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.
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?