Using TPR Method When Teaching Children Beginner English
TPR stands for Total Physical Response. It is a language teaching method based on the coordination of speech and action. It was developed by James Asher, a professor of psychology at San Jose State University, California, who has done a great deal of research on the effectiveness of this literally exciting approach to language teaching. Richard Frost believed that “It is also linked to the trace theory of memory, which holds that the more often or intensively a memory connection is traced, the stronger the memory will be.”
Basic Theory for TPR
1. Theory of learning English
Second language learning is parallel to first language learning and should reflect the same naturalistic processes. And children respond physically to spoken language. Once listening comprehension has been developed, speech develops naturally and effortlessly out of it.
2. Theory of child language development
TPR method is based upon the way that children learned their mother tongue. We all know that child can acquire his/her mother language naturally. We call it natural acquisition. Children are natural language learners therefore. Parents have “language-baby conversations” with their children, the parents instruct and the child physically responds to this. For example, the parent says, “Look at mummy” or “Open your mouth” and the child does so. These conversations continue for many months before the child actually starts to speak itself. Even though it can’t speak during that time, the child is taking in all of the language: the sounds and the patterns. Eventually when it has decoded enough, the child reproduces the language quite naturally. According to the language development of children, English teachers attempt to follow TPR which mirrors the effect of the natural acquisition of mother tongue.
Design for TPR
Here are some of the objectives of Total Physical Response for teaching children English. First of all teaching oral proficiency at a beginning level is a primary point. The pure English language environment provides the kids a good practice for listening and speaking. The second point is using comprehension as a means to speaking and thinking. From the beginning of children’s learning by using TPR method, gradually they become used to thinking and speaking in English. The third one is to develop the children’s interest and curiosity in learning English with games, songs, chants and stories involved in TPR.
TPR can be used to teach and practise many things. The most popular section is simple vocabulary which is connected with actions (smile, chop, jump, run, headache, toothache). Some animals (dog, cat, duck, frog, sheep, tiger). Some adjectives (happy, sad, cold, hot, angry, worried). Everyday English can be presented usually by using TPR (Good morning. How are you today? See you.). When it’s time to tell a short story, children would like to listen to it carefully with the teacher’s telling and acting vividly. In a word, TPR can be adapted for many kinds of teaching situations.
TPR is a lot of fun which children really enjoy. It can be a real stirrer in the class. It is also very memorable. In fact, it helps children to remember phrases or words naturally without too much difficulty. As we all know, TPR is good for children beginners who are either active or inactive in class. The physical actions get across the meaning effectively so that the children are able to understand and use the target language. By the way, it involves both left and right-brained learning. In addition, it not only cultivates children’s interest in English but also develops their thinking skills in English. TPR is very effective with children beginners.
Sample Procedures (a word–cat)
Teacher makes sound of a cat “Mew, Mew” and act like a cat. Children just listen and watch.
Teacher shows a card of a cat or draws a cat. Children look at the picture of the cat.
Teacher speaks “Mew, Mew cat” with pointing at the card or drawing. Children only act like the act with teacher together.
Teacher and children speak “Mew, Mew, cat” and act like a cat together.
Teacher speak “cat” without action. Children act with “Mew, Mew”.
Teacher act “Mew, Mew” without speaking the word “cat”.
Children speak out “cat”.
Teacher and children can exchange speaking “cat” and acting “Mew, Mew”.
Total Physical Response (TPR) is a valuable methodology when teaching children beginner English. A significant aspect of its effectiveness is “muscle learning”, wherein the brain of the learner relates body movements to the words she or he hears. After sufficient repetitive input, the learner is able to produce with relative ease the commands she or he has heard and reacted to physically. TPR can be a successful and fun way used in conjunction with other methods and techniques.
* Brown, Daphne M. Mother tongue to English: Cambridge University Press, 1979.
* Vale, David, and Anne Feunteun. Teaching Children English: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
*“Total Physical Response” Ways To Approach Language Learning
* Richard Frost, British Council, Turkey “Total physical response TPR”