Total Physical Response in online teaching

It is amazing how time is flying and I have realized that it has been way over a month that I have written a new post! As it happened, I have been busy teaching students online face to face. It is a truly exciting time for me because I am experiencing teaching in another way than in a set classroom and because I help learners acquire different languages (French, Spanish, English) ! I am very happy and grateful indeed! And today, I want to share something I have been trying for a few weeks now and which is working brilliantly with my beginners!

Well, first I must explain how and why I am using this method! Since I have become a big fan of exposing learners to comprehensible, compelling input, I am always on the look for teachers modelling this way. One day, when I was kind of procrastinating (yes, it does happen!), I stumbled upon this inspiring TPR or Total Physical Response demo by Sabrina Janczak:

Wow!!! How awesome the audience is responding and Sabrina makes it sound so easy to understand, yet so funny! Sabrina, you are my TPRS heroe!!!This made me jump in my seat and I so wanted to try it with my French beginners!

According to Wikipedia, Total Physical Response is a language teaching method developed by James Asher based on the coordination of language and physical movement. In TPR, instructors give commands to students in the target language, and students respond with whole-body actions.” What is fascinating is that “Asher developed TPR as a result of his experiences observing young children learning their first language. He noticed that interactions between parents and children often took the form of speech from the parent followed by a physical response from the child. Asher made three hypotheses based on his observations: first, that language is learned primarily by listening; second, that language learning must engage the right hemisphere of the brain; and third, that learning language should not involve any stress.

Beginning with TPR means the learner can learn more words faster. The initial objective is for the learner to acquire 50 to 100 words so that he can then create stories with the help of the teacher. Needless to say that those 100 first words are high frequency words that are used in everyday conversations.

On the first session, I started with “lève-toi / baisse-toi / assieds-toi“. The learner first watched me (via the webcam) doing the action, then s/he performed the action with me and then on his/her own. After the learner was familiar with the commands, I could add “vite /doucement” to make the learning process much more lively and fun as it is demonstrated in the video above. When learners were confident enough with the vocabulary, I told them to listen carefully to two then three commands in a row. It was more challenging but an excellent way to practice and memorize the actions.

Some of my learners are adults and they were surprised at first when I told them to move around because they expected to be taught the traditional way (where the students have to produce language before they are ready!). They now enjoy the bit of exercise and they are having fun (which is the key to learn something!). I have been doing this for the first couple of weeks and then when I felt learners had sufficient vocabulary, I used short scenarios to reinforce the vocabulary. For example: “Robert marche vite. Il s’arrête. Il s’assied sur un banc.

I just love this starting tool in the acquisition process to then be able to move on to proper stories! And by the way, I created a set of flashcards on Quizlet so that my learners can keep on practicing the commands in their own time. Do also have a look at my French folder on Quizlet which contains 9 different sets of flashcards!

What about you? Are you a TPR fan? Would you want to try it out?

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