A Bail Out Move Using Drawing

Diane N. in Chicago shows us another way to “se tirer d’affaire”, as the French say, to get out of a difficult situation in class so that no one notices, which we here in our group call going to a “bail out move”:

I needed to bail out on PQA with a class today – too many too chatty and distracting kids to keep a conversation going well. I think bail-out moves are templates. “Bail-outs” as a concept, I think, should somehow be included.

Because I’m so pleased with how my bail-out worked, I will explain further. My bail-out today was spur of the moment with my oldest class. We had created gestures & PQA’d some words for 20 minutes and I didn’t like the feel of the class. Too squirrely, too chatty, poor conversation skills from many. Monday morning, first period. I thought, “What can I do that will still cause these kids to listen to these words in meaningful context (since personalized context wasn’t going very well!)?”

I switched to having them sketch what I described – describing a scene that used all the new structures. The list of new structures was still up on the board. I had to repeat the description and gradually added a few details and used different wording. They asked me to repeat! Marvelous. Drawing slows the kids down – and made them be quieter and listen better. Then they told a partner what was in their scene. Then a couple brave souls came up front and spoke about their sketch in front of the class.

Then I gave them a comprehension quiz on which all but one student got 100% (not typical after PQA but I still had time and they had to be kept structured and active). I collected their sketches & picked two especially clear, cute ones to use at the beginning of class tomorrow as a review.



11 thoughts on “A Bail Out Move Using Drawing”

  1. I love that you are able to judge when it is going to go well, or not, and make the adjustment. That is a very intuitive skill and it isn’t easy for many teachers to do!! I agree that it is easier to do when you have an option available to you that you like, that is familiar and will KEEP THE KIDS GOING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION!!! It then becomes a “change of venue” rather than a punishment.
    On that note, Ben dear, “bail-out” is another one of those terms that makes it sound (from the outside, and I’m sorry , but messages/attitudes/ideas from this blog do get outside!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) like we aren’t taking what we do seriously. And you (we) do. Very seriously. Again, just my persnickety two cents on that one. I love that you are posting and reposting these ideas…they are going to save teachers and students. But they are good teaching strategies…in and of themselves…AND it’s good teaching practice to have an alternative. It ain’t no bailout. :o)

    with love,

  2. The review of the students’ drawings turned out to be a great way to start class the next day, too. The two students whose drawings I chose were honored (and generally aren’t the most verbal in the language, so it was especially nice to show that they understand very well). The review also clarified how many of them had retained the new structures.

  3. I just tried the drawing during a PQA session in Latin that was not going particularly well. I liked it a good bit. It slowed me down and focused them. It was a good bail-out move because it eliminated the need for me to be so interesting. At the same time my kids were focused on the language.

    With my distracted, bouncing-off-the-walls class I think this might become a permanent part of the PQA process. I will also probably try to review some of the drawings tomorrow as a class warmup before the story.

  4. Two quick thoughts:

    1) It would be cool to pick up pictures randomly throughout the class period, project them over the document camera, and discuss them in L2. Good version of recycling, but with PQA and not stories.

    2) Maybe use a student’s pictures as the basis for a Quick Quiz? e.g., in L2, “In this picture, class, does Albert want to eat vegetables?”

    1. Hi Daniel,
      I teach Chinese and these were the structures: “cross the street,” a word that means waitress/service staff/clerk, “milkshake,” and “speaks a little Mandarin” (which was easier because they knew all the characters in it from other words – they knew part of milkshake and waitress too). Sounds unrelated to an outside observer perhaps… we’re preparing for a trip to San Francisco and these are important things to know.

      They drew on sheets of blank, white paper – some asked for whiteboards because they love them, but I knew I wanted to collect their efforts (adds accountability and gives me a way to use their drawings again). I don’t have a document what-are-they-called? Viewer? I have a projector that displays what comes from a computer attached to it. I scanned in two drawings after class and then showed them from electronic scans the next day. (Too small to see the originals across the room.)

      My description of the scene varied, but it was approximately: “There is a (service staff). She’s a woman. She can speak a little Mandarin. The service worker is beside a street. It’s a pretty street: there are flowers! Across the street there is a small restaurant. The restaurant has milkshakes. The (service staff) likes milkshakes. She wants to buy a milkshake. She crosses the street to go buy a milkshake at the little restaurant.” It took several minutes and variations of this information for them to get it all. My personal favorite student drawing had the Krusty Krab for the restaurant and a waitstaff with a cap like at one of those drive-in burger places in the 1950’s. Very effective.

  5. I’d love to hear more about how you reviewed the pics at the beginning of the next class. I like having my kids do a warm-up when they come in and I take attendance, but that’s a “housekeeping” decision and not a teaching/learning decision, so anything that really connects them to CI I’m all for adding to my repertoire.


    1. I think there are a lot of ways to review a sketch and my run through of it at the time wasn’t an all-time best. At the time I did something like circling questions orally. (Can the service staff speak Mandarin? A lot or a little? Does she buy a milkshake? Where? How does she get to the restaurant? etc.)

      However, as the students entered the room before class, I had the picture up on screen and they were talking about it without prompting (but in English). As a class starter, they could have talked with a partner about what’s in the picture before we did something as a class.

  6. Wow, this was posted a year ago but I recently saw it for the first time. I love it!

    Just did it today for the first time using almost all old words from the beginning of the year. We have two more weeks until midterms and I don’t want to introduce more than one or two structures before then. We’re going to be doing a lot of these, “draw what I say” quizzes. (I’m calling them pic tells in my “lesson plan” notes.)

    And totally on board with scanning the interesting pics and using them in the days that follow. The upcoming midterm will involve two, maybe three parts. Free write and free speak being two of them. (Should take all but 20 minutes to complete! The rest of the two hour block will be spent the kids studying for other exams and me grading their work!) Using the pics and inviting students to ad-lib from them will be good warm-ups for the exam.

    1. I call this one “Listen and Draw” and it is definitely a regular thing I do with classes. Only once has it ever gone not-so-well: beginner students with serious listening issues. For them I should have WAYYY simplified the scene, and then I think it would’ve worked. I thought they were ready for more than they were at the time. (Though 4 of the 8 of them did well with the original plan I had, for the others I had to reduce and adapt on the spot.)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Search

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe to Our Mailing List

No spam, notifications only about new products, updates.

Related Posts

CI and the Research (cont.)

Admins don’t actually read the research. They don’t have time. If or when they do read it, they do not really grasp it. How could

Research Question

I got a question: “Hi Ben, I am preparing some documents that support CI teaching to show my administrators. I looked through the blog and

We Have the Research

A teacher contacted me awhile back. She had been attacked about using CI from a team leader. I told her to get some research from

The Research

We don’t need any more research. In academia that would be a frivolous comment, but as a classroom teacher in languages I support it. Yes,



Subscribe to be a patron and get additional posts by Ben, along with live-streams, and monthly patron meetings!

Also each month, you will get a special coupon code to save 20% on any product once a month.

  • 20% coupon to anything in the store once a month
  • Access to monthly meetings with Ben
  • Access to exclusive Patreon posts by Ben
  • Access to livestreams by Ben