Follow the Piper
Holly Anderson explores the potential of a classic poem
"The Pied Piper of Hamelin" is a narrative poem written for adults by the 19th-century English poet Robert Browning. It retells a legend from 14th-century Germany in which a piper appeared in the rat-infested town of Hamelin and promised to get rid of the rodents. When the townspeople refused to pay him, he lured away all the children, and they were never seen again.
The following suggestions can be adapted for infants and juniors.
HOW TO USE IT
* Tell the children the story of the poem first, then read them the poem. Record it on tape for the listening corner.
* Display different editions of the poem. Compare pages in Browning's complete works with an illustrated copy (The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Ginn, pictured above, or The Oxford Book of Story Poems, OUP, or the Everyman Children's Classic illustrated by Kate Greenaway).
* Discuss sections in depth: what did the rats like to do in Hamelin? What did the rats hear when the Piper played?
"I heard a sound as of scraping tripe, And putting apples, wondrous ripe, Into a cider-press's gripe" What world did the Piper's music conjure up for the children?
* Discuss things that characters said: what were the exchanges between the Piper and the mayor about the fee? What did the mayor say to the people of Hamelin after the rats were drowned?
"And the muttering grew to a grumbling; And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling" What adjectives describe the rats and the children? What nouns indicate the rats' family relationships?
* Work on movement: how would the mayor walk? The Piper? The rats? The children?
* Work on dialogue: what might each child have said on hearing the pipe? What might the parents have said after the children left?
* Display the children's paintings of the land the children of Hamelin went to with the Piper.
l Draw portraits of characters based on information in the text.
* Construct plans of Hamelin showing the town hall, the River Weser and Koppelberg Hill (where the children disappeared). Write instructions for the Piper's routes.
* Play woodwind music (such as Mozart flute concertos) and ask the children to describe the pic-tures that come into their minds.
* Make up rhythms based on each character's movement.
* Compose the Piper's music for recorders using simple tunes.
* Link measurement work to geography activities such as: measure and compare the length of the routes the Piper took, the height of the buildings and the mountain. Older children could work on scale and ratio.
* Discuss and add to the language used to describe the size of the rats (great, small, lean).
Holly Anderson is joint languageco-ordinator at Homerton College, Cambridge.