The Highwayman

Age Range: 7 - 11

Alfred Noyes's famous poem still has the power to thrill us as we read the story of the highwayman and his doomed love for Bess, the landlord's black-eyed daughter. Charles Keeping's stunning illustrations won this book the Kate Greenaway Medal in 1982.

Book Author: Alfred Noyes

See More Books from this author

Teaching Ideas and Resources:


  • Read the poem with the class. Stop at different places and ask the children to predict what might happen next.
  • Look at the images in the book. Discuss what the characters might be thinking / feeling at different points in the story.
  • Hot seating - ask a child to take on the role of one of the characters. Ask him / her about events from the story, and get children to question the character about the events of the poem, and their role within them.
  • Freeze-frame different parts of the story. Ask children to pose different scenes from the poem. You can then quiz them about their role in the poem.
  • Create some character profiles of the different people in the story. What words would you use to describe each of them?
  • The poem uses lots of metaphors to describe things. Can you make up your own metaphors for people / objects / places in the poem (or in other stories)?
  • Look at the use of rhyming within the poem. Can you think of other rhyming words?
  • Some of the words in the poem are not in common use today. Can you find out what they mean? Could you make a glossary which gives definitions / explanations of what they mean?
  • Some words and phrases in the poem are repeated a number of times. Discuss why Alfred Noyes decided to do this.
  • 'Tlot, Tlot' is used to describe the movement of the horses' hooves. Can you think of other examples of onomatopoeia?
  • Write a diary entry from the point of view of the Highwayman at different points in the story.
  • Look at the use of different types of punctuation within the poem and identify why they have been used each time.
  • Watch the video retellings of the poem shown below, and discuss how they are similar / different to the poem.


  • Retell the story through the use of digital photographs and combine them using Powerpoint or a similar tool.


  • Could you make an animation which retells the story? Here is an example of an animation made by a class of children:


  • Can you compose a tune which could be played whilst the poem was read aloud?


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Very helpful, I didn't know about the You tube clips which are great.  many thanks

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I have always divided my students into groups by stanzas. I allowed them to rewrite the poem in prose verse.  They then made a group illustrations of the stanzas. These were displayed.

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My students read the poem, listen to Lorena McKinnett's version of the song, and then watch the you tube clips.  For full comprehension, we not only find figurative language, but re-read after several months for a "deeper" meaning.

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