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Literary foreshadowing is an important literary element, and students must be able to understand how to identify foreshadowing. 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. By learning how to identify foreshadowing and literary devices similar to foreshadowing, students will eventually be able to comprehend how to foreshadow in writing of their own.

What is Foreshadowing in Literature?

Foreshadowing future events is a literary device that is used to give the reader a hint, warning, or suggestion of future plot developments. The foreshadow meaning and a foreshadow picture can be difficult concepts to grasp, as they are often not explicit or obvious, and the reader may even miss the hints dropped by the author. Although foreshadowing is often used in mystery novels, it can be used in any genre of literature. Foreshadowing can be gloomy accounts, scene foreshadows, or even false clues! All types of foreshadowing can be considered ironic foreshadowing, since the reader has the potential to know things that the characters do not!

Foreshadowing Techniques and Purpose

There are many literary techniques that authors use to foreshadow in their writing. Some of these techniques include:

  • Description of a character’s feelings or expressions during an event, and even character traits.

  • Symbolism such as a shift in time, weather (think: sudden storm clouds), or character behavior.

  • The random appearance of an object or person.

  • Certain vague dialogue.

  • A scene that sets up an event that takes place later in the story.

  • The purpose of foreshadowing in books is that foreshadowing helps to keep the audience’s interest and wanting to read on, creating a sense of suspense and anticipation. It makes the reader feel invested in the plot, and pushes the reader to think about and be curious about what will happen next. Since foreshadowing is often used early on in the story in the first chapter, it can create a certain atmosphere or tone for the reader in the second or third chapter and beyond.

    Different Types of Foreshadowing

    In general, foreshadowing can be either direct or indirect. Direct foreshadowing is straightforward and obvious, and heightens the reader’s awareness and anticipation of things to come in the story. Indirect foreshadowing, on the other hand, gives the reader subtle clues to events that will happen in the future. The reader usually will not even realize the importance of the foreshadowing until after the event has taken place.

    There are 5 types of foreshadowing in literature, although many are only familiar with 4. Learn more about the different types of foreshadowing, with examples of foreshadowing in literature from Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations below.

    Concrete Foreshadowing

    What is concrete foreshadowing? Commonly referred to as "Chekov's Gun", concrete foreshadowing is when the author explicitly states something that they want the reader to be aware of for the future. An example of this in the novel is when Pip mentions that the stranger in the bar stirred his drink with a file. This foreshadowed a connection with the first convict, who the reader later learns is Pip’s benefactor.

    Prophecy Foreshadowing

    Prophecy foreshadowing, also known as prominent foreshadowing, 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. An example of prophecy foreshadowing from the story is when Pip is given the conditions of his expectations from Jaggers. He stated that Pip may not inquire who his benefactor is, until coming events when they choose to reveal themselves.

    Flashback/Flash-Forward Foreshadowing

    Flashback/Flash-Forward Foreshadowing, or evocative foreshadowing, is when an author needs the reader to know something that doesn't fit with the current storyline. 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 foreshadowing but in the past or reverse foreshadowing. In Great Expectations, there are several times when Pip interjects as the narrator and gives his inner thoughts from the present. Many instances it is to tell the reader how foolish he was, like when he mistreated Joe.

    Symbolic Foreshadowing

    Symbolic foreshadowing, or abstract foreshadowing, is much harder for the reader to pick up on. Since it is not concrete or overt foreshadowing, it 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. Many times in Great Expectations, Miss Havisham’s home is described as shrouded in mist or gloom. This abstract foreshadowing in drama is an example of a warning; like the setting of her home, Miss Havisham is a dark and gloomy individual.

    Fallacy Foreshadowing

    Fallacy foreshadowing, 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.

    Examples of Foreshadowing in Literature

    Warning: may contain spoilers! The following famous examples were chosen because they build dramatic tension and create suspense!

    • The Scarlet Ibis: The ibis in the story foreshadows Doodle’s death. This is an example of a symbol foreshadowing an upcoming event.
    • Lord of the Flies: When Roger throws rocks at Piggy early on in the story, this is an example of concrete foreshadowing. Later, the foreshadowed event is when Roger ends up killing Piggy with a large boulder.
    • Hatchet: Brian’s mom gives him a particular gift that turns out to be life saving after the plane crash. This is an example of the appearance of a physical object as foreshadowing an event that is to come in the future.
    • Of Mice and Men: The mouse, Candy’s old dog, and Curley’s wife foreshadow Lennie’s death.
    • Romeo and Juliet: Juliet remarks that Romeo looks gray, like he is at the bottom of a tomb, as he leaves her residence. This is an example of foreshadowing in a dialogue between two characters.
    • The Lightning Thief: There are many examples of concrete foreshadowing in this book. One example is when Percy says, “I told Grover I didn’t think Mrs. Dobbs was human. He looked at me real serious and said, ‘You’re absolutely right.’” This is an example of foreshadowing in a dialogue between two characters.
    • The Tragedy of Julius Caesar: The birds of prey foreshadow Cassius’s own death. In this case, the foreshadowing comes in the form of a symbol: the birds.
    • The poem ”The Black Cat” by Edgar Allan Poe: The strongest example of foreshadowing comes in the form of the black and white cat, who not only is missing an eye like Pluto, reminding the narrator of his violent act, but the white mark on his chest changes shape to look like a gallows. This foreshadows the judgment that will ultimately find the narrator.

    Example of a Foreshadowing Lesson Plan

    Storyboard That has tons of pre-made activities for novels of all genres that are appropriate for all grade levels. Generally speaking, our activities take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour; they are engaging, creative, and the kids will love them! Many of our novels have foreshadowing activities that you can use. However, if you are just looking for an introduction to foreshadowing activity, check out the example below. We have provided you with everything that you need to use this lesson today, including an overview, Common Core standards, specific essential questions, objectives, a list of materials, tips, and a suggested procedure. Check out our pre-made examples and templates to make your lesson even easier to prepare!

    Time: Introduction - 45 Minutes

    Grade Level: 8-12


    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. Remember: this is just a guide for standards. Individual states have their own individual standards.

    • ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1: Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text
    • ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3: Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme
    • ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4: Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task
    • ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.5: Make strategic use of digital media (e.g., textual, graphical, audio, visual, and interactive elements) in presentations to enhance understanding of findings, reasoning, and evidence and to add interest

    Overview of the Lesson

    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 ask them to think deeply about ways foreshadowing can affect the work as a whole. This lesson will get students more familiar with the literary device of foreshadowing, and help students be able to better recognize it in the books that they read.

    Lesson Specific Essential Questions

    1. If you know what will happen in a novel, does it make reading more enjoyable?
    2. Can you differentiate the types of foreshadowing in a work of literature?
    3. Can you list and explain an example of each type of foreshadowing from stories, plays, and novels we have read this year?


    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.

    Instructional Materials/Resources/Tools

    • Access to Definition
    • Types of Foreshadowing: Foreshadowing Types Template (Worksheet #1 provided by the teacher)
    • Types of Foreshadowing (Completed): Foreshadowing Types Template (Worksheet #2 provided by the teacher)
    • Access to Storyboard That

    Instructional Tips/Strategies/Suggestions for Teacher

    Be specific when asking students to create a storyboard that shows the types of foreshadowing. Having a specific storyboard template for students to start with will help guide them and help them organize their thoughts. We recommend a spider map or a chart storyboard. 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.

    Teachers should make or print out two worksheets prior to the lesson. Worksheet #1 should have three columns: the first column will be the type of foreshadowing and the text will already be provided. The second column will be where the students write the definition for that type of foreshadowing, and the third column will be where students write a specific example of this type of foreshadowing.

    Need help creating a worksheet? Check out our extensive worksheet template library!

    Lesson Details/Procedure

    Lesson Opening

    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.

    Lesson Activity

    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.

    Lesson Extension

    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.

    Related Foreshadowing Activities

    Many of Storyboard That’s pre-made teacher guides include foreshadowing activities. A few of these activities are below. Check them out today!

    How Foreshadowing in Literature Helps Students Develop Their Critical Thinking Skills


    Active Reading

    The use of foreshadowing requires students to read actively, paying close attention to details and making connections between them.


    Prediction and Inference

    As students identify instances of foreshadowing in the text, they must make predictions and inferences about what may happen next, based on the clues provided.


    Analysis and Interpretation

    Students must analyze and interpret the foreshadowing in the context of the story, considering how it contributes to the plot, theme, and character development.


    Evaluation and Reflection

    Students must evaluate the effectiveness of the foreshadowing in the story and reflect on how it enhances their understanding of the text.



    Students can apply their understanding of foreshadowing to other texts and real-world situations, helping them develop critical thinking skills that can be used beyond the classroom.

    Frequently Asked Questions about Foreshadowing

    What are the 4 types of foreshadowing?

    There are actually 5 types of foreshadowing! The 5 types are: prophecy, concrete, flashback/flash-forward, symbolic, and fallacy foreshadowing.

    How do I identify foreshadowing?

    Sometimes it can be difficult to tell how to identify foreshadowing. Unless it is concrete, readers must be aware that foreshadowing is likely in certain types of stories. Sometimes you can identify foreshadowing if an event is mentioned earlier in the story, in the dialogue, and in a scene that shows something will clearly reoccur.

    What is concrete foreshadowing?

    Concrete foreshadowing is when the author clearly and explicitly tells the reader something that they want you to know for the future of the book. It is obvious and intentional. This is commonly referred to as, "Chekov's Gun".

    How do I use foreshadowing in writing?

    There are lots of options on how to use foreshadowing in writing. Some ways of writing foreshadowing include: in the title, in dialogue between characters, the choice of setting, figurative language, and even in the traits of the main characters.

    What is a good example of foreshadowing?

    We have listed many examples of good foreshadowing above. Another, however, is from the book, The Kite Runner. At the beginning of the book, the reader is shown Amir’s recollection of a “deserted alley”.

Find more activities like this in our 6-12 ELA Category!
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