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"Integrating the Internet with the Literature Lesson"

by Ahuva Weiss

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This unit presents an interdisciplinary approach to the English lesson. The poet chosen for this unit is included in the Bagrut literature progran. The unit integrates literature, art and the internet which provides endless, varied and exciting materials for use in reading, writing and oral presentation. Activities for group-work promote social interaction. In fact, the unit touches all four domains discussed in the New Curriculum i.e. accessing information, social interaction, appreciation of literature, language and culture and presentation.

W.H. Auden Bruegel’s “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”

Lesson Plan


Level: 11th / 12th grades, 5pt. Bagrut level / Native speakers

Time needed for activity: 1-2 lessons in the computer lab

2 lessons in the classroom

General Description:

  1. Reading and understanding the poem “Musee des Beaux Arts” by W. H. Auden

  1. Using the Internet to find the legend and painting(s) mentioned by the poet as well as necessary background information. I have chosen to do this prior to the reading of the poem.

Skill requirements:

  1. Students should have basic skills of browsing; if not, this can serve as practice.
  2. Classes with knowledge of Power Point can prepare presentations of their findings.


  1. Students will learn a poem (from their Bagrut program) with the aid of the internet.
  2. Students will learn/practice using the web and locating given sites.
  3. Students will take a virtual trip to a museum.
  4. Students will practice scanning for specific information on the Internet.
  5. Students will present their findings orally. Those who know it will use Power Point to help them in their oral presentation.



Teaching and learning techniques:

  1. Pair-work in the computer lab. Worksheets with instructions and specific web sites given.
  2. Pairs are grouped. Each group of 4-6 will work together on an oral presentation of findings.
  3. Teacher reads the poem aloud (twice). Then there are 2 options:

a)class discussion- interpretation of poem based on what the students have read /seen on the web or heard from their classmates’ reports.

b) individual work- a written assignment or a worksheet aimed at comprehension and interpretation of the poem .

Rationale: In the age characterized by massive amounts of information transmitted worldwide through computers, the EFL class cannot remain unchanged. It is important to have the students use the Internet as a research

tool and show them how to be selective as to the reliability of the sources. It is also a source of enrichment for any topic, theme, or current issues dealt with in class.

Furthermore, the Internet can be used to integrate different subjects in school, thus helping the school set up interdisciplinary projects. In this short unit on a poem by W. H. Auden, the Internet has allowed facile integration between literature, art and the historical theme of the indifference of mankind in the face of suffering and disaster.

It goes without saying that the internet provides endless, varied and exciting materials for use in reading, writing and oral activities in the English class.

Note to the teacher:

If you would like to have the whole class read the poem and have a glimpse at the painting, go to :

This site is also given in the " Group C" work-page.


TEL : 02-6513003






A Greek Legend

You are going to find out about a certain legend from Greek Mythology. You will then tell your class what you have learned.

  1. Before you work on the Internet:

  1. Tell each other whatever you know about the names "Daedalus" and "Icarus".
  2. Write down the parts of the story you shared with each other. __________

  1. Search the Web.

In order to find out more about the legend, go to web-sites which tell us about Greek Mythology.

The legend of Daedalus and Icarus: 2 short encyclopedic entries:


Fill in according to what you have read.

Daedalus was an _________. He designed the __________ which was a maze (îáåê ) on the island of Crete. He was imprisoned in this Labyrinth and in order to _______ , he made wings for himself and for his ______, Icarus. These wings were made of _________ held together by _______, Daedalus told his son not to ______ too close to the sun, but Icarus did not _______ to this warning and he _______ too high up. The sun ________ the wax and he fell.

  1. What do you think about Icarus? Discuss his character and action (several possibilities)
  2. What do you think of the consequences (úåöàåú ) of his actions? Was it a punishment? A natural event? An important event?





You will look at a painting and read an interpretation of it. You will then tell the class about what you have seen and read.

I. In order to see the famous painting, go to the following web site: (large on screen) OR (small on screen)

1. Scroll down to see the whole painting, its name, the name of the artist and the year it was painted. Write down all this information._____________________________



  1. Look closely at the painting. Discuss what you see and then, as a group, write down the description of what you see in this picture.
  2. ________________________________________________________________



  3. Look at the name of the painting. What is the connection? __________________


  1. Read an interpretation of this painting. Go to : the painting with a short analysis. Then go to: **

  1. Read paragraph II ("At first sight…") and paragraph III. According to this passage, there is a story behind this painting. Which parts of the story (a Greek Legend) are shown in the painting? _______________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________
  2. __________________________________________________________________

  3. Scan paragraph VI ("SO far…") for some details in the picture which do NOT follow the Greek Legend of Icarus
    a. _______________________ b)_________________________________

Scroll down and find 3 themes presented by the writer "Motifs and Themes". Copy them down.




W. H. Auden

You will find out about a modern poet using two different sources: the Internet and the nelectronic encyclopedia. You will then share this information with your class.

I. Go to

Click on “Biography” and search for Auden. This is a web-encyclopaediaL or go straight to this Biographical entry: or at another biographical site:

1.W.H.Auden was born and educated in ____________. He died in the year ____.

2.Additional information ______________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________

II. See Appendix : Read the passage on W.H. Auden

1. Auden was known for his sensitivity towards social injustices. Copy the sentences in paragraph 2 that show that he was against war. __________________________



2. Look at the dates of the poems which express Auden's antiwar feelings. He was alluding to the difficult years _______ War ___which began in ____.

3. Read the first 4 lines of paragraph III ("Auden lived in Germany…) According to these lines, he helped a certain Jewish woman at a time when it was dangerous for her to remain in Germany. The woman's name was ________________ and he helped her by ___________ her fictitiously (= not really) though he was not Jewish, so that she could get a British ________ and escape to England. He did this at a time when the Nazis came to ______ and the rest of the _________ kept silent.

III. Read Auden's poem "Musee Des Beaux Arts", written in 1939.

( )

Which lines connect it with the above question?

IV. You can hear Auden reading one of his poems.

Go to:



The Virtual Museum

You are going to find out about certain paintings by one of the ‘Old Masters’ of Renaissance art, Pieter Bruegel. You will visit a virtual art gallery as well as a museum in Europe. You will see various paintings, but will look closely at a few. You will tell your class where you have visited, and what you have seen.

You are going to visit the Web Gall

1. Go to URL:

2. _________________painted these pictures during the _______century.

  • Look at the ‘preview’ of the paintings and their names and categorize the paintings according to their subject matter or theme. Some may have more than one theme.
  • Landscape: ___________________ ___________________
  • Life of the peasants______________ ___________________
  • Biblical Themes _________________ ___________________
  • Legends and Parables____________ ___________________
  • 3. Go to another page at the Web Gallery. It has a few Landscape paintings by Bruegel. Go to URL:

    Look at “The Hunters in the Snow” Double click on the picture to enlarge it.

    Describe what the children are doing and where they are.

    1. If you wanted to see the original painting, which museum would you visit and in which city?

    a) The Beggars _________________ , ________________

    b) The Harvesters _______________ , ________________

    c) Landscape with the Fall of Icarus ___________________, ___________

    You are going on a virtual trip to the museum (see above 2 c) to see Landscape with the Fall of Icarus as well as another painting.


    Click with your mouse on the picture fill in or answer the questions:

    1. The farmer is moving _______ from the sea.
    2. The shepherd is looking at _________________.
    3. The ship is moving towards/ away from ________________.
    4. Do you see the “Fall” of anyone?_____ Explain. __________________

    1. Click with your mouse or the “Back” icon to see the other painting by Bruegel at the museum. The name of the painting is ____________________.

    1. Click on the painting to get a larger image. Describe the old men and the baby. What is this painting about?

    1. It seems that Auden is referring to “The Adoration of the King” which is another painting in the Brussels Museum:

    Which lines of the poem seem to be describing this painting? What do these lines mean?






    You are going to enter a special museum: a virtual art gallery of some of the best known works of the “Old Master”. While you enjoy looking at the paintings, you can listen to the accompanying music. (Don’t forget to click with your mouse on the ‘play’ button.)

    1. This is a beautiful site (and sight!)

    1. Artists according to names A-Z


    1. Write down some of the names of the well-known artists of the Renaissance and the names of their masterpieces:

    _1)___________________ 2)___________________ 3)__________________

    ____________________ ___________________ ___________________

    4.____________________ 5) __________________ 6) ___________________

    ______________________ __________________ ___________________

    2.You can find out about the Renaissance in the following URL:

    Pieter Bruegel is one of these ‘Old Masters’. Find out some biographical notes about him: Go to:


    b) a short biography together with paintings and some descriptions.

    He was born in the ________ century and was the greatest Flemish _________. Bruegel was an apprentice ( ùåìéä ) to a man of many skills : _________, ________, ___________, _________, ___________. He traveled to __________ in 1551 and was possibly influenced by the Italian Renaissance. He settled down in ________ in 1563, marrying his teacher's ___________.

    The main subjects of his paintings are _________________________________
    ________________________________________________ .


    See his paintings in the gallery at the following URL: :

    A)Look for “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus”. Click with your mouse on the painting to get an enlargement of the picture.

    1. What are the people in the painting doing?
    2. Which lines of the poem refer to what you see ? You can find the poem and the painting at:


    The lesson suggested has actually become a unit. It provides time for the computer lab as well as for the classroom. The students will do their research as well as their oral presentations in the computer lab. The follow-up lesson or two will be done in class and will integrate the work done by the students so far.

    1. Class discussion and frontal teaching:

    Auden’s poem will be read again, this time, hopefully, with greater understanding and appreciation. A class discussion with some frontal teaching will be necessary in order to make sure that the vocabulary and the poetic imagery are understood. This can be done through some leading questions, such as is done in Talking about Literature by N. Hess and E. Ezra.

    Thought-provoking questions help the students interpret the poem and think of symbolic meanings of words and lines. The following questions are given here as examples:

    1.”The sun shone as it had to” (lines 18-19). Why did it ‘have to’? Think of several possibilities.

    2.What is the “failure” mentioned in line 17? Can failure be important? Explain your answer in connection to the context but also to life in general.

    3.Was it important for you to know that Auden wrote this poem in l939? Why/ why not

    1. A cloze passage to summarize the unit

    1. Expressive writing:

    Expressive writing is a journal-type of writing. The student will respond to the text, expressing whatever thought or feeling this poem has evoked in him/her. The instructions I would give the students are to write a paragraph as a response to the poem in their journal (or literature file, log or whatever you call it in your class).

    1. What do you think the poet was trying to say? Write one or two sentences. (A class list of such thoughts or statements can put up on the board.) The statement will serve as the opening sentence of your paragraph.
    2. Think of something in your life or world-knowledge that verifies or exemplifies your statement. Write about this experience or these facts following your opening statement.

    1. Challenge your students

    1. A challenging follow-up for the students who enjoy translations would be to translate the poem and then compare it with the translation by Yael Globerman
    2. Compare the two poems written about this painting. Find William Carlos Williams’ poem at URL:
    3. Ask your students to find other poems written about other masterpieces
    4. at:

    5. Read and Discuss two other poems by Auden on the same theme: "Say This City" and "September 1939".



    An Interpretation of the Painting (Group B)


    Peter Bruegel the elder (1527/28-1569), painted "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, Oil on canvas(73,5 x 112 cm). It is on exhibit at the Museum of (Ancient) Fine Arts, in Brussels (Inv. 4030).


    At first sight, the motif seems to be very clear. Ovid*s famous book

    entitled Metamorphosis gives the story of Icarus in book number

    eight. Ovid talks of Daedalus on his way home from Crete where he had

    been imprisoned by King Minos. In Bruegel's painting, the small island is a

    merged version of Knossos and Crete. To flee, Daedalus constructs for

    himself and his son wings made out of feathers and wax which enabled

    them to flee through the air.


    Ovid says that a fisher, a shepherd and a farmer working on his field were

    witnesses. Bruegel depicted all of them. Daedalus asks his son to stay

    away from the sun. But Icarus does not listen. He enjoys

    flying and climbs up too high. The heat of the sun melts his wings and

    Icarus falls down into the sea. Bruegel chose the moment Icarus enters

    the water.


    After this story, Ovid tells the story of Perdix, the partridge. This bird sits

    on the lower right corner of the painting and is the only being to watch

    Icarus fall. All the others seem to be too preoccupied with their own

    businesses. There are commentaries on Metamorphosis, which state

    that the death of his son is a punishment for Daedalus. The story of

    Perdix tells us why:


    In Athens, Perdix was the apprentice of Daedalus. Instead of

    Daedalus, the teacher and inventor, his apprentice invented a saw and a pair of

    compasses. Out of envy, Daedalus tried to murder Perdix by throwing

    him down the Acropolis. But the goddess Pallas Athene saved Perdix's

    life by transforming him into a partridge. Now, the bird is watching the

    death of the son of his murderer.


    So far, everything seems to be clear. But Bruegel did not follow the story

    of Ovid step by step, in a linear way. Where is Daedalus? Why is the sun

    low at the horizon when it was the heat of the midday sun which had

    melted Icarus' wings? These questions are used by those who try to state

    that not this but the picture in the private collection is the authentic one,

    because it follows Ovid's story line by line: Daedalus is still flying, while

    Icarus is falling, and the sun is high in the sky.


    Looking even closer at the picture, the observer finds a sword

    in the left foreground - which is stuck inside its holder. Getting

    suspicious, the viewer will find the head of a dead person in the bushes

    behind the horse. There is no mention of these things in the Ovid story.


    *We know that at the time of Bruegel, in the middle of the 16th century, it

    was often a very popular saying that served as a motif of a painting. So, in

    this case there would be two proverbs at hand: A)"Sword and plough need

    trained hands" or another one: B)"No plough stands still over the death

    of a person". Art historians interpreted the absence of interest in the death

    of Icarus in the fisherman, the farmer and the shepherd as the main

    subject of the painting.

    * The human being who tries to overcome nature and cosmos has to die

    because of natural laws which are to be respected also by individuals.

    (Gottfried Benn)

    * The farmer represents a proletarian mass following the laws, while Icarus is

    an example for an elitistic single fighter. (Hans Sedlmayr)

    But these easy, interpretative answers do not explain why Daedalus is not

    part of the painting or why the death of Icarus is not placed in the centre

    of the picture.

    A current subject of artists at that time was the creation of *close* and

    *far* in landscape painting. Joachim Patinir (ca 1480 - 1524) developed the

    pattern of the three sections in a landscape painting: fore-, middle- and

    background which was used in Netherland landscape painting from then

    onwards. The continuity of the space is constructed by three parallel

    areas which start in the foreground with a dark green or brown, continue

    in the middle area with a lighter green and close the space with a blue

    background. Borders between these zones are covered with little hills or


    The setting of his picture can be located in reality - as it is the case with

    Patinir*s Mary Magdalena. In the middle of the 16th century, geography

    was one of the most interesting subjects. Powerful men had rooms full

    with maps, and paintings of cities, harbours, etc. One of the friends of

    Bruegel was Abraham Ortelius, one of the most important geographers of

    his time. Together with him he visited Italy in 1551 for two years. We have

    a painting of the harbour of Naples.



    Auden: a short biography (Group C)

    My Poet Pages | Poet Links

    W. H. Auden (1907-73)

    Picture from 1995 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. (UPI/Bettmann)

    from "September 1, 1939"

    "Defenseless under the night

    Our world in stupor lies;

    Yet, dotted everywhere,

    Ironic points of light

    Flash out wherever the just

    Exchange their messages:

    May I, composed like them

    of Eros and of dust,

    Beleagured by the same

    Negation and despair,

    Show an affirming flame"

    -- W.H. Auden



    The English-born American writer Wystan Hugh Auden, b. Feb. 21, 1907, d.

    Sept. 28, 1973, was one of the most important poets of the 20th century.

    Educated at Oxford, he first attracted attention as a prominent member of

    a group of young leftist writers who generally expressed a socialist

    viewpoint, while continuing the artistic revolution of such earlier writers

    as T. S. Eliot, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound. This group included the

    poets Louis MacNeice and Stephen Spender and the novelist Christopher


    Auden's earworks are startling in several ways. They contain unusual

    meters, words, and images, juxtapose industrial and natural landscapes,

    and mix the rhythms of poetry with those of jazz music. Some critics feel

    that Auden's first books, Poems (1930) and The Orators, an English Study

    (1932), contain some of his finest work. A prominent theme in these poems

    is the dissolution of civilization and culture. With Isherwood, Auden also

    wrote three plays: The Dog Beneath the Skin (1935); The Ascent of F6 (1936);

    and On the Frontier (1938). In the later poems of the 1930s, such as those

    in Look, Stranger! (1936) and Journey to a War (1939), his political and

    antiwar sentiments are expressed, but the poems lack some of the force

    of his earlier work. Another Time (1940) contains lighter and more romantic


    Auden lived in Germany, where he witnessed the rise of nazism, and

    during the Spanish Civil War he served as an ambulance driver. In 1936

    he married Erika Mann, daughter of Thomas Mann, to provide her with a

    British passport and enable her to leave Germany. In 1937 he received

    King George's Gold Medal for Poetry. Auden immigrated to the United

    States in 1939 (he became an American citizen in 1946) and at about the

    same time returned to the religion of his youth, Anglicanism. His

    wide-ranging intellectual interests and his technical virtuosity in a variety

    of metrical forms are apparent in such works as The Double Man (1941),

    For the Time Being (1944), and the 1948 Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of

    Anxiety (1947). These works also bear the stamp of his religious

    reaffirmation, although this is expressed by treating of questions

    concerning existence rather than by discussing his own spiritual struggles

    and achievements. In 1945 he published The Collected Poetry of W. H.

    Auden, a widely read volume in which poems were so arranged as to defy

    chronology. In this volume, too, he revised many poems and omitted

    others, among them two of his most popular political poems. Many

    charged that Auden was censoring his early political self in a kind of

    purge. The poet, however, gave reasons of technical correctness.

    Nones (1951), The Shield of Achilles (1955), Homage to Clio (1960), About the

    House (1965), and City without Walls (1969) added steadily to the store of

    his carefully made, playful or irreverent, and sometimes deceptively

    simple short poems. In 1954 he received the Bollingen Poetry Prize. From

    1956 to 1961 he held the chair in poetry at Oxford. Critical essays

    published in The Enchafed Flood (1950), The Dyer's Hand (1962), and

    Forewords and Afterwords (1973) increased his reputation for catholicity of

    taste. He influenced a generation of new poets by teaching, reading his

    poems, lecturing in colleges and universities throughout the United States

    and England, and editing the Yale series of young poets' work.

    In his later years Auden spent part of the year at his apartment in New

    York (he always considered himself not an American but a New Yorker)

    and part in Italy--later still, in Kirchstetten, Austria, where he owned a

    house memorialized in "Thanksgiving for a Habitat" (1965). He received the

    National Medal for Literature in 1967. With his close friend Chester

    Kallman he collaborated on opera libretti, including Stravinsky's The

    Rake's Progress (1951). He returned to Oxford as an honorary fellow in

    1972. At the end of his life, Auden was generally thought to be the most

    important poet writing in English.

    Richard A. Johnson

    [The Academic American Encyclopedia (1995 Grolier Multimedia

    Encyclopedia Version), copyright (c) 1995 Grolier, Inc. Danbury, CT. ]

    I've compiled the above information referring to some standard reference

    materials, including The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century Poetry,

    Grolier Encyclopedia, etc.


    ETAI 1999 Summer Conference

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