Teaching ESL

Teaching Methodologies - Total Physical Response
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Author:  mesmark [ Tue Aug 26, 2008 10:01 pm ]
Post subject:  Teaching Methodologies - Total Physical Response

Listen to the show.

Total Physical Response (TPR) is a methodology made famous by James Ashner. It’s teaching style based on kinestetic learning. Teachers speak and students respond in some manner physically.

We cover:

* what TPR is
* the theory behind TPR and what it’s supposed to do
* how TPR can be used in your lessons
* what are the main benefits, claims, and criticisms of the method

We’d love to hear how you use TPR. Post them here at the ESL Teacher Talk forums. Ask questions or leave comments about the show.

Thanks for listening!

For more indepth information on TPR see Learning Another Language Through Actions by James Ashner or check out his website at http://www.tpr-world.com/

Game of the Week: Treasure Island

This a game posted here at MES-English.. You can use it to practice various tenses, ‘There is …/ There are ..’/ various motion verbs/passive tense and more. Mark also mentions a variation on working with story telling and sequencing events. It’s a simple single sheet game and very versatile. It can be done as a pair activity or as a group activity. For more information check out the Treasure Island page at MES. Here is the game board.

Author:  funwithstories [ Mon Sep 22, 2008 4:38 pm ]
Post subject: 

Thank you for another informative podcast.

I have found TPR fascinating. It is so much more than gestures or getting students to move. I used to think it was the equivalent of moving to the 'Head and Shoulders' song. However the success of TPR has really made me rethink how languages are learned.

For me, TPR includes making language easy to understand. There are no tricky questions or any need to 'think' about the answers. It is the job of the teacher to make sure the students instantly understand what they say. If students hesitate it is an indication that the teacher needs to backtrack or slow down. Not only must student instantly understand the language, they need to react to it. Ramiro Garcia created a bogus written language and taught it via TPR by having students hear the commands and work with parts than whole of his written language. (pick up 'uh' etc until students can recognize his made-up alphabet)

Another misunderstanding is that all students must move around. In fact James Asher (without the 'n') usually demonstrates TPR with only 2 students at a time.

Numerous studies in TPR point out that students do not need to 'practice' speaking as much as they need to hear and understand it first. Here is one such study. It uses the standard Japanese-style class of listen and repeat as well as introducing the written words from the very beginning. In contrast the TPR classes relied heavily on listening and introduced the written word much later, YET the TPR students performed just as well on the reading portion and in fact retained more after 3 months.

http://www.nara-edu.ac.jp/CERT/bulletin ... 08-R09.pdf

In my own teaching, I try to use gestures and movements, but I also try to present any new materials as painlessly as possible. The faster students understand with less wordy explanations, the more they remember.

I apologize for the long post. I guess I am one of the people Mark referred to in the podcast who thinks TPR is more than a teaching method, and probably gets more wordy than necessary.

James Asher's book is highly recommended. It offers a lot of convincing information that provides clues why most language classes fail to produce students who actually speak the language.

Author:  mesmark [ Mon Sep 22, 2008 5:59 pm ]
Post subject: 

Ouch! I've been calling his Ashner all this time!

Author:  anthonykrese [ Thu Oct 02, 2008 8:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Love the Show

I'm a new listener. I love listening to the podcast on my way to work. Are you guys wrapping up season 2? The shows on methodology are great.

Big Thanks,


Author:  mesmark [ Thu Oct 02, 2008 10:00 pm ]
Post subject: 

Yeah, I just haven't posted the last show :?

I'll probably get that up this weekend. The last show is on communicative approach, the general philosophy for now.

I'm glad to hear you like the show and the methodologies series. We were affraid we lost half our audience with those :P

Author:  enjoyinglifeinseoul [ Thu Nov 06, 2008 9:10 am ]
Post subject: 

Mark and Ron I've used TPR once in awhile in my classes, but I had trouble getting into it myself.

However, recently I have noticed/decided that my students(especially the younger ones) really do enjoy this approach.

Therefore I plan to include more TPR in my classes and I just wanted to let you know I appreciated some of the ideas on the TPR podcast.

Author:  alabemos [ Wed Dec 10, 2008 2:04 pm ]
Post subject:  I always use TPR at the beginning...

I always use TPR at the beginning because I work with deaf children in a developing country. They come to class with about a two word vocabulary, mama and agua (water) and that's it for most. They may be as young as 3 years old, but are more likely to be 9-13, when they come to school for the first time.

TPR is excellent for teaching them their first language--in this case Sign Language, but it doesn't go quite far enough for me. It's just a great beginning.

I do augment the TPR with flashcards and some mes-english powerpoints :) pictures, "home sign" and mime, and eventually go into something more TPRS-like (TPRS=Teaching Proficiency through Reading & Storytelling), as their basic vocabulary increases.

The kids enjoy TPR, and they learn well with it, as long as we are dealing with the concrete. It does give me a basis to eventually tackle teaching them language to express abstract concepts as well.

I should mention one time I didn't have success in using TPR. I was working with a group of (hearing) HS students, who were learning Sign Language. The coolness factor kicked in. The class leaders subtly showed their disaproval of having to do something that looked silly in front of their peers, and their classmates, who idolized the popular kids, followed their lead. TPR was a total flop there.


Author:  moon [ Thu Feb 19, 2009 12:40 pm ]
Post subject: 

I think TPR is a vital teaching method. I think start it young.

A few times in the past I have had to take over a departing teacher's class, who had previously done TPR. Introducing gestures was an uphill task and it meant changing from teacher orientated to student orientated.

I think all teachers should introduce TPR from the beginning and use it very occasionally, so that students (as they get older) do not feel inhibited in making silly movements. If the teacher sets the example, the students accept the silliness. Cartoons are always silly to be funny and effective.

I find the pyschology of TPR similar to "pictionary" (instant drawing). Students who are not used to drawing on paper/board often spend ages trying to get their drawings perfect, whereas those who have been accustomed to rapid pictionary type games from the outset always laugh at the one another's (often messy but just interpretable) results.

Has anyone else found this to also be true ?

Author:  moon [ Thu Feb 19, 2009 12:43 pm ]
Post subject: 

Hi alebemos,
I also have taught hearing impaired children before. Visual teaching is much more effective. Those hard of hearing often speak with slurred accents, so it is important also to overuse the mouth movements.

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