Happy World Poetry Day!

To celebrate, here is a look at a couple of the most frequently used 'classic' poems in primary schools!

Alfred Noyes' wonderful narrative poem, 'The Highwayman' is really appealing to children (and adults!). The subject matter, the repetitive refrains, the richness of language all combine to make this an absolute joy to teach. Children find themselves quoting chunks of it with ease as the sound and 'feel' of the poem make it easy to remember.

And dark in the dark old inn yard a stable wicket creaked

Where Tim, the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked.

His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,

But he loved the landlord's daughter, the landlord's red-lipped daughter,

Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say-

The poem is the perfect inspiration for so much work- reading, poetry, all types of writing, historical work, note making/research...


The most often used edition seems to be this one with incredibly atmospheric illustrations by Charles Keeping. Using his style as inspiration, children can be taught to use pen and ink, use charcoal, make lino or other prints. 

However, there is another version that can be really useful to use to discuss how different people envisage a poem and seek to represent it. 

Illustrated by Murray Kimber, this gives poem a completely different setting, taking The Highwayman from rural Georgian England to twenties New York city. The horse is replaced by a motorbike, King George's men by gangsters... it makes for lots of discussion and encourages children to really think about the words and meaning of the poem. It also gets them talking about the artwork!

Another poem also illustrated by Charles Keeping is Tennyson's 'The Lady of Shalott'.  Another wonderful narrative poem that is so enjoyable, it offers many, varied opportunities for work across the curriculum and really captures children's imagination. 

Again, Charles Keepings' beautiful illustrations support the wonderful, lyrical text and there are also many interpretations of scenes from the poem by the Pre-Raphaelite artists which can be admired and discussed!

Illustrated by Genevieve Cote, in this version 'The Lady of Shalott' is pictured like a butterfly, emerging from its cocoon. Colourful images contrast wonderfully with the monotone images of Keeping, encouraging the children look at the poem in different ways.

Such wonderful writing! I always enjoy looking at 'Here Come the Aliens' by Colin McNaughton as a way of introducing the rhyming pattern when reading 'The Lady of Shalott'- it's great fun and really helps children get into the feel of the poem.

Fabulous, quality poetry for all to enjoy!

The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, illustrated by Charles Keeping  

OUP ISBN:  978-0192723703 

The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes, illustrated by Murray Kimber

Visions in Poetry  ISBN:  978-1553374258

The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, illustrated by Charles Keeping

OUP ISBN:978-0192723710

The Lady of Shalott by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, illustrated by Genevieve Cote

Visions in Poetry  ISBN: 978-1554534579

Here Come the Aliens! written and illustrated by Colin McNaughton 

Walker  ISBN: 978-0744543940