One of my favorite reading lessons comes around this time every year. We are going through the novel The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare as a read-aloud. It ties in with our October/November units, as it takes place around the time of the French & Indian War. This is a great story full of adventure, friendship, and suspense.
At the end of chapter two, we read, “So [Matt] was not so quick-witted as he should have been when unexpectedly someone arrived.” I ask the kids what this makes them think. Usually they say things like, “Something bad is going to happen” or “Matt is caught off guard” or “Maybe it’s Indians and he doesn’t now how to react”. I then explain the author’s use of foreshadowing. I explain that foreshadowing is using clues or hints to suggest events that happen later on in the story. We talk about why authors use foreshadowing and how it helps build suspense and makes the reader want to continue with the story to learn what happens next!
In order to discuss this even further, we pause from our read-aloud and spend time reading the short story “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl. While quite creepy, this is an awesome example of how foreshadowing can be used to create that feeling of suspense in the reader. I found a copy of this online at this website: http://mysite.verizon.net/zila84/_llady.pdf This is what I use as my teacher’s guide, as it includes questions to ask or things to think about during the story. I personally like reading this story out loud to the class. I think it’s fun to make the landlady’s voice sort of creepy, and I know right where to pause to build that suspense. The students like to just sit back and listen too.
So, we read through “The Landlady”, pausing to discuss the story every once in a while just to make sure the students are on track with what is happening. It is amazing to see how into the story they are – every single one of my kiddos was on the edge of their desk (I allow them to sit on their desk during read-alouds) waiting to see what would happen next!
The end of the story is somewhat….open-ended. It doesn’t really say what happens, but using clues from the story, the students are able to make guesses. I give them a little bit of background information, such as what the bitter almond taste in in Billy’s tea might have come from, or why the landlady sort of smells like pickled walnuts or a hospital. We then talk about how the author’s use of foreshadowing helped make this story so interesting. We discuss how it wouldn’t be the same if the author had right away stated what the landlady planned to do.
After reading and discussing the story, I allow the students to create their own endings. Since Roald Dahl left the ending open, it lets the students be incredibly creative when writing their own endings. This is always one of my favorite parts of the lesson – hearing what my kiddos think will happen next!
I also found “The Landlady” is on Youtube! I’m not sure if I’m going to show this to my class, as I like for them to paint their own pictures, not see someone else’s interpretation. But if you like it, here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fEz39MfsLXQ
This is a fun activity that my 5th graders always love and still talk about, even those that I taught a few years ago! How do you teach foreshadowing??