Total Physical Response (TPR) is a method of teaching English developed by Dr James Asher, that combines language and physical movement. In short, its providing an action made with the body, that the students can use to support remembering each piece of language. For example, for the word banana, you might mime peeling and eating a banana. (See the examples in the video above for how you might use this technique.)

My understanding is that the ‘jury is out’ in terms of studies proving TPR’s effectiveness. That said, most aspects of language learning have been similarly difficult to support in terms of research into their validity.

In the context of teaching very young learners, I think TPR is valuable because, children love whole-bodied learning. I do believe it supports their memory, and it makes the learning process fun.

Let me give you an example.

I love to experiment with teaching techniques in class so that I can improve and refine my teaching skills. In one class, I did not teach them TPR movements for each letter of the alphabet, because the children were struggling to remember anything more than the letter sound for each letter. (Normally, I would teach TPR for each of the words in the Phonics Song 2 that I use in my classes).

However, later, when they were learning writing and blending, if the child didn’t know the letter name or sound, I found that I was unable to give them a ‘clue’ for which letter to use by doing the TPR for that letter. While I had a reason for not choosing to teach them TPR along with the alphabet, the consequences of them not having that additional support later on was, I decided, too big to not teach TPR with the alphabet.