5 Tips for Using Total Physical Response with Online ESL Students

How to teach English with Total Physical ResponseTotal Physical Response is super effective for teaching verbs and adjectives. However, this can lead to overindulgence. Plus, it can quickly get boring if overused. Being overly repetitive takes the fun and novelty out of the experience. Adjust the length of certain TPR-based tasks to fit the needs, mood, and ability of your student. Here are more tips for using TPR to teach English online.

Read: How to Get Started as an Online ESL Teacher

1- Make use of simple motions that can be picked up by webcam, such as hand gestures. While “jump” can be a fun one to act out in a classroom, a student attached to a headset can get a bit out of control. Make sure that your Total Physical Response is appropriate for your specific setting.

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2- Even though TPR, by nature, doesn’t solicit much speaking from students, try to get as much verbal output from them as possible by mixing it up. It will immeasurably boost his/her confidence with speaking English and make him/her feel more comfortable participating in the future.

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3- Be culturally aware. A hand gesture or motion that is PC to you could be seen as invariably offensive within your student’s culture. For example, pointing at the student to indicate “you” can be interpreted as rude; instead, extend an open palm to indicate that you are referring to him/her. Be mindful of these kinds of things when designing your lesson and forming your own TPR repertoire.

4- Calibrate your take-home points before introducing a new TPR association to your student, as you could easily give them the wrong message and confuse them. Your TPR movements need to be well-thought out and planned in advance. Consistency is crucial for success here. When in doubt, it doesn’t hurt to look up sign language. Often times, the gesture will be easily understandable for your student, and it reduces your working time: a win-win!

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