Bait Them With Suspense

To begin, happy Thanksgiving to those of you who read my blog and live in Canada. I hope you are doing well and having a great day.



Autumn has always been my favourite season. Along with Christmas, Halloween is my favorite Holiday. Thanksgiving is my next. I think this is because these Holidays remind me of the change of seasons, the metamorphosis from one form of nature to another, when change itself portends something new, something unknown. It is this portent, this suspense, that hooks students and maintains their attention.

Suspense is the desire to know what is next or what something unknown is. It is very different from what was that and what just happened. Suspense is not confusion; it is curiosity awakened and denied, like a bulging pouch dangled on a stick.

In addition to portending change and suspense, Thanksgiving, Halloween and Christmas seem to be the Holidays when we most clearly recognize and celebrate nature. I always liked natural mysteries, particularly when they are related to phenomena that have been explained.

Take this Astronomy Picture of the Day that seems to show an ocean on fire. But is it?

Actually, it is a sunrise over the Rio de La Plata. Imagine if you would introducing this photograph in your Science or Language Arts class and discussing it before explaining what it is about, then discussing the explanation and how the two descriptions differ and why.



I have often been fascinated by the phenomena of mysterious natural lights, and Autumn seems to fire this fascination. Many of these lights have been explained; many have not. Folklore, contemporary, ancient and in between, magnifies these phenomena making for great language arts stories and controversial, if not messy and notorious, scientific investigations. But what fun kids can have studying these edgy subjects and learning the nature of language arts and scientific inquiry.

Mysterious Weather Phenomena


St. Elmo’s Fire (explained and verified)



Will-o’-the-Wisp (unexplained and unconfirmed)



Newton studied the Will-o’-the-Wisp, as did several other famous and respected investigators. Several authors and poets have used it as a motif. For instance, I wrote an analysis comparing Brook’s King of the Silver River, Tolkien’s Tom Bombadil and Tolkien’s Tinfang Warble to the Will o’ the Wisp phenomenon.

Want to get your students interested about nature? Start by teaching them what we do not know and understand, then what we have come to know and understand, and finally what we have studied thoroughly. Natural phenomena offer a mystery, an authentic element of suspense, that stirs almost all curiosity.


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