Icarus and Daedalus by Josephine Preston Peabody

Teacher Guide by Bridget Baudinet

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Middle School ELA Category.

Icarus and Daedalus Lesson Plans

Student Activities for Icarus and Daedalus Include:

The myth of Icarus and Daedalus is a well-known cautionary tale that warns against the perils of “flying too high”. Whether because of its simplicity, its symbolism, or its shockingly tragic ending, the myth remains a classroom favorite and an important cultural reference. Like most myths, the story of Icarus has been told and retold by the Greeks, Romans, and other Western writers throughout the centuries. The version referenced in this teacher guide is the short selection written by Josephine Preston Peabody, commonly included in literature textbooks.

Icarus and Daedalus Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

Icarus and Daedalus Plot Diagram

Copy Assignment

A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.

Example ”Icarus and Daedalus” Plot Diagram


Due to the cruel King Minos’ anger, the inventive Daedalus and his young son Icarus have been imprisoned in a tower off the coast of Greece.


Although Daedalus can easily escape the tower, he and his son are still stranded on an island miles from their home. Daedalus must devise a way to cross the ocean.

Rising Action

Using wax and feathers, Daedalus fashions wings for himself and his son. Daedalus warns his son not to fly too high or too low, then the pair takes flight.


In the joy and excitement of flying, Icarus forgets his father’s advice and soars too close to the sun, causing his wings to melt.

Falling Action

Icarus’ wings fall apart, and he plummets to his death and drowns in the sea below.


Daedalus names the nearest island Icaria in memory of his son. He then hangs up his wings in the temple of Apollo and vows never to fly again.

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)

Student Instructions

Create a visual plot diagram of ”Icarus and Daedalus”.

  1. Click "Use this Template" from the assignment.
  2. Separate the story into the Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.
  3. Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the story components.
  4. Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.
  5. Save and submit the assignment. Make sure to use the drop-down menu to save it under the assignment title.

(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Copy Assignment

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“Icarus and Daedalus” Characteristics of Myths

The story of “Icarus and Daedalus” is an effective myth to use when teaching about the mythology genre. Although brief, the tale contains many fundamental elements of Classical myths. Have students use storyboards to identify these elements in “Icarus and Daedalus” and thus strengthen their understanding of this important genre. Provide students with a list of mythological characteristics, such as the one below, and ask them to identify and depict 3-5 elements present in “Icarus and Daedalus”. Have students include text boxes below each picture to explain their depiction.

Common Characteristics of Classical Myths

  • Tragic ending
  • Super-human abilities
  • Supernatural activity
  • Hero
  • Character with a tragic flaw
  • Explanation for history, culture, or natural phenomena
  • Gods and goddesses
  • Lesson

Characteristics of Myths in Icarus and Daedalus


The myth teaches us the importance of listening to and heeding wise advice.

Super-human Abilities

Both Daedalus and Icarus are able to fly with wings. Although this is not through the aid of the gods, it is nevertheless an abnormal human ability.

Tragic Flaw

Icarus is disobedient and ambitious, which leads to his death.

Tragic Ending

The myth ends with Icarus, who is just a child, plunging to a brutal death.

Explanation of the world around us

The myth explains how the island of Icaria got its name.

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Comparison of Icarus and Phaëthon

Icarus’ tragic story is no outlier in Greek mythology. Its plot, characters, and theme closely resemble those of the myth of Phaëthon. Studying these two myths in conjunction can help students solidify their understanding of Classical mythology. Have students use a storyboard grid to compare various aspects of Icarus’ and Phaëthon’s stories. Have students use a square and text box overlay to explain the similarities between the two myths.

Icarus’ tale also connects to many other similarly-themed stories. Consider comparing it to the myth of Prometheus or Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Comparison of Icarus and Phaëthon

CHARACTERS Both Phaëthon and Icarus are young sons of important men. Phaëthon is the son of the god, Apollo, while Icarus is the son of Daedalus, a clever, mortal inventor. Neither boy achieves much in life. Both are famous for their failures rather than their accomplishments.
TRAGIC FLAWS Phaethon and Icarus share the tragic flaws of heedlessness and hubris. Both boys fail to listen to the good advice of their parents. Phaëthon ignores his father's urging not to drive his sun chariot; Icarus forgets his father's directions not to fly to close to the sun. Their heedless disregard for their parents' wisdom is truly tragic. Some scholars also argue that both characters are brought low by hubris, or excessive pride. Phaëthon's pride is obvious in his arrogant demand to take on the role of a god. Icarus' hubris is more symbolic. His sin of flying too high represents human ambition that has gone too far. In trying to fly, Icarus and his father are making themselves more powerful than humans are meant to be. The recognition that man was not intended to fly is further suggested by Daedalus' gesture of leaving the wings in the temple of Apollo.
TERRIBLE FATES Both boys plummet to their deaths as a result of their own mistakes. Phaethon dies when Zeus throws a thunderbolt at him to stop him from destroying the earth in Apollo's sun chariot. He falls to earth in a ball of fire. Icarus dies when the wax melts from his manufactured wings and he falls like lead into the sea below, eventually drowning.

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The story of Icarus and Daedalus has been revisited in many forms throughout the centuries. The Greeks tell the story in Apollodorus’ Bibliotheca. The Roman version appears in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. More recent tellings of the story include artistic interpretations and poetic explorations of the myth’s themes. In some versions of the myth, Daedalus and his son are imprisoned inside the labyrinth of the dead Minotaur on the island of Crete. Surrounding the labyrinth are King Minos’ many guards. In the version adapted by Josephine Preston Peabody, the father and son are imprisoned in a tall tower on a seemingly deserted island. The focus of the story is not on the imprisonment, but on the escape. To view other artistic interpretations of this myth, visit the pages linked below.

Essential Questions for “Icarus and Daedalus”

  1. What is Icarus’ tragic flaw?
  2. What characteristics typical of Greek myths does this story contain?
  3. What is the symbolic meaning of “flying too high”?
  4. What is the lesson of the myth?
  5. What role does Daedalus play in Icarus’ tragedy? Does he bear any responsibility for Icarus’ fate?

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