We’ve been looking at curiosity and this article has some bad news: curiosity, while powerful, is also slow.
I referenced this a bit in the first article. The kids watching The Empire Strikes Back in that example were enthralled by the surprising information, but their curiosity came at a cost: time.
It took two movies before that information became powerful enough.
Writers Know This
The Empire Strikes Back isn’t the only movie to take its sweet time. Great stories always build up audience interest before unleashing the real conflict:
- 18% of The Wizard of Oz passes before Dorothy gets to Oz. First, there’s a conflict with Mrs. Gulch, Dorothy talks to the farmhands, she sings, Toto is taken, Toto returns, Dorothy runs away, she meets Professor Marvel and has her fortune told, she returns to the farm, the twister comes, and only then does she get to Oz!
- In Finding Nemo, no one is trying to find Nemo in the beginning. Nemo doesn’t need finding until 17% through the movie.
- Ain’t nothin’ frozen in Frozen until 30% of its time has passed.
- Harry Potter doesn’t lay eyes on Hogwarts until 27% into the first film. He doesn’t stand before Voldemort until the end of book four!
- Toy Story is all about Buzz and Woody’s relationship, but Buzz doesn’t appear until 21% through the film.
All of this exposition is essential. Imagine if The Wizard of Oz began with Dorothy stepping straight into Oz! What if Finding Nemo started with Marlin looking for his lost son? Imagine if Harry Potter began with Harry arriving at Hogwarts?
We simply wouldn’t care. We need the context that the first 15-25% of a story builds. The time spent establishing an audience’s interest is an investment.
Curiosity is slow. It can’t be rushed. We have to earn curiosity by thoughtfully establishing context in the first chunk of our lessons.
No Time! No Time!
“But I don’t have time!” cries the weary teacher. “I just need to get to the material!”
What would you say to:
- a chef claiming the kitchen doesn’t have time to let the whole chicken cook to 160º
- a personal trainer telling clients that they don’t have time to warm up and stretch their muscles
- a dentist telling her patients that they just don’t have time to wait for the anesthesia to kick in
These are non-negotiables. You make time… or you lose your customers. No one will eat at a restaurant that serves undercooked chicken, a gym that injures clients, or a dentist who drills without novocaine. Filmmakers take the time to build their stories correctly or audiences won’t show up.
But students are “customers” who don’t have a choice! They’re required by law to be there. Imagine if they weren’t. How long until our classes would be out of business?
It’s worth taking the time to do it right. When we jump into the meat of a lesson without setting up context and focusing our students on why the content is interesting, we set the lesson up for failure.
Next time, we’ll look at some curiosity recipes to help you find an entry point to establish student curiosity in a topic.
Note: I found the real starting points of movies by using MovieScreenCaps.com