Teaching Ideas for the ESL Classroom
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TPR - "Total Physical Response"

Have you ever seen students who can't respond to English when it is spoken at normal speed? TPR trains students to respond quickly and naturally while also teaching vocabulary in a fun, lively lesson. Most often, TPR is used with basic commands. The teacher tells the students to stand up, put their hands in the air, pick up something and give it to another student, sit down, etc. The teacher should say these naturally to see how students respond. By modelling the action and repeating as many times as necessary, the students learn the meaning of the commands.

To make this basic TPR more interesting, Teacher Joe uses some rather funny commands. For example, after telling students to put their left hand in the air, he has them put both hands in the air, then follows up by asking students to put both FEET in the air. The whole sequence is below:

- put your left hand in the air
- put it down
- put your right hand in the air
- put it down
- put both hands in the air
- put them down
- put your left foot in the air
- put it down
- put your right foot in the air
- put it down
- put both feet in the air!
Students try jumping in the air or attempt a handstand on their desks! Another funny sequence of basic TPR is this:
- clap your hands
- clap your hands three times
- clap them five times
- clap your hands 800 times!
- turn around
- turn around twice then clap once
- jump once
- jump seven times
- turn around, jump once and clap twice
- turn three times, jump five times and clap twice!
Students really struggle hard to remember this last one, but if you do it step by step and repeat often, they can do it eventually.

When students have mastered these verbs, you can turn (800 times!) to classroom TPR. Use any verbs that could be used while teaching. Combine the verbs with nouns in lots of interesting ways. Some combinations include "come to the blackboard", "pick up a piece of chalk", "give the chalk to me", "go back to your chair", "everyone open your books to page 37", "take out a piece of paper", "write your name at the top", "fold your paper", etc. You can add any verb you want, including some funny once. Ask students to put their paper on their heads or to eat their pens and see how they respond!

When students come to the blackboard, you can have them write all kinds of useful things. They can write words, making this a kind of dictation. You can have them write numbers and let the following students do arithmetic using those numbers. This is a good way to teach "add", "subtract", etc. You can even ask them to draw pictures of any vocabulary you want to teach. To add some fun, divide the board into five or six sections so that one student from each row can come to the board. The person who can write or draw the fastest earns one point for his or her row. If you want the entire class to practice, you can have them take out a piece of paper and write with their pens.

When students successfully follow your commands at the blackboard, they are ready for Drawing TPR which Teacher Joe has used successfully with students of all ages and all levels.

Now, when students can easily do basic TPR, classroom TPR, written TPR, and drawing TPR, they are ready for advanced TPR. You can use any process or sequence of events for advanced TPR. Just make a list of all verbs needed and you're ready to go! See Advanced TPR for two examples.

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