Using Total Physical Response for Teaching English Online

Total Physical Response TPR Teaching English Teaching English online has become all the rage in recent years. Students are quickly grasping at the opportunity to learn from the comfort of their own home, often one-on-one with a teacher across the world. Companies offering online education are popping up left and right across the world, leaving many teachers tempted by the ease of transitioning to this type of career. However, the inability to be tactile (or the perception of such) can quickly negate any and all positives that can come from an online lesson. One fool-proof way to combat this is to incorporate Total Physical Response (TPR) into as much of the lesson as possible, especially with young children and beginners.

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What is Total Physical Response?

Total Physical Response is a language teaching method that was developed in the late 1970s. Observations of students learning a language led to this method’s development, which functions on three key principles: 1) language is learned primarily through listening, 2) the right hemisphere of the brain, (controlling creativity and insight) must be engaged, and 3) learning must be free from stress. Using these principles, teaching while utilizing Total Physical Response involves coupling language input with specific full-body movement output, all in a relaxed environment.

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Total Physical Response is a fairly simple concept that can be applied to most lessons. However, it is more applicable and effective when teaching basic language to beginner learners. Although generating verbal output from the student is always awesome, you don’t necessarily need to demand it from early stage learners. Eliciting physical responses from them works wonders for language development and retention, so be sure to be consistent with Total Physical Response in those situations. As the vocabulary and grammar level progresses, TPR becomes much more challenging. Trying to essentially “act out” a complex sentence or figurative language (i.e. an idiom) like “Time to hit the road” would not only be ineffective: it would be insanely confusing for the student.

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