Total Physical Response Activities

by Sara Ipatenco

Total Physical Response, or TPR, is a method of learning language that includes a combination of verbal activities and physical movements. The method is based on James Asher's idea that it's easier to remember language when there is movement that goes with the word. TPR works by allowing students to do move around as they hear new words, which helps them learn and remember them more easily. To that end, there are numerous TPR activities to do in the classroom.

Do and See the Actions

The main component of TPR is the physical movement that goes with the words. Start by saying a phrase, such as "Put the book on the desk," while at the same time actually putting a book on a desk. Repeat the phrase, this time asking the students to act it out with you. Remind the students to say the phrase with you as they complete the action. Follow up by writing the phrases on the board so students can copy them. This gives them a visual copy so they can practice their reading skills, which will also reinforce the connection between the language and the actions.

Partner Up to Give Directions

Divide your students into groups of two. Tell them they will be listening to and obeying their partner, which is another way to build the connection between the words and the actions, according to a 2008 article published in "Humanising Language Teaching." Assign one student to be the leader and the other to be the follower. Ask the leader to call out a series of instructions, one at a time. For example, the leader might explain the process of going to the zoo, starting with "Get in the car," "Drive to the zoo," "Park the car," and so on, notes ColorinColorado. As the leader calls these out, the follower acts them out. Once they've completed the process, have students switch roles and repeat the activity.

Read While Students Act

Choose a story to read to your students and ask them to stand up so they can act out what happens as you read. Read a book about the human body, for example, asking your students to point to their knees, head, arms and so on as you read. Use a story about animals so students can pretend to be lions, tigers or gorillas, or read a book about weather so students can act out putting on a raincoat, opening an umbrella or pulling on a hat and mittens. Once students catch on, let them take turns reading the book while their peers act it out.

Play Games

Play TPR bingo to help students make connections between physical actions and words. The game was created by Romiro Garcia, who has won several awards for his classroom activities using TPR. To play, call out an action, which students look for, in picture form, on their cards and cover with a chip. As they catch on, allow students to take on the role of caller, which helps them build that connection between the sounds of the word and the actions that go with them. Play a guessing game by acting something out, such as making a sandwich, and have the students guess what you're doing. Then let the students take turns acting something out and letting their peers guess what they're seeing.

About the Author

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.

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