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Total Physical Response‏‎ in TEFL

In grammar a Verb Tense is a form of a verb‎ used to indicate roughly the time when the action described by the verb takes place. Here we talk about 3 basic tenses: Past, Present and Future. (Some people talk about more than 3, however.)

Compare this with Verb Form which is the form of a verb in a particular tense, e.g. present simple, present continuous, etc.

For more, see Verb Tenses‏‎ & Forms in English Grammar.

An Utterance is the spoken equivalent of a sentence. The only difference between them is that one is spoken whilst the other is written.

For more, see Utterances‏‎.

Total Physical Response (TPR) is a teaching method based on the idea that a new language can be learned through actions and that movement can help students learn and understand.

For more, see TPR - Total Physical Response in TEFL.

A group of people blurred, moving about.Total Physical Response (TPR) is a teaching method based on the idea that a new language can be learned through actions and that movement can help students learn and understand. It was first developed by James J. Asher‏‎ over 30 years ago.

We all have preferences for the sensory system we rely on to process information. Some people prefer the visual system. Others prefer the auditory system. Others still prefer the kinaesthetic system and TPR is particularly relevant to these kinaesthetic learners who learn best when they can participate in an activity.

It is a method that combines information and skills through the use of the movement and action. This combination of skills allows the student to assimilate information and skills at a rapid rate. As a result, this success leads to a high degree of motivation.

TPR is based on the principle that we can understand the spoken language before we develop our speaking skills. With TPR the student is not forced to speak but is allowed an individual readiness period and allowed to spontaneously begin to speak when they feel comfortable and confident in understanding and producing the utterance.

Basic TPR Technique

The teacher introduces the language through the use of commands (imperative sentences) and has students demonstrate their understanding through action responses. A typical sequence of events might go like this:

  1. The teacher says the command (sit down; turn the page; get your pen out; etc.) as they perform the action.
  2. The teacher says the command as both the teacher and the students then perform the action.
  3. The teacher says the command but only students perform the action.
  4. The teacher tells one student at a time to perform the action.
  5. The roles of teacher and student are reversed. Students give commands to teacher and to other students.
  6. The teacher and student allow for command expansion or produces new sentences.

While the initial instructions are simple within a few minutes directions can be expanded in complexity such as:

Sit down.

Take your exercise book out.

Open the book on page 11.

John, please sit next to Mary.

Mary share your book with John, please.

And so on. As the training advances, past tenses, future‏‎ tenses, and essentially all the elements of the target language‏‎ can be woven into these commands.

Image © Lieven SOETE
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