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.
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?