The Highwayman was a great choice of poem to study with our smaller than normal group of kids this week and it seemed to catch their attention from the 13 year olds right down to the 6 year old. it was the first time (I think) we’d done a full on narrative poem together and so was quite a change from some of our previous ‘idea’ poems. I read aloud, as usual, having first given them some images from Google to just put into their heads what a highwayman was.
Once we’d read it, we started to look a little closer at the poem. We discussed the type of poem and how it told a story and between them they worked out exactly what had happened. Maddy had spotted the betrayal in the middle, another child had realised it ended with a ghost story, others contributed the comings and goings of the highwayman.We talked about the language and how descriptive it was, the structure of the verses. The older ones saw they could make connections with ‘Ballad’ and ‘Night Mail’ in construction and the rhythm.
We looked at the characters, who and what they were and some of the contradictions built into the poem. They hunted out the word ‘robber’ and what the Highwayman was off to do (steal things) and compared that to his clothing and how sympathetically he is described and how the poet clearly feels about him.We looked at the ostler, talked about how we should feel about a simple stable man and then looked at the descriptive words about his appearance which illustrate how the poet sees him. Finally we talked about the soldiers and how they were clearly the baddies of the story, their treatment of Bess and how the normal perceptions of characters are turned around in the poem.
There was lots to think about in terms of the language used in the poem too and we went through each of the verses to prove that each one paints a picture, highlighting some specific phrases and how they add weight to those images. Later they moved on to doing some art work based on their impressions of the poem, which generally worked really well.
The highlight was watching this video, which is not only excellent in its own right, but seems to have been made using SIMS, which appealed to them enormously! I loved the music, which was just hauntingly beautiful.
Further activities for the kids:-
*go through the poem underlining key descriptive phrases.
*create a lapbook or display of images and ideas the poem gave them.
*find out more about King George and this period of history.
*find out about Dick Turpin.
*look at stage coaches and this history of roads, travel and mail.
*choose a verse, handwrite and illustrate it.