I got this question from Ray:

Hey Ben,

I had to bail on a story yesterday.  When bailing, do you find it wise to choose a very boring activity to put in perspective for them how much better stories are than other possible activities?  Do you also let them know that you stopped the story because of their lack of participation or disruptiveness?

When I bailed I told them that the energy level was too low to continue with the story and we were going to do a free write instead.  I could see that they didn’t really like that, and I was kind of happy about it.  My hope is that the next time we do a story they’ll remember the boring writing they could be doing instead.

Any thoughts?


Stopping the  story activity was the right thing to do. Turning a free write into a punitive activity was not right, however, in my opinion. Free writes are a powerful and positive way to keep kids interested in the language. Blaine, I think, suggests going to a grammar lesson or something truly boring.

However, remember that dud stories can be due to a lot of factors that have nothing to do with the kids’ attitudes. Usually, at least over 50% of the time, stories fail because the teacher is not going slowly enough. Or the script can be a dud. Or, also very common, is that the kids don’t know, haven’t yet been taught, all the non-target structure words in the story.

In other other words, we are the ones responsible for our success. I know that kids can be jerks, it is their job, right? Like Rimbaud said in a poem Foin de Bock: “On n’est pas sérieux quand on a dix-sept ans.” So we can punish them with grammar, but I don’t agree with that because we need every minute of CI we can get.

My choice is to slow things way down and put them into a situation in which they CAN succeed as per:

P.S. to Ray: you may have got the idea to go with a free write from this:

But I didn’t mean to use it in a punitive way, as per the above.



1 thought on “Bailin’”

  1. Thanks for the response. It makes a lot of sense. As I think about it, I agree that free writes should be used in positive ways.

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