What is TPR?

“TPR (Total Physical Response) has always come out ahead.”

Dr. Stephen Krashen
University of Southern California

Key Concepts:

1.  Comprehension precedes production.

2.  Respect the Silent Period.

3.  The imperative is imperative.

4.  There is Memory in Movement (the motor skills hypothesis).


Learning Another Language Through Actions

Total Physical Response

by James J. Asher

This book is intended for language teachers of children or adults who want a guideline for applying the “total physical response” in their day-to-day classroom instruction.

The book is based on the concept that the assimilation of information and skills can be significantly accelerated through the use of the kinesthetic sensory system – which, incidentally, is underused except for the instruction of pre-school children and impaired children.  As normal children progress from grade to grade, there is less and less utilization of the kinesthetic sensory system.  There is less physical action and increased learning through reading and writing.  This may be a serious mistake especially for the two most difficult learning tasks in school – acquiring a second language and mathematical understanding.  It may be that both languages and mathematics are perceived as being unlearnable by most people because the instruction depends on the senses of vision and audition to the exclusion of the kinesthetic system.

The book is divided into three parts.  In Part I, I tried to present the problem that people experience in their usually unsuccessful attempt to acquire a second language, and one possible solution in an instructional strategy based on the kinesthetic sensory system.  After that, the evidence is summarized documenting the powerful effect that the kinesthetic sensory channel has in making a second language learnable for most children and adults.  Perhaps no other single idea in second language acquistion has been as thoroughly explored.

Part II is a question-and-answer section in which I attempted to anticipated most questions which teachers ask about the approach.  For questions I may have missed, you are cordially invited to write me.  I promise to respond promptly.

Part III is a lesson-by-lesson plan that is based on a training log kept by Carol Adamski as she applied the approach to teach English as a second language through 150 hours of classroom instruction.  Since I revised the basic log, any mistakes in the printed version are mine alone.

Appreciation is expressed to the fine teachers who worked with me through the years in the experimental research conducted in their classrooms.  Without their support, little could have been accomplished.

– from the Foreword to the First Edition

Since I introduced the concept of TPR about thirty years ago, thousands of language instructors worldwide have discoverd the magic of TPR.  With few exceptions, this phenomenon is not the result of instruction in colleges and universities, but from individual teachers recommending the approach to other teachers.  I believe it is a fair conclusion that the validity of this stress-free learning strategy has been thoroughly demonstrated in carefully controlled research studies and in successful classroom experiences with many different languages acquired by several hundred thousand children and adult students.

Therefore, it is time for colleges and universities to create courses of study with hands-on experiences that produce skilled practitioners of the Total Physical Response.  It is unfair to new language teachers – and the students they will instruct – to graduate from programs in education, applied linguistics, and second languages with a cursory awareness of TPR.  Usually the textbook about “methodology” will only have a paragraph or two about TPR which is lost in a labyrinth of other approaches that are, frankly speaking, ineffective.

Of course, the university experience should be organized around my book, Learning Another Language Through Actions and Ramiro Garcia´s Instructor´s Notebook: How to Apply TPR For Best Results.  Our classic video demonstrations are an excellent way to motivate keen interest in the approach.

In the back of this book, you will find scores of books that will help shape the skills of the new language teacher to guarantee a successful experience in the classroom no matter what the ages of their students and no matter what the target language.

– from the Foreword to the Fifth Edition


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