Warning: If you follow this post, your class may never be quiet again.
Prepare for an enthusiastic classroom filled with up-and-at-’em students!
There will be talking, shouting, laughing, dancing and all kinds of lively movement.
That’s because you’re about to become a veritable master of TPR.
Here we’ll be looking at a mix of materials that will hone your TPR skills and train you to become a master of this teaching method.
But why train yourself in TPR, you ask?
Why Train Yourself to Teach TPR?
For those of you who need an introduction: TPR is a language teaching method developed in the ’70s by James Asher, a psychology professor at San Jose State University in California.
It’s a kinesthetic approach to learning languages drawn from observations of how kids first learn their mother tongue. Children’s first interactive experiences, usually with their parents, feature a command-and-obey pattern of communication.
Parents tell their children commands like “open your mouth” and “sit down,” and children then prove their comprehension by doing what mommy or daddy just asked. This type of interaction is how all children learn their native languages. TPR training allows you to integrate this innate and instinctive teaching technique in your lessons.
As you can see, using this has a clear and distinct advantage—learning this way comes naturally to students. However, teaching TPR doesn’t come naturally to every teacher, and there are specific skills, principles and strategies any teacher must learn. This makes studying and getting some real TPR training well worth your time.
A language teacher well-versed in TPR is totally equipped to handle one of the most basic challenges of teaching: Classroom management. Receiving training in TPR will help you manage your classroom better than ever.
Classroom management refers to the steps taken by the teacher to create and maintain a conducive learning environment. It’s about ensuring that classes and lessons run smoothly, despite all the things that may run counter to the goal at hand. One of the biggest headaches for teachers is the disruptive behavior caused by the students, which is often at odds with teaching goals and an ideal teaching environment.
When students get bored, they makes noise, they walk around, they chat with their seatmates and with students many seats away. Sometimes they try to entertain themselves by doodling or by bringing out something interesting from their bags. They might dance, wiggle and move around. Or they could just stare blankly at the board, thinking of the last movie they’ve seen or imagining all the sorts of out-of-the-classroom activities they’d love to be doing right now.
In all these instances, there seems to be a boundless energy in those students that’s sublimated while in class. The teacher often tells them to sit down, stay still, be quiet and listen up. Perhaps as teachers, we are too wary of that energy bursting into a frenzy before we’ve delivered our lessons. So we try to contain it, at least until the bell rings.
Training in TPR causes a shift in our thinking. Instead of looking at the slightest movements in class as disruptions, we begin to look for ways to harness that energy and channel it into the lesson at hand. We channel the energy that’s already there into something more productive.
TPR training teaches you the things you need to do in order to accomplish that.
So instead of a quiet language class where only the teacher is talking, you’ll have a language class where every student is engaged, interested and challenged. You’ll have kids raising their hands, marching on cue and jumping as high as they can, all while learning the target language. You’ll have students whose eyes are transfixed on you because they don’t want to miss any playful command or action coming from you.
This really is what happens in a successful TPR class, as you’ll witness in the demonstration videos later.
With TPR training, you’ll learn how to elevate moods and keep students motivated. When you sense focus and interest waning, you can suddenly break into a TPR activity and keep the class in thrall. This is because TPR is one of the multisensory teaching methods that hits up your students’ visual, auditory and kinesthetic sensibilities.
When you have classes that memorable, and when you know that your lessons are getting through to your students, you’ll look back and realize that it was worth your while to train yourself in TPR. Thanks to your training, you’ll be primed to manage the class so that all the objectives that you wrote in the lesson plan are hit with dead certainty and effectiveness.
That said, let’s now get into the various materials that’ll give you a solid TPR training, so you can implement a TPR strategy with equal parts ease and mastery.
11 Elite Resources for Top-notch TPR Training
TPR-World.com is the official site of Dr. James Asher, the creator of the TPR method. Here you’ll get to see many classic, “early days” videos of him in the classroom and conducting seminars with fellow educators, teaching others about the finer points of the method.
For example, there’s footage of “The Northeastern Conference of FL/ESL Instructors” where Dr. Asher dives into the nitty-gritty of TPR, discussing trickier topics like how to deal with grammar and how to transition from comprehension to speech. In this video, you’ll even get to see him give a TPR demonstration for teaching Arabic and Spanish, and you can then listen to an insightful Q&A session after.
There are other videos available here like “A Motivational Strategy for Language Learning,” which is a 25-minute, step-by-step demonstration of TPR with Spanish as the target language.
You can also opt to read many of the written works published by Dr. Asher here on this comprehensive site.
“Learning Another Language Through Actions” by Dr. James Asher
This book comes straight from the method’s originator, Dr. Asher, and should be the first book you ever read on the subject.
It gives you both a big picture and detailed impression of what TPR is all about, from the thinking processes that gave birth to it to a full sample curriculum that guides teachers on how to integrate it into lessons.
This book features an in-depth section with common questions and thorough answers, where most of the usual questions about the method are adeptly tackled.
By the end of this book, you’ll realize that TPR isn’t child’s play by any measure. It’s a method backed by a robust body of research, and all the techniques you’ll employ are there for a purpose. Any teacher who’s serious about getting good training in TPR should have this title on their bookshelf.
TPR Articles by the British Council
Before we get deeper into the details of TPR, I think we should pause by looking at the broad strokes. Take a quick look into what TPR is all about. The British Council offers a number of accurate, brief and easy-to-read articles and blog posts on the topic of TPR.
This article published by the British Council will provide you with a short orientation on this method. It very briefly talks about how you can use it in class, pointing to some classroom situations when you can adopt it.
You can search this site to find even more great articles on TPR and other teaching methods, along with other teacher training resources like courses, workshops and master’s programs—most of which can be completed entirely online.
“Teaching Children Using a Total Physical Response (TPR) Method: Rethinking” by Handoyo Puji Widodo
This article will step back into providing more depth and detail to your understanding of TPR.
You’ll get a much stronger sense of your role as a TPR teacher from this article, as its purpose is to let you know exactly how to employ TPR when dealing with kids or adults in your language classes.
Most importantly—and most usefully—you’ll be given six sample activities with specific procedures that not only allow you to imagine how to go about using TPR in class but will also hone your instincts and general feel for associated activities.
“The Learning Strategy of the Total Physical Response: A Review.” by Dr. James Asher
There’s nothing like knowing that the methods you’re adopting in class have been tried, tested and trusted by others.
Yes, we’re going back to Dr. Asher’s own publications for a moment. This is a golden oldie which was published in 1966, as a sort of pilot study which aimed to determine the value of TPR as a teaching method.
This particular publication is a review of five previous studies that explored the effects of TPR on learning a language. These studies involved the Japanese and Russian languages, and included both adults and children as subjects. All of the studies compared lesson effectiveness in different learning situations.
In one, to give you a taste of what was learned, different vocabulary lessons were given to groups of subjects. One group was given the lesson by the TPR method, where students actually did the actions for themselves, another lesson was through modeling where students looked to a teacher performing the actions, and the last lesson was completed via reading a translation on a piece of paper.
In all five studies, regardless of age or target language, TPR proved most successful in helping students retain the lessons. The overwhelming conclusion of the studies is that TPR has significant effects on language retention.
This is great motivation for teachers to pursue further training in these strategies.
YouTube Demonstration Videos
YouTube is full of videos that depict how TPR is used by fellow educators. These peeks into their classes are highly instructive and vital to your training.
This one shows the first day of French class for a group of high school students. Note how the teacher slowly but adeptly stacks vocabulary words on top of each other. Another thing to notice is how, in a TPR class, the sessions are stress-free and highly motivational for students. These students just walked into their first day of French class, but they’re already feeling confident and excited to use the language.
Everybody participates in the activities, nobody is a wallflower. To achieve this high level of participation, you should demonstrate the same level of energy and enthusiasm as seen in this video.
This second demonstration is TPR placed in the context of stories. The result is action-driven stories that are highly engaging for students. This time, we see a class of kids who are really dialed up for the lesson.
Notice that, instead of trying to make kids “behave,” you have them move with the ebbs and flows of the lesson. You know that a teaching method is effective when you’ve got kids who would rather be playing outside giving you their complete attention.
The video shows how, in TPR, comprehension trumps production. That is, listening and understanding take center stage in the initial phases of learning a language.
While other methods emphasize utterance and the proper pronunciation of words and phrases all at once, TPR puts visual, auditory and kinesthetic context to the words so that they become highly memorable and can be easily retained by students. Production will follow after this!
“TPR Is More Than Commands—On All Levels” by Contee Seely and Elizabeth Romijn
There’s a misconception that TPR is only good for verbs, or words that necessitate action. This is the book that obliterates that misconception.
It opens your mind to the possibilities of the method and teaches you how it can be utilized for teaching different language skills and different linguistic structures to students of all ages and different language levels.
After finishing this book, you’ll be prepared to employ TPR as a grammar lesson, as a way to unlock an idiomatic expression or as an effective storytelling technique.
“Instructor’s Notebook: How to Apply TPR for Best Results” by Ramiro Garcia
Ever wondered how exactly to apply TPR strategies in your classroom?
Well, this one’s your manual.
Here you’ll find some very practical classroom insights gleaned from the author’s years of experience using the method.
In addition to training you on exactly how to create a TPR lesson from thin air, this guide has all the tips and tricks you’ll need. Plus, it contains over 200 TPR scenarios that you can use and TPR-centered games to dial up the fun in your classes. The book also has a section on how to test different language skills like comprehension and oral proficiency.
This book has an easy, approachable style and a humorous tone, with illustrations that effectively drive the points deeper.
Each summer, CALA holds a one-week workshop to hone TPR skills, focusing on specific strategies related to comprehensible inputs.
If you attend, you’ll learn brain-based techniques that will skyrocket your effectiveness in class. The program has materials for English, Spanish and French educators, but CALA also conducts workshops tailor-fitted for any group.
The Chief Atahm School is located in the Adams Lake Band of British Columbia. The school, which aims to preserve the language of the Secwepemc indigenous peoples, has developed a TPR training program that’s especially useful for aboriginal language teachers. That doesn’t mean teachers of major languages can’t benefit from the school’s well-informed insights into second language acquisition. It’s quite a good program for any language teacher.
Each summer, the school conducts week-long workshops designed for TPR language practitioners and program resource developers.
Graham Workman is a prolific language author and once the Academic Director of Distance Training at International House, London.
If you’re located in Europe, you could attend a seminar tailor-fitted to your needs. Workman teaches a wide range of topics, from “Teaching and practising intonation,” to “How to use mobile phones for learning English.”
Workman conducts his TPR seminars all over the continent, and if you’re a primary school teacher, you’ll definitely find the materials and resources he gives out during these seminars particularly useful and inspiring.
And there you have it!
A treasure chest of resources to train you and turn you into a TPR expert.
Your classes will be an utter delight and your kids will love it.
So, get moving!
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