The Listeners by Walter de la Mare – KS2 English lesson plan

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Key Stage



Years 3-6


See creativity flourish with this poetry lesson plan based around The Listeners by Walter de la Mare…

When used effectively, poetry is a brilliant way to develop narrative writing skills and an understanding of the impact words can have.

One of the most potent pieces of poetry you can use in a primary school setting is The Listeners by Walter de la Mare.

What is The Listeners by Walter de la Mare about?

The Listeners by Walter de la Mare is a poem that delves into themes of mystery, isolation and the supernatural.

The poem tells the story of a lone traveller who arrives at a house in the forest, seeking to fulfil a promise or an appointment.

Despite knocking on the door and calling out, no one responds to him. The traveller repeatedly calls out, asking if there is anyone there, but he receives no answer.

Inside the house, however, there are phantom listeners who hear him but remain silent and unseen.

Learning objectives

  • Vary sentence structures
  • Make careful word choices to have an impact on the reader
  • Establish a narrative atmosphere

Starter activity

At the heart of all poetry is the desire to tap in to the human experience, to make the reader ‘feel’ deeply. And The Listeners by Walter de la Mare delves into one of our deepest emotions – the fear of the unknown.

In this sense, it is important that the children’s first experience of the poem elicits an emotional response, as it is this initial impact that will inform their own writing.

Before the children come in, darken the room, create a trail of dead leaves and twigs leading them to their desks and have an audio performance of the The Listeners ready to play.

When it has finished, explore how the children feel. Scared? Anxious? Creeped out? Which words and phrases added to the poem’s unsettling atmosphere?

Examine the narrative plot too; a lone man approaching a seemingly abandoned house in the dead of night, with an unspoken task to complete for a ‘host of phantom listeners’ walking the silent, darkened hallways.

Once the children are confident in the story of the poem, including the questions it raises about the main character’s motivations, his mysterious quest and the origins of the Listeners, it’s time to have some fun with short-burst writing tasks.

Marc Bowen is deputy head, currivulum leader and Y5 teacher at Raglan VC Primary School in Monmouthshire. Browse more ideas for National Poetry Day.

Lesson plan about The Listeners by Walter de la Mare
The Listeners by Walter de la Mare – KS2 English lesson plan

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