The Highwayman - Narrative Poem

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SWBAT analyze the plot of the narrative poem and determine meaning of figurative language in the development the text.

Big Idea

Can a poem tell a story?


10 minutes

In order to reflect about the background needed to understand the poem, “The Highwayman,” by Alfred Noyes, students responded to the written prompt:

If someone said they were a highwayman, what would you think their job entailed?

 As a class we discussed their responses.  After students finished, I explained that highwaymen existed in 18th century England and would ride the roads at night robbing wealthy travelers.

Prior to reading we also reviewed several terms:  ostler (takes care of the horses), plait (a braid), priming (preparing a gun to be fired), Red Coats (king’s soldiers – relate to Social Studies).


15 minutes

Each student received a copy of the poem, "The Highwayman", by Edward Noyes.  We talked about the length of a poem and that it was a narrative poem.  Asking students what is a narrative, we then arrived at the definition of a narrative poem (a poem that tells a story).  I also explained that poetic devices are used in narrative poetry.


Prior to reading, the students completed the “T” in the TP-CASTT analysis whereby they made a prediction about the poem.


Before listening to the poem, we also discuss line numbers – that it is similar to numbering paragraphs in a text, so one can refer to a section and others can easily locate the reference.  It is also necessary to use line numbers when writing an analysis.


We then listened to the poem being read online.


15 minutes

The next section of TP-CASTT is “P” meaning to paraphrase.  Since the poem is quite long, I divided the poem into sections, and small groups paraphrased their portion of the poem and recorded as “P”.  We shared the paraphrasing in order, and students heard the interpretation of the poem.  As the groups shared, I posed several questions and in each case, students needed to provide textual evidence from the poem:

  1.  What was mood in the opening of the poem?
  2. Why is Tim, the ostler, important to the narrative?
  3. In lines 31 – 37 how is the adoring love conveyed and why is it important?
  4. In Part 2, the mood shifts, what is the importance of setting in determining the mood?
  5. Lines 68 – 77 is the climax.  What poetic devices help build the tension?
  6. Why are lines 91 – end written in italics?  Who is “they say”?

Meaning and Tone

15 minutes

In order to complete “C” (connotation) in their poetry analysis, students specifically revisited their paraphrased section of the poem.  They identified meaningful words that could assist in better understanding this poem.

 After sharing and discussing the impact various words had on the poem, as a class we determined the “A” (Attitude) or tone of the author.   Students referred back to the connotations of the words previously located to assist them in determining the tone.

 Next we addressed the “S” (shifts) that took place throughout the poem.

  1.  The mood shifted at the beginning of Part 2, leading the reader into the compromising situation with the Red Coats.
  2. In lines 55 -60, another shift occurs which involves a break in the rhythm, therefore, heightening the tension.
  3. Another shift occurs in lines 85 – 90 involving the momentum and color.
  4. Finally a shift in time noted using the italics.


10 minutes

Students complete the last two “T”s in TP-CASTT individually.  What does the title now mean to them and what theme can they take away from this poem.  After writing their responses, we discussed possible themes.