Foreshadowing is a literary device that foretells of something that will happen later in a story. In movies, often the eerie music in horror movies signals or foreshadows impending doom. Authors use this device to help readers become more engaged the story and to build suspense. While foreshadowing is largely used in mysteries, foreshadowing can be found in all types of literature and film and is a great device to help students make predictions. Teaching sixth graders how to successfully identify foreshadowing is often a matter of activating their prior knowledge and using both print and non-print media to help them recognize foreshadowing in the places they already are familiar with.
Sixth-graders already know what foreshadowing is on some level. Many movies use foreshadowing elements to enhance suspense. To access their prior knowledge, question students about their favorite scary movies. Ask them, how did you know that something was in the closet? What made you think that there was something under the stairs? You’ll find that students already know what foreshadowing is without knowing the formal name for it.
Graphic organizers are a great way for sixth-graders to track and analyze foreshadowing in a piece of text. Have students read a story with lots of foreshadowing. For example, in “The Most Dangerous Game,” by Richard Connell, the hero of the story (Rainsford) has a conversation about hunting where he expresses little concern for the feelings of hunted animals. This foreshadows what happens to Rainsford later in the story when he becomes the one hunted like an animal. Have students use a graphic organizer to track the instance of foreshadowing in the story. Graphic organizer headings can be: Clues, Later Events and Effects of Foreshadowing. Students can list the conversation under the clue heading and Rainsford being hunted under the Later Event heading. The last heading, Effects of Foreshadowing, is where higher-level critical-thinking skills come into play. Answers in this section may vary, but look for evidence that the student has clearly thought about what effect it has on the reader.
Have students compete in a foreshadowing scavenger hunt. Hand out a short story with at least ten foreshadowing clues. Set a timer and reward the students who find the most clues in the time allotted. Go an extra step and further reward the student who can accurately state how the use of foreshadowing helped the story.
Another activity is to have students write their own story with at least three foreshadowing events. Allow students to either make the story up or write about a personal experience. Writing their own stories using foreshadowing allows students to practice what they've learned.
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