Der Tod das ist die kühle Nacht

Please enter details about your text in the form below. Once you have created and saved your page, you can attach files to that page by clicking on the 'Files' button at the bottom of the page.

Remember to use the tag feature at the side to enter keywords which will allow other users to search efficiently.

Der Tod das ist die kühle Nacht

Contributor: Bernard Clark

Language of text: German
Type of text: Poem
Author or source: Heinrich Heine
Intended age of students: Key Stage 4
Source reference: The poem and my translation are attached. The poem has also been set to music by Brahms - many videos on Youtube.

Der Tod das ist die kühle Nacht,
Das Leben ist der schwüle Tag.
Es dunkelt schon, mich schläfert,
Der Tag hat mich müd‘ gemacht.

Über main Bett erhebt sich ein Baum,
Drin singt die junge Nachtigall;
Sie singt von lauter Liebe,
Ich höre es sogar im Traum.

Attached files:
Poem and translation in a word document.

File nameFile typeSize
Der Tod with translation.docxNo description13.04 kBInfo

The language
1 Read the poem out loud and see which words the students can hear.
2 Show them the poem - see how many words they got. Get them to highlight words they don't know. Play the 'ignorance' game whereby teams gain points if they choose a word that no other teams know or can guess.
3 Once the poem is understood, practise reading it out loud with students listening for mistakes by others.
4 Now blank out different categories of words (nouns/adjectives/articles) and see if the class can still read the poem out loud (in pairs). Gradually remove all words until only initial letters are left.
5 Now show them the translation and see if they can translate back into German from the English.
6 Finally see if anybody has learnt the poem so as to be able to recite it from heart.
The poem
7 Now get students to look for alliteration (eg Traum/Tag/Tod), assonance (schwüle/kühle/müde) and rhyme both at the end of lines (Baum and Traum) or within the body of the poem (schwüle/kühle). See how many examples they can find - discuss how poet uses these verbal echoes to link and contrast ideas.
8 Now ask the class to discuss in English who the narrator is, when and where the narrator is speaking.(old? evening? deathbed? etc)
9 Students now group as many of the words from the poem as they can under the contrasting headings of 'Tag' and 'Nacht' (e.g. is Baum a day or night word). They can be quite creative according to what they think.
10 Use a dictionary to look up further words that can go under either heading.
11 Ask them what the mood of the poem is - get them just to read the second stanza and see what they would think if they hadn't seen the first.
12 Get all to try to recite the poem with feeling from memory if possible.
13 Produce 'Calligrammes' using just words from the poem.
14 Write a biography of the narrator.

1 To look closely at sounds and spellings to see the poetic links.
2 To learn important words like 'schon'/ 'über' in a different context.
3 To read a poem in the target language and understand how they can deconstruct it themselves and give their own opinions on it (in English) supporting their general literacy.
4 To learn memorising skills so they can produce spoken work more easily from memory.

Poem and new language learnt from memory with a focus on sound-spelling links within the poem.

Topics or themes:
A one-off lesson or two used for reinforcement of German phonetics.

German orthography and different articles.

Gleaning meaning from context

How much time required:
1 -1.5 hours in lessons

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License