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Suspense in Literature Lesson Plan for Middle School

Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

Middle school students love suspenseful stories. Utilizing an informative text lesson and discussion questions, this lesson plan will help students understand some of the elements of suspense. They will then put their knowledge into practice by creating an original suspenseful radio drama.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • explain the definition and effect of suspense.
  • define 'foreshadowing' and 'cliffhanger'.
  • produce original suspenseful writing.

Length

90 - 120 minutes

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.3

Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.6

Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.3

Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event sequences.

Materials

  • Suspenseful music
  • The audio file of an episode of Suspense or a similar radio drama
  • Copies of the text lesson Suspense in Literature Lesson for Kids, one for each student
  • Audio recording equipment (for the Lesson Extension)

Instructions

  • As students enter the classroom, have some suspenseful music playing - creepy music that slowly builds in intensity. Set the scene by dramatically closing the door, turning off the lights, and waiting a few seconds before introducing the subject of the lesson - suspense!
  • Lead a short discussion to assess what students already know about suspense. Ask questions like, ''Why are scary stories fun to read?''
  • Play an episode of the radio drama, Suspense. A famous one would be ''Sorry, Wrong Number'' by Louise Fletcher. If you're unable to find this episode of Suspense, find a similar radio drama. You may want to briefly explain the idea of radio drama to your class before you play the episode. Be sure to talk about how radio plays aren't simply dramatic readings; they include sound effects, voice actors, and often they have music as well.
  • Stop the episode around halfway through. Ask the class to talk about what elements of the episode attract their interest and keep them listening.
  • Now, distribute the copies of Suspense in Literature Lesson for Kids and read the 'Suspense in Literature', 'Foreshadowing' and 'Cliffhangers' sections.
    • What are some examples of parts from the radio drama that create suspense?
    • What are some moments in the radio drama we are listening to that could be foreshadowing?
  • Continue listening to the radio drama, stopping the episode before the ending is revealed. If you're using ''Sorry, Wrong Number'' you should stop as Mrs. Stevenson hears the footsteps coming up the stairs. Discuss the effect of this cliffhanger and how that could motivate the reader to return to the story.
  • Finish listening to the radio play.
  • Now, read the 'Suspense and Mysteries' and 'Lesson Summary' of the text lesson.
  • Review the concepts from the text lesson as they relate to the radio drama, then use the lesson quiz to assess understanding.

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