Hello Friends! I’m participating in the Spring Has Sprung Poetry Blog Hop that’s being hosted by Rebecca at Line Upon Line Learning.
I’ve had several questions related to close reading with poetry, so I decided to post a complete lesson walkthrough. I’ll provide everything you need to teach this poem, so be sure to find those files near the end of this post.
OK. If I’m talking to you, I’ll leave the text black. I’m also posting the question and answer flow, so I’ll put those questions in blue and the answers you want to get in red.
Prerequisites: Students should be familiar with figurative language and know some specific poetry terms. I included those in case you don’t have my Interactive Poetry Notebook.
I like to start with a cold read, but having my students sit at their desks (or worse, go home) and read this entire poem would be pointless. They’d be so lost and bored less than halfway through it, the only thing I’d accomplish is LOSING their interest before I even started the lesson!
So, for this cold read, I’m only going to ask them to read ONLY the first page, which includes the first 3 stanzas. That’s just enough to get them talking and thinking before they get too confused and lost. I’m going to put them into groups for this because I don’t want my lower (or unmotivated) students just *sitting* there if they are stumped or confused.
Now, I’ll be around the room letting students know if they need to reconsider one. We’ll do this for 15 minutes and then regroup. We will NOT go over this sheet line-by-line. Instead, I’ll infuse these questions into the lesson when we get to that section of the poem and call on lower students who I know have the right answer on their paper and might not otherwise participate.
Still, here are the quick answers for you.
1. The Highwayman’s clothes are very fancy. The poem reads “they fitted with never a wrinkle,” meaning his clothes were always nice and smooth and not wrinkled. The poem also reads “he rode with a jeweled twinkle.”
2. clattered, clashed, whip, whistle
3. dark red = love, blood; foreshadowing = a love story; someone’s hurt/bleeding or dying
4. “And the highway man came riding – riding – riding – The highwayman came riding.”
5. There are 3 metaphors, one in each of the first three lines of the poem.
6. yard, barred, there, hair; all are complete rhymes
Now that we’ve reviewed terms and done a cold read activity, we’re ready to rock n’ roll with the close read with annotations. My students already know the color code for annotating figurative language, so all we need to do in order to identify something is underline it in the proper color. This key is in their notebooks and on my wall in the form of color-coded posters. Blue is always metaphor; red is simile; purple is alliteration; brown is consonance here (sometimes allusion); orange is onomatopoeia; green is personification; yellow is hyperbole.
I’ll go through this just like with my students, one stanza at a time. Before we move onto the next stanza, students have had to reread the stanza several times to answer questions. Oh, and during a lesson like this, I’m going to use the cold-call method. That means I’ll call on random students regardless of who has their hand up or not.
What can you tell me about the first three lines? They are metaphors.
Blue=metaphor. Here we discuss what each metaphor means.
What is the refrain in the first stanza? The highwayman came riding – Riding – riding – The highwayman came riding…
Look at each end rhyme. Are they complete or partial rhymes? Both are complete rhymes.
Let’s switch gears. This is a narrative poem. What does that mean? A narrative poem has a plot, setting, and characters.
From a narrative perspective, what is the PURPOSE of the first stanza? What does the author do here?
The author establishes the setting with the three metaphors and the first three lines. Then, the author introduces the main character, the highwayman.
Let’s stay in narrative mode for a minute. What does this second stanza accomplish? It describes the main character. What do you learn about the main character? His clothes are very fancy. He even twinkles. He must be rich.
Here we point out the alliteration and consonance. I originally picked out the two alliterations (purple) but a student pointed out that coat, claret, velvet, all ended in /t/, so that was consonance. He was right, so we double-dipped. I like to point out how that alliteration and consonance really add to the rhythm of that line. I make my students say it a few times with rhythm and force.
More alliteration and onomatopoeia to get out of the way here before we can get to the good stuff.
Let’s think about what we have so far. We have a fancy-dressed, wealthy guy on a horse riding into town to see the landlord’s daughter. Think about in stories and in movies… when someone has a daughter, be it the farmer or the KING or whomever, what type of storyline are we going to see? Someone is in love with the daughter. This is a love story! The highwayman and the landlord’s daughter…
Let’s look at dark red. That color symbolizes…? Love! That one’s obvious. Also… blood! and death!
OK.. so here’s what we have so far. A wealthy guy, the landlord’s daughter, and foreshadowing of love and/or death. Sound like a good story? YES!
At this point I’ve got them. They’re all interested. Some of them are salivating at the mouth for more. OK.. so maybe not quite.. 😉 But they’re definitely into it, only three stanzas into a LONG poem!
Narrative mode.. what (or who?) do we have here?! A new character! Tim the ostler. How does the author describe Tim? “His eyes were hollows of madness; his hair like mouldy hay.”
Look at the metaphor and simile. Are those good connotations or bad connotations? Definitely bad! The author does not show Tim in a good light. He’s either angry or crazy and his hair is yucky.
Oh! Oh! What does he have to do with the landlord’s daughter? He loves her! What do we have here? A love triangle! YEP!
IF you were Bess, which man would you love, based on the author’s descriptions so far? Definitely the highwayman. He’s rich and looks nice. Not like yucky Tim!
What’s Tim doing? Eavesdropping on Tim and Bess! (the robber is the highwayman)
Oh, it isn’t an accident that the author calls Bess “the landlord’s red-lipped daughter” – what do we have here? The color red! Again.
Here we discuss the implied metaphor of her hair. Also, the fact that he’s kissing her hair (ewwww my kids say) and off he goes to get his prize!
That’s the end of Part 1. If I’m lucky, we’ve gotten through Part 1 on the first day of the lesson, but usually I’ll have a stanza or two left in Part 1. The students are left hanging, and I love seeing their excitement the next day at finishing the poem. That’s why I love teaching this poem so much – it’s their reaction to it!
Now, for Part 2 (aka Day 2) we aren’t going to keep on with the really close reading. Why? There’s still good stuff in there, but reading it TOO slowly takes away from the excitement of it all. So we won’t analyze quite as much. Here, we’ll discuss briefly the figurative language that’s underlined (see color key in intro if needed) and I have my students paraphrase the poem line-by-line. They’re actually *excited* to do this!
The highway man didn’t show at sunrise, noon, or sunset. Who came at sunset? The redcoats! What could this mean?
They drank the landlord’s beer, then gagged and bound Bess to the foot of her bed. She looked out the window at the road where the highwayman would return to find her.
When did he tell her he’d come if there were trouble? At night. What will happen to the highwayman when he comes to get Bess? They’ll murder him. OR They’ll capture him. Either way, it isn’t good!
They are calling the highwayman the dead man because he’ll be dead once he arrives. Bess is the bait and they are picking at her and teasing her. She’s remembering what he told her.
She’s writhed out enough that she has her finger on the trigger. Why? What is she planning? Important, there are finally some partial rhymes here!
She doesn’t want the soldiers to know she can reach the trigger, so she pretends not to. It’s time for the highwayman to come!
What is her love’s refrain? The sound of the horses hooves.. tlot, tlot, tlot..
Lots of sound devices and figurative language in this one. Suspense! Feel the suspense!
What did she do? She killed herself! Why? To warn the highwayman! Warn him of what? The redcoats.
When the highwayman hears the shot ring out, he has no idea who has been shot, but he knows there’s trouble, so he turns and rides away. Not until the next morning does he learn that it was Bess who died from the gunshot.
He rushed back to see Bess. The redcoats were still there, and they shot the highwayman “like a dog” and he lay in his blood. What’s so important here? Blood-red! Wine-red! It’s that RED again!
According to these last two stanzas, the highwayman still visits Bess, even in death. This shows that their love is eternal and it is so strong that even death cannot keep these two apart.
And once again.. it’s the color RED mentioned!
Ah! Thanks for making it to the end. Click below to download my Highwayman Unit. It isn’t fancy at all – just plain text word documents so that you can fix and edit it how you like.
Here’s what’s included:
- Typed poem sized for students to glue into interactive notebooks to annotate over
- Vocabulary words
- Group questions (cold read)