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ESL Teaching Strategies with TPR

By VIPKid  |  February 2, 2021

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Best Uses of Total Physical Response

ESL teaching strategies like The Total Physical Response (TPR) method, combines vocabulary instruction with bodily movements which creates a fun and unique educational instruction style. Professor of psychology, James Asher, developed the method and it is now widely used in English instruction across the globe. In TPR, both instructors and students use physical movements in order to reinforce new language concepts. 

“A reasonable hypothesis is that the brain and the nervous system are biologically programmed to acquire language, either the first or the second in a particular sequence and in a particular mode. The sequence is listening before speaking and the mode is to synchronise language with the individual’s body.” – James Asher 

Why is TPR Important for language learning & VIPKid Teachers?

Learning and teaching a new language can be overwhelming. And since some VIPKid teachers can’t speak the first language of their students, TPR is  especially helpful. Using TPR gives the student and teacher a common ground to meet on, making lessons more comfortable and leading to quicker language comprehension. When inhibitions are lower, learning can take place easier!

Before children are even speaking, they are depending on their innate ability to listen and observe in order to learn the language skills necessary to communicate. The origins of TPR come from observations of children’s learning abilities during the acquisition of their first language. Parents often naturally emphasize when they are communicating with young children — think about when a parent asks their child if they want a snack or to take a nap, they are usually more animated physically than if they were communicating with an older child. 

Another benefit to TPR is that it utilizes both the left and right sides of the brain. Traditionally,  language acquisition is associated with the left side of the brain, but by utilizing TPR in English language lessons, teachers are able to use both imagery and motion to engage both sides of the brain.

Tips on How to use ESL Teaching Strategies like TPR in the VIPKid classroom

Teacher and student modeling technique

  1. The teacher will show movement with the associated word(s).
  2. Repeat to be sure the student understands.
  3. Finally, the student will reenact and speak the word.

Play a game

Simon Says or Charades are great examples. Experiencing a fun, engaging game helps the student create experiences they will remember.

Tip: Be dramatic! 

TPR may not come naturally to teachers as we’ve learned as adults to speak and communicate without the use of TPR. But in the online classroom, being extra dramatic and flashy with your movements helps the student really grasp the word or concept you are teaching and makes for a more memorable experience for the student  Plus it will probably make them a huge fan of your class, and you’ll have more fun too!

TPR is an exciting and fun way to get both teachers and students active while teaching and learning a new language concept. TPR is a great way to help your students learn English online, especially since it can be a challenge to keep students’ attention when you aren’t in person. We hope these TPR tips convinced you to give the techniques a shot in your next lesson!

Do you have a video or picture of you using TPR in your online lesson? Share with us by reaching out to us on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

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