How to carry out Total Physical Response (TPR) activities in the classroom

How to carry out Total Physical Response (TPR) activities in the classroom

Flashback!

As we discussed in the previous article, there are 7 themes/milestones in the Listening and Speaking (L&S) part of the ENK, and each theme/milestone is introduced through a set of 6 activities that follow a constant sequence.

Today, let us discuss how to conduct the first activity - Total Physical Response (TPR).

Total Physical Response (TPR)

TPR is a language teaching method developed by James Asher, a professor emeritus of psychology at San José State University. 

This teaching technique develops LISTENING and understanding skills in children and enables them to acquire new English vocabulary by listening to and carrying out spoken commands.

In this article, you will learn to use Total Physical Response as a technique to enhance the English vocabulary of your students. This is the first activity used in the Listening and Speaking (L&S) curriculum of ENK.


Let me ask you a question!

What are some of the simple instructions of 2-3 words in English that you give to students?

They could be simple commands such as ‘sit down’, ‘shut the door’, ‘open the book’, ‘come to the board’, ‘stand up’ etc.

In a classroom, children listen and respond to these commands. Don’t they?

This teaching technique develops LISTENING and understanding skills in children and enables them to acquire new English vocabulary by listening to and carrying out spoken commands.

TPR is a fun activity and must involve both the face and body of the teacher.

In the TPR process, you help children understand and obey simple commands in a foreign language.

Have you seen a mother hold her baby’s hand and wave it saying “say tata to aunty”? That is the earliest form of TPR and is the way very small children learn their mother tongue. 

When we say students listen to the teacher and carry out spoken commands, you must remember that students are not required to speak. 

So what do they do? 

Students listen to what the teacher is saying and watch the accompanying gestures and actions she is doing and imitate her actions. By doing this repeatedly they associate the command with the action and are able to perform the action even when there is a model in front of them. 


How does this develop language?

When children listen to commands, they are exposed to new words and when they listen to the commands and follow them, they experience a sense of accomplishment 

This method also eliminates the pressure on them to speak new words. By practice, over time, they begin to understand and use these words. 


How TPR is used in the classroom?

To begin with, simple commands such as ‘stand up’, ‘sit down’, ‘walk’, stop ‘turn around’ are used by the teacher which are obeyed by students using simple body movements.

Initially, the teacher may use the mother tongue to explain to children that they must watch and listen to her and imitate her. 

However, all commands are given in English and the teacher does not at any point translate the commands into the mother tongue.  

Although it sounds easy, it takes some bit of practice for the teacher to get comfortable with the technique. 

A sample teacher card of TPR

TPR activity has 6 steps. Every month the children are taught 5-6 commands, beginning with the introduction of 2 or 3 commands.

Please refer to the 'Teacher Card' for the list of commands.


The 6 TPR steps

Step 1: The teacher calls out the command, makes the appropriate gesture, models the command.

Step 2: The teacher calls out the command, makes the appropriate gesture.

Step 3: The teacher calls out the command.

Step 4: The teacher calls out the commands in order.

Step 5: The teacher jumbles the commands and calls them out.

Step 6: The teacher calls out a group of 3-4 children to respond to the commands.

These steps are taught over four weeks. The schedule and sequence in which TPR commands taught are given clearly in the teacher card. The teacher is expected to follow the guidelines given in the teacher card.

In the first step, the teacher calls out the command, makes the appropriate gesture, and also models the command to show students the command is followed. Students watch and listen to the teacher and follow what the teacher does.

In the second step, the teacher STOPS modeling,  but the teacher calls out the command and continues the gestures. Students watch and listen to the teacher and follow the command.  

In the third step, the teacher stops gesturing and only calls out the command. Students listen to the teacher, understand the command, and follow it.

Once children are comfortable with the first set of commands, the teacher introduces the next 3 commands and follows the same order as she did in the first 3 commands 

In the fourth step, Here the teacher uses all 6 commands and gives them in the same order as she has taught them e.g.  “stand up”, “sit down”, “walk”, “stop”, “turn around”. 

In the fifth step, the teacher jumbles the order of commands. E.g. it could be “stand up”, “walk”, “stop” followed by “sit down”.

In the sixth step, In order to be certain that all children understand all commands, the teacher calls out a group of 3 to 4 children and calls out the commands. If some children are not able to follow she spends more time on them in the next class. 

Please note that the teacher should repeat each step several times and review the student’s responses. Do not move to the next step until students are comfortable with these steps.


Classroom Management

How do I manage the class when students of class 2 have to be included in the activity? You will begin with one stage command like “stand up, sit down, walk stop and turn around. Level 2 students have done this the year before so focus on level 1 students 

After 20 minutes, shift your focus to level  2 students. Ask level 2 students to step forward and use two-stage commands. Two-stage commands are a combination of 2 simple commands like “take two steps forward and stop” or “turn around and take three steps to your right” Follow the same steps as you did for level  1. All the commands are given in the teacher cards.

If students of level 1 want to take part in the activity, please don’t stop them. Let them take part in the activity but focus your attention on level 2


A brief summary

  • TPR is a language teaching method that develops listening and understanding skills
  • Children learn new words in English by listening to and carrying out commands.
  • The TPR process has 6 steps   


Download the module: Total Physical Response (TPR)
Watch the TPR videos: Video-1, Video-2, Video-3


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Credits: Samagra Shikshana Karnataka and UNICEF

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