The Lion and the Mouse

Can drastically different creatures become the best of friends?

By Sara Bodi and Karen Trott
From the September 2015 Issue

Learning Objective: Students will identify the moral of a fable and analyze how it connects to a nonfiction text.

Guided Reading Level: P
DRA Level: 38
Activities (3) Download All Activities
Quizzes (2)
Quizzes (2)

More About the Story


vocabulary, fluency, close reading, character, drawing conclusions, inference, character’s motivation, text features, summarizing, author’s point of view, connecting texts, explanatory writing

Complexity Factors

Levels of Meaning

Based on one of Aesop’s fables, this play delivers powerful messages; for example, even the very small may have valuable talents. The accompanying essay describes a real-life friendship between two animals.


The play is chronological. Some complete sentences are broken into multiple narrator lines. The essay includes compare-and-contrast structures.


The texts include some higher-level academic vocabulary, such as forage, relent, famished, and sanctuary, as well as alliteration, rhetorical questions, and archaic constructions.

Knowledge Demands 

Prior experience with the genre of fables will be helpful.

Content-Area Connections

Character education; Science: animals

Step-by-Step Lesson Plan

1. Preparing to Read

Preview Vocabulary

  • Give students a minute to look over the play and its pairing. Prompt them to try to find the eight words in bold as they do.
  • Distribute our vocabulary activity sheet to preview the words and their meanings.
  • Highlighted words: forage, relent, laden, famished, glint, capable, snared, sanctuary

Set a Purpose for Reading (3 minutes)

  • Ask a volunteer to read aloud the Up Close box on page 23. Ask students if they can remember other fables they have read and the morals of these stories.

2. Reading the Play

Assign parts and read the play aloud as a class. After reading, ask students to answer the closereading questions in groups.

Close-Reading Questions

  • In Scene 1, Tiny begs to go out into the night, even though she is small. What does this tell you about her? (character) This tells you that she is confident and fearless. Being small doesn’t make her feel less capable than her older, bigger family members.
  • In Scenes 2 and 3, what dangers does Tiny run into? How does she escape them? What can you conclude about Tiny? (drawing conclusions) She is hunted by an owl, crocodiles, and a cobra. Each time, she escapes because she is small and quick. You can conclude that she uses her size, which others see as a problem, to help her.
  • In Scene 4, what is Lion suggesting when he says, “I eat only meat, no matter how miniature the morsel”? (inference) He is suggesting that he is going to eat Tiny.
  • Why does Lion laugh when Tiny says, “If you spare my life, someday I will return the favor”? Does Tiny really mean it? (character’s motivation) Lion laughs because it seems ridiculous that such a small animal could help a powerful animal like himself. Tiny is being sincere; she doesn’t believe that her size makes her weaker.
  • Why does Tiny go to help Lion when she hears him howling? (character’s motivation) She wants to return Lion’s favor of not eating her. Also, she wants to help someone in need.
  • In the end, Lion says, “Never could I imagine being saved by such a small creature.” What has he learned? (moral) He has learned not to judge someone by their size. He has also learned that someone you might not expect to be your friend can be a good friend after all.

3. Reading the Informational Text

  • Have students work in pairs or small groups to read “An Unlikely Friendship” and answer the close-reading questions. They should stay in their groups to discuss the critical-thinking questions.

Close-Reading Questions

  • How does the photo of Owen and Mzee on page 27 help you understand the article? (text features) The photo shows the two animals side by side. They both look calm and happy. The photo helps you understand that these very different animals care about each other.
  • How did Owen and Mzee become friends? (summarizing) Owen was moved to Haller Park after losing his whole family in a tsunami. He followed Mzee around until the tortoise accepted him as a friend.
  • How does the author explain their friendship? (author’s point of view) The author suggests that Mzee understood that Owen was alone and “needed comfort and companionship to survive.”

Critical-Thinking Questions

  • What is the moral of The Lion and the Mouse? (moral) Students might suggest a few morals: Friendships can come from unexpected places; your judgments of others could be wrong; sometimes the weak can help the strong.
  • Why does Tiny repeat throughout the play, “You’d be surprised at what I can do”? (character) Other characters keep underestimating what Tiny can do. She has to convince them that she’s skillful even though she’s small.
  • How are Lion and Mouse similar to Owen and Mzee? (connecting texts) Both sets of animals seem to be unlikely pairs, but they end up being friends. In both cases, the animals find that they need one another.

4. Skill Building

Featured Skill: Moral of a Fable

  • Distribute the moral of a fable activity. Start it as a class, then direct students to complete it in small groups. It will prepare them to respond to the writing prompt on page 26.

Differentiate and Customize
For Struggling Readers

Invite students to imagine themselves as Lion, Mouse, Owen, or Mzee. Ask them to write a letter to their partner, saying why he or she is a good friend.

For Advanced Readers

Have students read other fables to find one with a moral they like. Ask them to make an illustrated poster to present the fable they chose. On it, they should state the moral in their own words and explain why they like the fable.