Don’t Spoil. Tease.

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You’ve probably heard about a little film coming out this month:

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Don’t worry, NO SPOILERS here!

In fact, the Avengers: Endgame directors Anthony and Joe Russo have earnestly requested that audiences and critics NOT reveal any details about the movie:

“Because so many of you have invested your time, your hearts, and your souls into these stories, we’re once again asking for your help. When you see Endgame in the coming weeks, please don’t spoil it for others, the same way you wouldn’t want it spoiled for you.”

I’m so wary of spoilers this time around, I refuse to read any preview articles, interviews, or speculation by fans. Likewise, whenever a trailer pops up online or on television, I quickly avert my eyes. I’m suspending my social media use later this week, too, since I don’t trust my friends or myself. No spoilers! 

I already know I want to see Avengers: Endgame. I don’t need any pre-release hoopla to motivate me.

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Read more about “Keeping Students Motivated.”

We’ve talked about how teachers should avoid spoilers in their classrooms. We must be careful to not sabotage, short-circuit, or short-change our students in the learning process. Authentic understanding arrives through wonder and discovery, making sense as one investigates concepts and applications.

Read more about spoiler alerts here, along with a nostalgic look at the highly anticipated Star Wars: Episode VII – ThForce Awakens. (The rumors are already flying about the upcoming Episode IX, and I imagine things will soon hit hyperspace.)

 

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Capture my attention? Done.

 

That said, excited fan-geeks are NOT the same as your typical student. While teachers should still avoid spoilers, they may need to provide a little more motivation in their classrooms. And they also need to help along the way.

Another applicable entertainment analogy is the “TEASER.”

Merriam-Webster defines “teaser” as “an advertising or promotional device intended to arouse interest or curiosity especially in something to follow.”

Often, a teaser doesn’t directly name the product or event. Teachers can apply the same practice to engage students, but not spoil them with every detail or label.

Teasers can appear many months before the actual event, and here this analogy may not perfectly translate to the classroom.

Rather than waiting several days or weeks, a teacher probably needs the learning pay-off to occur much sooner. This “a-ha moment” could be in the same day, such as fulfilling an introductory question from bellwork. Or teachers could “tease” students with a prompt or “what if?” at the end of one day and return to this topic the next class.

 

Like spoilers, we’ve discussed teasers before on this blog. Take a look at some superhero examples and classroom applications here.

In the meantime, decide how spoiled you want to be before the next pop culture event. Maybe a new teaser has appeared and piqued your interest.

Either way, find ways to tease – not spoil – your students in the pursuit of learning!

 

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Deep Cuts and Easter Eggs

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So Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 came out recently, and it’s doing quite well at the box office.

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An interesting focus on Vol. 2 has been all the “Easter Eggs” hidden in the film.  These  brief glimpses are easy to miss, encouraging repeated viewings ($$) and audience scrutinization.

Below is just a sampling of Easter Egg lists made about Guardians Vol. 2:

 

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Easter Egg hunts are not just for lesser-known superheroes like the Guardians of the Galaxy.  You can find lists of hidden gems in all sorts of superhero movies, from more recent films like Captain America: Civil War and Doctor Strange to the very first entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Iron Man.

 

My personal favorite Easter Egg is the “circus monkey” drawn by Steve Rogers in Captain America: The First Avenger.  In the comics, Steve worked as a freelance artist from time to time. This sketching scene not only alludes to this history, but it also fits perfectly in the context of the movie.

 

An older sketch-based Easter Egg is the satirical “Bat Man” drawing given to newsman Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) in the 1989 Batman movie.  If you note the artist’s signature, it’s none other than Batman creator Bob Kane!

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Another name for obscure pop culture references is “deep cuts,” a term from the music industry.  Deep cuts are little-known songs on an album that don’t get airtime or attention of more commercial- and radio-friendly singles.  Only die-hard fans are familiar with such songs that most of us have never heard.

In the same way, a lot of “deep cuts” in superhero movies are overlooked by casual viewers.  Often, these cameos and allusions are included simply as a wink or nod to eagle-eyed fans.  Other times, they might be hints of what will happen in an upcoming sequel or spin-off.

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Educators know all about “deep cuts,” and we’re NOT talking about financial funding (at least not this time).

For quite a while now, a common phrase in curriculum is “mile wide, inch deep.” Basically the phrase refers to American students learning a lot of general topics at the surface and not enough “deeper” content in more detail.  This is NOT a new issue, and is something standards are both blamed for as well as championed for trying to fix.

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Take a closer look, if interested, at this ongoing topic over the years:

 

There’s probably not one simple answer to the problem of “quantity over quality.”  However, one question to ask is “How deep?”

How much detail and depth do students need with respect to any given topic?  Again, standards documents may help in guiding educators to focus on key concepts and skills.  But what content is most important?  How much of it?

Here is a quote from the 1996 article linked above:

Before they reach high school, American students will have covered more topics than 75% of the students in other countries; yet in many cases, they will have been taught some of the same topics several years in a row. 

So it’s not just a matter of “quantity over quality;” it’s also an issue of redundancy.

However, based on what we know about learning, repeated exposure to the same content is actually necessary for helping students develop a solid foundational understanding.  Of course, revisiting a certain concept should NOT be a simple rehashing, but involve further exploration, examination, reflection, and application.

Revisiting content should also NOT be mining for trivia.  When a lesson dives deep into a subject, often the temptation is to dig up little-known facts that have little worth in the big picture.  In other words, educators are focusing on the Easter Eggs, as opposed to the larger story and impact.

 

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Missing the point.

I’m all for trivia games and fun.  (Obscure knowledge is part of the fanboy job description.) However, trivia should not come at the expense of meaningful learning and application.  In our quest for more depth in subject learning, teachers must be careful not to spend too much time and energy on trivia.

Consider common modifiers that accompany “trivia” and its related terms:  useless trivia, absurd information, pointless knowledge, random facts, and even the modifier trivial, which Merriam-Webster defines as “of little worth or importance.”

Sounds like an Easter Egg to me, especially the kind with one measly jelly bean inside.

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Black licorice.  Nasty.

 

Teachers, ask yourself if playing Jeopardy! is the best way to review a unit.  (Or Pictionary or Trashketball or Classroom Bingo or other review games.) How can you guide students in a more engaging and thorough examination of relevant content?  How can you expand upon this information for more application and extensions?

Or in movie terms, how can you entice the audience so they hunger for a sequel?

 

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To be continued . . .

 

What about you? What’s your favorite Easter Egg or deep cut?  What is their role in the classroom?