We had a brilliant example of how blogging and twitter can extend learning beyond the classroom. One of the year 5 classes in my school has been reading ‘The Highwayman’. During a guided reading session, one of the children asked this fantastic question:
If only the Highwayman dies (not his horse), why does he AND his horse both return as ghosts?
The teacher blogged this question and then tweeted the link out, which then got retweeted by Alan Peat (@alanpeat). This was then seen by Mathew Tobin (@Mat_at_Brookes), Senior Lecturer in English and Children’s Literature at Oxford Brookes University, who left this fantastic comment:
Lauren, this is an excellent question. There is something very clever about reading and how we read books and poems and stories or even watch things at the cinema or on the TV: We don’t see everything that happens all the time.
A very famous man named Wolfgang Iser who spent his time looking at how texts work and how we read stories. He noticed that when we read a story there are lots of things that happen but aren’t written down. An example would be: have you ever read about someone going to the toilet in a book (or seen it on TV? Yuck!)? Hopefully not! Yet they must do because they’re humans and all living things go to the loo at some point. Why don’t we see it or read it? Another example is: When Harry Potter goes to Hogwarts for the first time, what are all the other children doing on the Hogwarts Express? They’re there doing whatever it is they are doing but we don’t see them. Why not?
Mr. Iser said that when we read a story, part of our job, as a reader, is to fill in the gaps. Sometimes we don’t – we just enjoy reading the words in front of us and sometimes we do. We try and imagine all the things that happen from one event to another even if it is not said in words.
With this in mind, let’s look at the poem (remember that Alfred Noyes didn’t draw the pictures, they’re the interpretation of the artist so we’ll stick with the words):
‘When they shot him down on the highway, Down like a dog on the highway, And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.’
Clearly there is no mention of the Highwayman’s horse at all but what do you think happened? I’d imagine that with rifles it would be hard to hit the target perfectly so maybe some of the soldiers hit the horse as well. Certainly, if the horse comes back as a ghost too then it implies this.
Good writers don’t say everything that happens because they want the reader to be a detective of sorts andwork out for themselves the parts of the story that they choose to leave out. It makes reading far more fun and explorative.
I hope this makes sense!
How else could such a great question get a such an instant, high quality response?
You can see the original post and comment here.