The case for Total Physical Response

Total Physical Response:

A couple of days ago someone posted asking how to do TPR for 50 minutes, and responded that in my level 1 classes, I did TPR exclusively for 8 straight weeks, with 50 and 60 min classes at a time. Here’s my post and some docs to help understand how:

Why should you do TPR for level 1s?
1) Strong start to the language learning process – When done right, a good TPR lesson lowers anxiety and ensures immediate success. In my experience, TPR is the STRONGEST CI method I use, meaning that it has almost a 100% success rate with all students. Almost 100% of my students engage in it and the vocab sticks. The first 7-8 weeks with my level 1s is always the best and happiest time of the year. When I switch to more contextualized methods later in the year (due to running out of TPR-able lessons), that’s when I start to see who has learning challenges and who doesn’t. That’s when I need to start “managing” a classroom. If I could do TPR the whole year, I would.

2) Tunes ears / Silent phase – One thing we don’t talk a lot about in level 1 classes is that our students’ ears aren’t tuned for the language. They can’t hear sounds of a language that aren’t native to their own. TPR lessons allow students to acquire language that is simple and concrete during the “silent phase” of their learning. They get tons of repetition and by the end of the units, their ears are much more primed to pick up the sounds of the language. Thus, when you switch to contextualized teaching (stories, PQAs, etc.), the language is more comprehensible to them.

3) Build vocabulary – You can build over 150 words in 8 weeks with TPR, since it’s concrete vocabulary and the physical / linguistic relationship helps vocab stick faster. So when you start your stories / cultural lessons / etc., you have a huge pool of acquired vocab that you can use to include.

How TPR?
1) Make 50 min lesson plans that include 20 words max, and a mixture of verbs, nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. Create “sets” of 3-4 words and teach them at a time, using the MODEL HESITATE STOP formula (see #3). Mix in your words so that it’s easy to give commands (pick up, book, red, slowly) can be one “set” of words.

2) Teach ONLY “TPR-able” words – words that are concrete and can clearly be understood through actions. For example: “walk, run, book, floor, eyes” are TPR-able. “Wants, needs, thinks”, aren’t.

3) Use the “Model – Hesitate – Stop” method. Say the command and model it. Model it for the first 5-6 times, then hesitate your actions. (Say the command but hesitate before you start). Then, STOP modeling the actions, but keep saying the words / commands. Once 85% of your students can do “touch your right foot and clap 3 times” without needing you to model it, you can move on to a new set. After you’ve completed 2 “sets” of words (6-8 words), mix them all together and see if 80-85% of your students can do them without you modeling.

4) Do processing activities – After teaching 3-4 sets (about 10-15 words), stop doing TPR and do some processing activities. These can be picture (show two pictures that portray your TPR words and describe one and prompt students to point at the right one), flyswatter game, chain commands, Simon Says, circle questioning with pictures, etc. After 5-10 minutes of processing time, get back into some new TPR words

5) Read – Read James Asher’s book Total Physical response as well as Berty Segal Cook‘s books (she even provides lesson plan structures). Also check out Shelley Thomas‘s materials and videos on her website: Center for Accelerated Language Acquisition (CALA).

Reading this blog post won’t make you good at it. Reading this blog in addition to reading the reference books and watching videos will help you have a stronger start.

Send me a PM with any questions. I LOVE TPR!!

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