. I had to find out from where does the title Of Mice and Men come and devise a lesson plan. Here it is.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

The title of Of Mice and Men is taken from a poem by Robert Burns. “To a Mouse” describes how a mouse’s home is destroyed by a farmer’s plow even though the mouse thinks he has discovered an invulnerable site. Steinbeck borrowed a significant line in the poem to use as his title: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” That is, even the best ideas can fail.

Anyone who has read the novel would agree that Lennie and George’s plans go awry (unless you consider shooting your best friend in the back of the head as a desirable result, of course).


Writing Prompt: Do you agree with Burn’s comment about plans and dreams? Why do you think we still continue to dream despite that many dreams are never realized and many plans are defeated? Write a well-organized paragraph, following the format below.

I. Topic Sentence: Mention the title of poem, the author of the poem and the theme of the poem. Be sure to address how Burns views dreams in the poem? Example: In To a Mouse, Robert Burns views dreams with pessimism.

A. Fact #1: (transition, lead-in, quote) To lead into the quote, briefly explain what happens to the mouse and then connect it to the quote: “The best laid plans o’ mice and men often go awry.”

1. Analysis: How does the mouse’s difficulty illustrate Burn’s viewpoint on the worthlessness of dreams?

2. Analysis: How does the mouse’s misfortune show the folly of dreams?

B. Fact #2: Remember to begin with a transition that relates the new fact to the previous sentence. Example: Despite Burns’ pessimistic view of dreams, they are important…

1. Analysis: Are dreams important even if they don’t come true?

2. Analysis: How do dreams improve our lives?

C. Concluding Sentence: Restate the topic sentence in a new way. No facts here.

Unit Plans

Looking for a standards based syllabus for high school language arts? Click the link and find all the resources–lesson plans, unit plans, handouts, powerpoints–you need for an entire semester.

This post is part of the series: Of Mice and Men Lesson Plans

Students love Of Mice and Men. Help them develop critical thinking skills with these lesson plans.

  1. Teaching Allegory in Of Mice and Men
  2. Teaching Students to Analyze Imagery in ‘Of Mice and Men’
  3. The Best Laid (Lesson) Plans Of Mice and Men
  4. Lesson Plan: Analyzing Circular Plot in Of Mice and Men
  5. Of Mice and Men: Does it Belong in High Schools?