I used the legendary poem of Tao Qian (365–427), "Peach blossom spring [Taohua yuan]" as the springboard for a three-day lesson plan designed to help my AP English Literature students analyze poetry from a variety of eras and locales.
Warm Up: Quick Write (QW):
What mythological legends or stories do you remember best and why? Recall myths in stories you have heard about, read about or even seen in movies and on television. Consider any cultural source.
Into: Ask student volunteers to share their written responses to engage the class in a discussion of the cultural significance of mythology.
- Use PowerPoint presentation to introduce OPTIC Strategy to examine significant details in paintings, to be used in study of Ekphrasis: The Poet Speaks to Art (previously taught and used).
- Students take notes on the strategy and apply it to viewing paintings. View a series of paintings depicting Icarus by various artists and ask students to respond using OPTIC, orally
Beyond: Final Painting is Peter Brueghel’s Landscape and the Fall of Icarus
- Students spend time individually viewing the painting and write detailed responses to OPTIC in their notebooks
- Students share their responses with table-mates
- Whole class discussion follows
We now return to Ekphrasis and read four poets’ responses to the painting
- Teacher reads William Carlos Williams’ poem first and asks students for their emotional response to the poem, orally
- Next, students read W.H. Auden’s poem, Musee des Beaux Arts and record responses to the four questions below in their table groups.
- Whole class discussion follows.
- Students will annotate Anne Sexton’s poem, To a Friend Whose Work Has Come to Triumph, and identify specific literary devices.
- Synthesis discussion of varying perspectives, themes and tones in each of the poems to wrap up lesson.
Follow Through: For homework, students will read and annotate Brian Aldiss’ poem, Flight 063, and answer the questions which follow.