Foreshadowing in literature is an important literary element to go over with students. Whether in a short story, play, or a novel, this literary device gets students acting like detectives, on the edge of their seats, and trying to guess what will happen next.
What is foreshadowing, and how can inference and predicting skills be used to see clues in a work of literature? Teach students this literary element and asking them to think deeply about ways foreshadowing can affect the work as a whole.
Foreshadowing can be a difficult element to pick up. It takes a skilled reader to see the subtlety that the author uses to keep readers engaged and unconsciously anticipating future events. Foreshadowing can provide readers with hints and a sense of events to come, or be used as a red herring, leading the reader in the wrong direction. Below are the basic types of foreshadowing:
Concrete foreshadowing, commonly referred to as "Chekov's Gun", is when the author explicitly states something that they want you to be aware of for the future. In the eponymous example, if an author mentions a rifle hanging on the wall in an early chapter, it will be used later.
Prominent foreshadowing, also known as the "Prophecies", is linked to a fortune or prophecy that a character will receive, which explicitly tells the reader what will happen in the future. Although sometimes this fortune or omen can seem unclear, they end up coming true in the end.
Evocative foreshadowing, or the "Flashback/Flash-forward", is when an author needs the reader to know something that doesn't fit with the current story line. The author will usually use a flashback or flash-forward to give the reader the information. Most of the time, the information obtained in the flash will have clues or hints to something the author wants you to remember or pick up on later, which makes this a great form of foreshadowing.
Abstract or "Symbolic" foreshadowing is much harder to pick up. It is abstract and requires thinking outside the box. It is an even more oblique hint than other types of foreshadowing. In a novel, for instance, the author could describe a sudden change of weather. This change often foreshadows a change in a character's luck, mood, or behavior.
Fallacy, or "The Red Herring", is the most fun of all the types. A red herring is a wild goose chase or smoke screen that diverts readers' attention. Its only purpose is to throw the reader off, causing more suspicion, intrigue, and surprise. It is commonly found in works of detective fiction, but can lend itself anywhere the author needs to avert suspicion. A great example of this is from the novel Great Expectations when the author keeps foreshadowing that Pip's benefactor is Miss Havisham or Pumblechook, or maybe it's Joe? The author keeps it a secret and diverts our attention so that when we find out who it is, we are shocked and surprised.
Although this lesson can be used for multiple grade levels below are examples of the Common Core State Standards for Grades 9-10. Please see your Common Core State Standards for the correct grade-appropriate strands.
Students will be able to define foreshadowing and list its different types from works inside or outside the classroom (this may include film sources).
What students should know and be able to do before starting this lesson: Students should be able to define, in their words, the concept of foreshadowing.
Be specific when asking students to create a storyboard that shows the types of foreshadowing. Make sure that students include an explanation of each attribute as well as a quote that backs up their claim. If they are doing this, consider having the students download their storyboards to a PowerPoint using the feature in the toolbar. This is a perfect way for them to explain each cell.
Activator: Students will be given Worksheet #1 and instructed to fill in the boxes, to the best of their ability. You may print out the worksheet, or assign it as a template in your account. In the grid, they will write their definition of each type as the instructor goes through them. Then, in the second column, they must come up with an example of this type from a story, play, novel, or even a movie they know. If students cannot fill in a box, then instruct them that they may leave it blank. After five minutes, ask students to compare lists with someone sitting near them. Then ask each pair to say an example of one type out loud.
After defining the terms, decide whether you would like students to pair together or complete the worksheet individually. Using Storyboard That's creator, they can fill in their master worksheet and create cells depicting each type of foreshadowing in the last row.
After students have finished creating their master worksheet, consider having them present their ideas to each other. Using the slideshow or PowerPoint feature is a great way to end the lesson. Check out our lessons on how giving students a presentation to complete will help them master the concept of foreshadowing.