drawing of the headless horseman holding a pumpkin and riding a horse through the woods

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

by Washington Irving

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The Legend of Sleepy Hollow Allusion Activity

by Tessie Barbosa

  • Released February 18, 2020
  • Language Arts and Literature subjects
  • 8 pages
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Grade Levels

Grade 10

Grade 11

Grade 12

Grade 9


This worksheet gives students an opportunity to practice identifying and analyzing allusions. Allusions broaden the scope of a text and imbue passages with deeper meaning by subtly drawing on unexplained references to literature, history, science, geography, philosophy, mythology, or other aspects of a culture. Allusions are thus a powerful tool often employed by writers and are well worth understanding. In completing this worksheet, students will be able to identify, analyze, and interpret allusions, thereby accessing deeper meanings within the text.

The short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” first appeared in Washington Irving’s 1820 collection The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon. The story tells the tale of Ichabod Crane, a hapless schoolmaster from New York who moves north to the Dutch settlement of Sleepy Hollow to seek a fortune and a bride. Sleepy Hollow is both beautifully dream-like and haunted, and Crane finds his progress impeded by the local legend of the Headless Horseman. Through his layered narrators, Irving draws on a rich array of allusions to tell this now-classic story, blending humor and horror in equal measure.

Skills: analysis, close reading, drawing inferences from text, interpreting implications of allusions

Learning Objectives:
In completing this activity, students will

  • identify different types of allusions and locate examples of allusion within a text;
  • analyze examples of allusions to determine their purpose in the context of a passage of text;
  • analyze examples of allusions to interpret their meaning and determine how they inform a passage of text.


Our eNotes Classroom Activities give students opportunities to practice developing a variety of skills. Whether analyzing literary devices or interpreting connotative language, students will work directly with the text. The main components of our classroom activities include the following:

  • A handout defining the literary elements under discussion, complete with examples
  • A step-by-step guide to activity procedure
  • An answer key or selected examples for reference, depending on the activity

In completing these classroom activities, students will be able to classify and analyze different literary elements, thereby developing close-reading skills and drawing deeper inferences from the text.