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Teaching Guide

Teaching Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Cat's out of the bag.

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Despite all their rage, they’re still just rats in a cage. Well, they’re out of the cage, but the adventure is just getting started. Our teaching guide is quick and painless—and free of animal testing.

In this guide, you will find

  • lessons exploring the ethics of animal testing (don’t tell PETA).
  • an activity mapping FitzGibbons’ Farm and its surrounding locales.
  • pop culture resources jammed full of other talking-animal tales.

And so much more.

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Instructions for You

Objective: Jenner and his friends are not at all pleased about what has happened to the rats of NIMH. Jenner doesn't think that rats have any business being as smart as they have become and totally rejects "The Plan." So, he packs up, grabs six of his best friends, and takes off. For this lesson, students will take a walk in Jenner's (teeny little) rat shoes and write a letter from his point of view, answering some lingering questions in the minds of rats and readers alike. The brainstorming, writing, and sharing processes should take less than a week of class time.

Materials Needed: Computers with a word processing program, or a good old-fashioned pencil and paper will do

Step 1: We know, we know, Jenner is never technically in the story. We only hear about him from Nicodemus, but his stories provide a bunch of information that tells us what kind of rat this guy is. As a class, brainstorm words/phrases that describe him, and keep a running list of descriptors on the board. If your students are a little fuzzy, reread the parts of the book where Nicodemus tells us about Jenner.

Step 2: Now, ask your students to put themselves into those teeny little rat shoes of Jenner's–well, at least two of the four. Their task: Imagine that you are Jenner and are going to leave a note for all of your rat friends, saying goodbye and explaining why you're leaving. (Remember, in this book, rats are super intelligent and totally know how to read and write–so rest assured that this assignment is completely realistic.)

Before having your students jump right in, brainstorm a list of what they might want to include in their letters to provide them with a little focus. Here are some examples:

  • An explanation of why "The Plan" doesn't work for him
  • Why he's taking six other rats with him
  • How he felt about becoming so advanced
  • What he'll miss about home (if anything)
  • Where he will go and/or what he'll do when he gets there

Step 3: Once students feel comfortable about content, let's talk style. Review parts of a friendly letter: heading, greeting, body, closing, and signature.

Step 4: At this point, students should be itching to start writing their letters. Give them ample time to draft, revise, and edit. This process can be done independently, with a partner, and/or in small groups. We think it would also work very well as a peer revision opportunity if you have some extra time.

Step 5: Ask for volunteers to share their letters. Then, have your students reflect using the following questions in small group discussions:

  • Is Jenner bad? Why or why not?
  • What would you do if Jenner asked you to come along with him?
  • Does Jenner remind you of any characters from other stories who don't go along with the majority? Which characters? How is Jenner similar to and/or different from those characters?

Instructions for Your Students

Jenner and his friends are not at all pleased about what has happened to the rats of NIMH. Jenner doesn't think that rats have any business being as smart as they have become and totally rejects "The Plan." So, he packs up, grabs six of his best friends, and takes off. For this lesson, you will take a walk in Jenner's (teeny little) rat shoes and write a letter from his point of view, answering some lingering questions in the minds of rats and readers alike. This rat's got some serious explaining to do.

Step 1: We know, we know, Jenner is never technically in the story. We only hear about him from Nicodemus, but his stories provide a bunch of information that tells us what kind of rat this guy is. As a class, let's brainstorm words/phrases that describe him, and your teacher will keep a running list of your ideas on the board. Psst: if you're a little fuzzy on the details, reread the parts of the book where Nicodemus tells us about Jenner to refresh your memory.

Step 2: Now, put yourself into those teeny little rat shoes of Jenner's–well, at least two of the four. Your task: Imagine that you are Jenner and are going to leave a note for all of your rat friends, saying goodbye and explaining why you're leaving. (Remember, in this book, rats are super intelligent and totally know how to read and write—so rest assured that this assignment is completely realistic.)

Hold on a minute: before jumping right into your letter, let's first brainstorm a list of what you might want to include in their letters to help you focus a little better. Any ideas?

Step 3: Last thing: let's talk style and review the parts of a friendly letter: heading, greeting, body, closing, and signature.

Step 4: At this point, we hope you're itching to start writing your letters! Get to it, and make Jenner proud!

Step 5: Would any volunteers like to share their letters? Come on, don't be shy! (Jenner sure wasn't!) Remember, there's no "right" or "wrong" here, so don't worry if your letter is different from others' in the class.

After everyone has shared, the last thing we're going to do is reflect in small groups. Chew on the following questions (pun intended!):

  • Is Jenner bad? Why or why not?
  • What would you do if Jenner asked you to come along with him?
  • Does Jenner remind you of any characters from other stories who don't go along with the majority? Which characters? How is Jenner similar to and/or different from those characters?

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Common Core Standards  

The following standards are covered in this course:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.5
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.7
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.9
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.4
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.2
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.3
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.6
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.1
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12.4
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.1
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.2
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.4
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.5
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.9
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.10
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.3
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.6.6
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.3
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.4
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.5
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.7
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.9
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.10
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.1
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.2
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.6
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.8
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.1
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.2
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.3
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.4
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.5
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.6.6
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6.1
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6.2
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6.3
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6.4
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6.5
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.L.6.6
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.1
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.2
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.3
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.4
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.5
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.10
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.6
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.7
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.8
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.6.9

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