Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Playing Detective

Bethany Cookman


Using Roald Dahl's “The Landlady,” students play detective to learn about foreshadowing and how it contributes to plot development in a text.


The student knows how foreshadowing and flashbacks contribute to plot development of the text.


- “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl (If this story is not available, the teacher may select any appropriate story to use.)
- Copies of blank T- chart for all students (Associated File)
- Overhead copy of blank T- chart.
- Answer key with examples of foreshadowing and what they foreshadow (Associated File)
- Rubric to assess paragraphs (Associated File)


1. Obtain a class set of the short story “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl.
2. Make a copy of the T-chart for each student.
3. Make an overhead of the T-chart for teacher.
4. Obtain answer key from Associated Files.
5. Obtain rubric from Associated Files


DAY 1:

1. Begin class by asking students if they have ever run into someone accidentally as they rounded the corner of a building. Why? Ask students what might have helped them avoid the collision. In other words, how could they have known someone was there before they actually saw them? (You might hear them talking, whistling, or walking loudly)

2. Ask students to think of a situation in which they might know someone is coming without hearing them first. Elicit from them that if it is sunny and the sun is in the right place, you might see the shadow before you actually see the person. This shadow would hint at the person’s presence before the person actually arrived. You see a shadow before you see the person.
(If possible, you might take the students outside to actually demonstrate how this works.)

3. Provide students with the literary definition of foreshadowing: The use of clues or hints to suggest events that will occur later in the plot. Tell them that the clues in the story could be looked at as the “shadow” of a later event just like the shadow on the sidewalk.

4. Provide students with an example of how foreshadowing works in literature. For example, a gun found under a mattress in chapter two of a novel may foreshadow violence later in the story. Because the gun’s presence is established, the violence later in the story is more believable.

5. Ask students to brainstorm a list of movies or T.V. shows that use foreshadowing. ([The Sixth Sense] is an example that a lot of students are familiar with.) Discuss how foreshadowing can build suspense and also make stories more believable by partially preparing us for the outcome. As audience members, we want the foreshadowing to be present but not obvious.

6. Pair students up. It is best to arrange students face to face in their desks. Tell students to read the story aloud, alternating paragraphs as they go. Instruct them to pause as they read and make comments to each other about the text. They may ask questions, make comments or predictions, or clarify meaning. Note: During this activity, the noise level tends to increase. Encourage students to use softer voices, but as long as they are on task, be tolerant. The noise tends to bother the teacher more than the students who are reading.

DAY 2:

7. Discuss the outcome of “The Landlady” with the class. Ask them to describe what most likely happens to Billy at the end of the story. (Make sure that they realize Billy will probably be poisoned and stuffed by the landlady.) Inform the students that this should not be a complete surprise to them because Roald Dahl prepares the reader for this conclusion by using foreshadowing throughout the story.

8. Tell students to pretend they are detectives investigating this situation. Tell students to reread the story and search for clues or hints that indicate the ending. Students should complete the T-chart by listing these examples of foreshadowing in the text and tell what they foreshadow. Tell students they should be able to find at least five examples from the text. Remind them that these are the things that might have saved Billy if he would have noticed them. Provide the students with one example on the overhead to get them started. While they work, circulate to make sure students are on the right track.

9. After students complete their charts, ask them to share some of their examples of foreshadowing. Place the blank chart on the overhead and list their examples. Use the answer key provided to formatively assess if the students have identified examples of foreshadowing and have correctly indicated what event is being foreshadowed.

10. Tell students they should now use the information from their charts to write a paragraph that explains how foreshadowing in “The Landlady” contributes to the development of the plot. They should use their T-charts as support. (This could be assigned for homework depending on the amount of time left in class.)

11. Collect paragraphs and assess using the provided rubric. Provide students with appropriate feedback.


Note: This lesson only assesses foreshadowing and how it contributes to plot development.
Students complete a T-chart on foreshadowing. Students write a paragraph discussing the use of foreshadowing in the story “The Landlady.”
Students identify five examples of foreshadowing from the text and tell what event is foreshadowed. Students indicate in their paragraphs how the identified examples of foreshadowing contribute to the plot development of the text.

Assessment Tool: Use the answer key to formatively assess students’ knowledge of foreshadowing as indicated on their charts and through listening to their discussion. With the attached rubric, formatively assess the students’ knowledge of how foreshadowing contributes to plot development.

Attached Files

Foreshadowing in "The Landlady"     File Extension: pdf

Foreshadowing in "The Landlady" - Key     File Extension: pdf

Paragraph Assessment Criteria     File Extension: pdf

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