I am inserting some excellent information written by Dr. James J.Asher, the originator of TPR. It will provide you with the basic concepts and philosophy of this superb approach, and will also answer some of the questions most frequently asked by teachers and administrators. Read on, learn, and enjoy!
Berty Segal Cook
The Total Physical Response, known world-wide as TPR
From experimental research and trials in hundreds of language classrooms around the world in scores of languages, we know more about how TPR works than any other idea in second language learning. For a detailed review of this research, see my book: Learning Another Language Through Actions. (See order form.)
IT'S ALL IN THE WAY WE LEARN...
TPR is based on the premise that the human brain has a biological program for acquiring any natural language on earth - including the sign language of the deaf. The process is visible when we observe how infants internalize their first language.
The secret is a unique "conversation" between the parent and infant. For example, the first conversation is a parent saying, "Look at daddy. Look at daddy." The infant's face turns in the direction of the voice and daddy exclaims, "She's looking at me! She's looking at me!" Dr. Asher calls this "a language-body conversation" because the parent speaks and the infant answers with a physical response such as looking, smiling, laughing, turning, walking, reaching, grasping, holding, sitting, running, and so forth.
Notice that these "conversations" continue for many, many months before the child utters anything more intelligible than "mommy" or "daddy." Although the infant is not yet speaking, the child is imprinting a linguistic map of how the language works. Silently, the child is internalizing the patterns and sounds of the target language.
When the child has decoded enough of the target language, speaking appears spontaneously. The infant's speech will not be perfect, but gradually, the child's utterances will approximate more and more that of a native speaker.
Children and adults experience the thrill of immediate understanding when you apply this powerful concept in your classroom.
BENEFITS OF TPR
Is TPR a method, an approach or a tool?
Why have college and university teacher trainers underestimated the value of TPR?
When does TPR not work?
How can I use TPR as a beginner working with a tutor?
Can I use TPR as a non-beginner? If so, how?
__________________________________________________________ Here are some important portions of an article about TPR by Dr. James J. Asher.
I ( Berty Segal Cook) have added some related incidental comments.
TPR: After forty years, still a very good idea
Dr. James J. Asher is the originator of the Total Physical Response (TPR). Dr. Asher has demonstrated how to apply TPR for best results at more than 500 elementary, secondary schools and universities around the world, including a 1983 lecture tour in Japan sponsored by JALT. He is the recipient of many awards for excellence in teaching and research. He is an emeritus professor of psychology and former associate dean at San Jose State University in San Jose, California.
Way back in 1965, I demonstrated a powerful linguistic tool in a pioneer experiment using the Japanese language with my research associate, Dr. Shirou Kunihira. That tool is the Total Physical Response, now known worldwide as simply, TPR. Since that time, scores of language classes using TPR in countries around the world have enjoyed successful results for students acquiring European, Asian, Indian and Semitic languages.
Why comprehension is important
TPR research opened up the concept that for children and adults acquiring another language in school, success can be assured if comprehension is developed before speaking. One important reason: Everywhere on earth in all languages throughout history, there is no instance of infants acquiring speaking before comprehension. Comprehension always comes first with speaking following perhaps a year later.
A second reason is that talking and comprehension are located in different parts of the brain. Talking comes from Broca's area located in the frontal lobe of the left brain. If there is damage in Broca's area, one may understand what people are saying but the person is unable to speak. Understanding or comprehension takes place in Wernicke's area located in the temporal lobe . If there is damage to Wernicke's area, one can speak but has difficulty understanding what others are saying. This has significance for language instruction which I will explain next.
Beware of "brain overload"
When the instructor in traditional classes asks students to "Listen and repeat after me!," this may be brain overload because both the frontal lobe and the temporal lobe in the brain light up at the same time resulting in slow-motion learning with short-term retention. (Noted educator, Leslie Hart, calls "brain overload" a type of brain antagonistic instruction.)
Well then, if comprehension is important, how about using translation to help students comprehend?
Unfortunately, translation does not help most students because there is no long-term understanding. When students translate, there is short-term comprehension which is erased the moment the student leaves the classroom, if not sooner. The problem with translation is that the instructor has made an assertion which the critical left brain of the student perceives as a "lie".
For example, to claim that this is a "desk" and this is a "chair" and this is a "window" is absurd in the student's brain. The Japanese student,for example, along with the other students in his/her classroom, have thousands of life experiences that validate this as "tsukue" and this as "isu" and this as "mado." Students simply do not believe the assertions by the instructor.
What is the alternative to translation?
TPR is a powerful alternative to translation because we create experiences in the classroom that are "believable." If we ask students to be silent, listen to a direction and do exactly what the instructor does, we have created a "fact" which cannot be dismissed by the critical side of the student's brain.
Here is an example of how the student's brain is processing information at lightning speed: If "stand" does not mean to rise up from my chair, why did my body actually go from sitting to standing when I heard the instructor say, "Stand"? If "walk" does not mean to move forward, why did my body walk forward when the instructor said, "Walk."? These strange utterances must be valid.
TPR creates facts which make for long-term comprehension. At lightning velocity, the student's brain processes information like this: "I actually stood up when the instructor uttered the alien direction: 'Stand.' It is a fact. It is true. It actually happened; therefore, I can store this in long-term memory." The result is TPR can achieve long-term retention in a few trials, often in one-trial.
How to present a believable sample of the target language
Dr. Ashers' first book, Learning Another Language Through Actions (in the 6th edition now)provides an excellent basis in research and some lessons)
Berty Segal Cook's basic Teaching English through Actions ( also available in Spanish, French,German, Japanese, and Russian) a Teachers's Guide of 102 TPR Lesson Plans has been used in districts across the United States and in 18 other countries
Ramiro Garcia's Instructor's Notebook: How to apply TPR for Best Results 4th edition
All 3 are excellent resources and can be ordered.( see order form)
Once students actually understand, then what?
Once they understand, you can then use this skill to move over into Broca's area of the left brain with traditional exercises in speaking, reading, and writing. Then return to the right brain with more TPR to understand another sample. Then use that understanding to switch to speaking, reading, and writing.
The first order of business
The first objective in any excellent language program is enabling students to be comfortable and confident with the sounds, the grammatical patterns, and semantics of the new language. That can be accomplished with students of all ages including adults using concrete nouns, adjectives, verbs, prepositions, and adverbs.
Do not underestimate the power of the concrete in acquiring another language. Everyone of us did it with our native language. One can acquire true fluency at a concrete level.
How about abstractions
Abstractions will come later, not necessarily by direct instruction but in the context of discourse. Traditional textbooks, in my opinion, are notorious for trying unsuccessfully to force understanding of abstractions before students are ready.
Notice that when children acquire their first language, they become fluent native speakers at a concrete level of discourse; then gradually acquire abstractions in context or by asking direct questions such as: "Mother, what does 'government' mean?" Mother then explains using simple language that the child understands.
To break language apart into artificial categories such as phonology, vocabulary, grammar and semantics is of keen interest to teachers, but of no concern to students because in the process of achieving fluency with TPR, they internalize everything simultaneously with no analysis, in the same way that children acquire their first language. Analysis into artificial categories is fine to "polish" the target language for advanced students who are already fluent, but not for beginners or even intermediate students.
I do recommend, however, that five or ten minutes at the end of a session be open to curious students who prefer to ask questions about pronunciation or grammar.
Does TPR really help students with grammar?
Remember, the right brain internalizes without analysis for high-speed learning. The critical left brain must analyze everything which makes for agonizingly slow-motion learning. Excellent guidelines to keep in mind for teaching any subject come from Leslie Hart who calls left brain learning "brain antagonistic" instruction while right brain learning is "brain compatible" instruction. (For more on right-left brain research discoveries in more than 4,000 studies, read my books: Brainswitching: Learning on the Right Side of the Brain and The Super School: Teaching on the Right Side of the Brain.)
How to make the transition to speaking, reading, and writing?
After ten to twenty hours of TPR instruction, role reversal is one way to make the transition (students assume the role of instructor to direct you and other students).
Once the students are into Role Reversal they can begin to see the words and go into Speaking, Reading, Writing... the Student books We Learn English ( Spanish, French, German) provide lessons/activities in Speaking, Reading, Writing, all related to vocabulary acquired in Listening lessons and ALL based on comprehension...This is well elaborated in Berty Segal Cook's Teaching Language through Action program.
Later. Student-created skits, which they write and act out, are another transition. Storytelling is a third option .
Most studies converge on this conclusion: If you start a second language program before puberty, children have a high probability of achieving a near-native or even native accent. After puberty, students can still acquire another language but most all will have some accent even if they live for fifty years in another country where the language is spoken.
There is another intriguing fact about the right side of the brain:
If TPR is applied skillfully by elementary school teachers, students can graduate from the 8th grade understanding two, three or four languages which can be further "polished" in high school bringing students to fluency. Remember, the earlier we start internalizing other languages, the higher the chances of acquiring a near-native or even a native accent in each of those languages.
Asher, James J. (2003). Learning Another Language through Actions (6th edition). Los Gatos, CA: Sky Oaks
Asher, James.J. (2002). Brainswitching: Learning on the right side of the brain. Los Gatos, CA: Sky Oaks
Asher, James J. (2000). The Super School: Teaching on the right side of the brain. Los Gatos, CA: Sky Oaks
Garcia, Ramiro. (2001). Instructor's Notebook: How to apply TPR for best results (4th edition). Los Gatos, CA: Sky
McKay, Todd. (2004). TPRS Storytelling: Especially for students in elementary and middle school. (Available in English, Spanish or French). Los Gatos, CA:
Segal Cook , Berty Teaching English (Spanish, French, German, Japanese) Through Action. Berty Segal Cook
inclusive - Berty Segal Cook