We think TPR (Total Physical Response) and TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) are the best ways to teach a second language.
The concept is based primarily on the idea of Comprehensible Input. The student must first understand before he/she can speak, so a lot of effort is put into making the language understandable to the child.
In addition, language learning is not, first of all, about content knowledge (such as grammar) but rather aquisition knowledge (language as a skill). That means that acquiring language through creative repetition is the goal. We often say that a student does not learn a language but acquires it.
Acquisition is the foundation of fluency. Fluency is the ability to put together ideas in complete sentences so that one is understood (even if there are still grammatical mistakes).
TPR (Total Physical Response) should be the focus of language learning in the Kindergarten (especially in the 2,3 and 4 year old classes) while TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) can start in K5 and then become the main methodological focus of the Elementary grades since it involves literacy skills.
Storytelling begins with a verbal exchange between teacher and student in a process called StoryAsking. This process involves lots of questions (and gestures) and elicits basic responses from the students. It is a high energy, fully interactive process.
It is not textbook oriented but teacher oriented. It takes training and experience but the results are more than worth the investment of time and effort.
StoryAsking (or Storytelling) begins verbally but includes literacy through writing the words or the entire story (as it is being developed) on a whiteboard by the teacher so that the language is visual. Further literacy skills (reading and writing) are developed and used in later grades to integrate the language into the long term memory.
TPR and verbal StoryAsking are the keys to language acquisition in the K5 classroom.
The beginning steps of literacy are developed and used when and if needed. The English language is visual rather than phonetic. Repeated visualization of entire words is a key element in literacy development given the level of difficulty the English language presents in terms of reading and writing.
An English language based culture is a reading culture by necessity. Every opportunity must be taken to teach literacy skills early and reinforce them continually. In general, many of the learning challenges of the later grades are related to a lack of reading comprehension which is directly related to a lack of verbal fluency at the beginning stages. Comprehensible input comes through aural (listening) and visual (reading) input but the second is dependent on the first (especially at first, though reading skills have their own developmental process and move beyond listening comprehension at some point). Both are skills that need to be acquired not merely learned.
As teachers we are excited about putting these methodologies into practise in our classroom. There is a lot to learn but it is exciting to be part of a process that provides such interesting results.
After a number of years of studying TPR (and TPRS) and applying it in the classroom, we are beginning to see good results and the children are excited about learning in a fun and creative way.
Can five years olds, in a bilingual setting, achieve fluency? What level of fluency? How is language acquired anyway? These are the questions we face as teachers of K5 students. The results we are accomplishing with your children are the focus of this blog.
Welcome to the Northlands (Nordelta) K5 English Blog.
Veronica and Geraldine