Foreshadowing (Predicting) In Literature

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Hi Guys! Yesterday’s post was geared towards adults so today I decided to write something fun for my younger audience. Today, I wanted to teach children the concept of foreshadowing and how it came to be.

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A Little History Lesson: 

Foreshadowing is a literary word I concocted (literally) in a class on Harry Potter. It was a student-led class at UC Berkeley taught by a good friend of mine. The year was 2004 and J.K. Rowling had published 5 books and rumors were circulating about the next Potter book in the series.

Two of the things I noticed in her earlier books were the words and images she used to describe something. They always connected to something that happened later in the book. It could be the color green of Slytherin that was later attributed to Lord Voldemort, a former Slytherin or the importance of friendships that later became glaringly important. When I pointed out this observation, no one in the class including the teacher (and later on my professors) knew what I was talking about. So like any great student, I lied. I said that this literary device already exists and it is called “Foreshadowing”. Yup, just like that a literary device widely used in literature classes across colleges today was created. My friend/teacher didn’t believe me and laughed it off, but I believe she realizes how important that moment was in the literature world now.

What Is My Definition Of Foreshadowing?

Foreshadowing is a form of a literary device. A literary device is anything that adds layers or texture to your writing. Basically, including a literary device(s) make your writing fun to the reader. Foreshadowing is including words (description), characterization (who is your character?) or imagery (word pictures) in your writing that hints at a future event. If you want your character to get into trouble, you better describe him as a troublemaker before he actually creates trouble.

As a reader, if you have enough practice, you can catch these types of words and images early. It makes the reading experience so much more fun when your “prediction” comes true.

Two Funny “Prediction” Anecdotes: 

So how was my mind attuned to notice this genius trick hidden in the unbeknownst mind of J.K. Rowling? Let me tell you a few stories:

I have already told you some of my school stories from Pakistan, but here are two that kids will find most fascinating. In first grade, Anne Wojcicki and Linda Avey came to visit us with a science invention. Anne was a teenager and I only remember the hair of Linda because it was platinum blond, a rare hair color in Pakistan. When I finished staring at Linda, I was able to tell her why I was staring – her blond hair! She was such a good teacher that she used that “teaching moment” to teach me about “genes”, which was what the science experiment was about!

The science experiment involved a Petri dish, paper towels, droppers, a sample (I think it was a hair strand), and some chemicals. The demonstration involved them putting the hair in the petri dish on paper towers and putting the chemical on it to see what happens. The point was to see the chemical itself change colors. And I remember for two seconds it showed one color and then immediately it changed to another color. As excited I was to see the rainbow effect, I was even more fascinated with her telling us that the first color showed that we came from monkeys, but the fact that the chemical immediately changed into a different color shows that we are actually homo sapiens! The entire class, including my teacher, was shocked at this point.

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As a self-proclaimed creative genius, I asked her if our genes are in the hair. And Avery replied yes. Then I asked innocently (or not) why didn’t they remove the “genes” from the hair and use the chemicals directly on the “genes”. Both Avery and Annie at that point were thinking something, which as a six-year-old I couldn’t tell. But they looked at my teacher and asked if I was okay. Not discouraged, I told them they should make kits for everyone. They said these kits would be expensive (think $1000 around 1989 or 1990). But today, 30 years from that fateful day in Islamabad, Pakistan, the company 23&Me (see HERE), founded by Avery and Anne, is helping homo-sapiens around the world find their DNA heritage.

So, kids, the point is that I did a bit of predicting here.

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In 2nd or 3rd grade, you will be excited to learn that I met Taylor Swift, as a tiny baby. It must have been 1990, but I remember her mom telling me she is 8 months old. So what did baby Taylor look like? Well, she was the pinkest baby I had ever met (and my brother was really pink as a baby) and she had blue eyes that she couldn’t open fully because it was so sunny. I don’t remember if she was wrapped in a blue or white blanket, but I think her romper had apples on it. I remember her mom and her aunt there as well. You guys know what a charmer I was in my school in Pakistan so when I saw this blond/blue-eyed family arrive at our school one day, I just had to go over there and say hello.

Bits and pieces of our conversation are still roaming in my head, but I remember I talking to her aunt about red lips. I honestly don’t remember what the context was and I know you guys are disappointed because of that, but yes I think her aunt had on a bright red lipstick color.

By this time there was a crowd around her because she was so cute. And then it hit me! I forgot to welcome them to Pakistan, say thanks to God for giving me the opportunity to meet them, and give my “predicting powers” another spin. So this is what I did. I stared at Taylor Swift. I think she may have been uncomfortable at this point, but she didn’t say anything; remember she was a baby.

After a few long seconds, I declared, “she is going to be a singer!”. And both her aunt and her mother were like no.  Her dad was a doctor and he wanted her to be either a doctor or a teacher. Then I got a little competitive. I said, “watch this!” and I said, “blue, blah, boing” to Taylor. And I think Taylor had it at that point and let out a loud wail. I listened to the wail closely and told her mother, “see, I am right. She is going to be a singer. Look how strong her throat (vocal cords, duh) is”. I am sure it took a lot of patience, but they smiled at me and just gave Taylor Swift a hug quietly. And…then in 2006, she released her first album. See, I do have prediction powers!

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Anyways, not everyone can claim they have prediction powers like me, but they can read books and find examples of foreshadowing and feel like they do. Trust me, being right rocks.

Teaching Foreshadowing In Reading And Writing: 

Parents and teachers can teach their kids and students about the literary device called foreshadowing. A place to start is HERE and HERE.

Teachers may call this technique, “predicting”, which is completely fine for young kids. Have your students make a double entry journal in their notebooks. On the left column, they write their predictions as you read and stop and on the right column they write “textual evidence”.

Children Books That Teach Foreshadowing: 

  • The Stranger
  • Goldilocks
  • The True Story Of Three Little Pigs
  • The Snowy Day
  • The Entire Harry Potter Series