Total Physical Response (TPR) is a learning strategy which was developed by Professor James Asher of San José State University in California. It is now being practiced successfully all over the world.

The basic technique of TPR is simple. Learners act out commands given by the teacher. These commands, or series of commands, are simple at the beginning but after some time they may become more complex

It involves both left- and right-brained learning.

Learning to understand and respond to language physically is something all learners can do well. As a result they feel successful as a student and they experience the enjoyment of easy learning. They are usually surprised about the speed with which they learn to understand English.

There is no pressure on them to speak the foreign language yet.

Before any learner can start to speak a foreign language spontaneously and creatively he or she must feel the inner readiness to do so.

When learners are ready they feel that the words of the language – sound and meaning integrated and combined into larger utterances – spring from within themselves.

With pioneer research conducted in the past 50 years, we learned a lot about acquiring languages by observing infants. For example, infants do not start life speaking their native language. For months, they are silent except for babbling, but during this silent period they carry on conversations with caretakers.

It works like this: The caretakers utter a direction and the infant responds with a physical action. For example, “Smile for grandpa.” “Don’t spit up on your bib.” “Take my hand when we cross the street.” “Pick up your toy and put it on your bed.” I call these unique transactions, language-body conversations.

Instead of asking students to be quiet and sit still, they’ll be standing up, moving around the classroom and getting physical!

 Language-body conversations

It has been demonstrated in published experiments with children and adults learning Spanish, French, German, Russian and Japanese: Something exciting happens when teachers use language-body conversations in the classroom. Students of all ages including adults, suddenly come to life.

They get excited because they actually understand everything the instructor is saying. As I like to tell instructors around the world, “If you can’t convince students in five minutes that they can actually learn English, Spanish, Arabic or Chinese, you will not convince them even if they stay in your class for a year.”

 The most powerful tool for learning a new language

Language-body conversations, the basis of TPR, is the most powerful tool for learning a new language. It will not solve all problems, but it will prepare you for a successful transition to speaking, reading and writing.

I call this stress-free tool, the Total Physical Response, known worldwide as TPR. It has stood “the test of time” for over 50 years in thousands of language classrooms worldwide.

Recently, an instructor in Mongolia stated, “With TPR, my students are internalizing English so fast, I had difficulty keeping up with them. I am embarrassed to tell you that I was jealous of their achievements and wanted to experience the same success in learning Mongolian…””

 Brain based instruction

The research indicates that teachers who are knowledgeable about brain based strategies and who use their understanding of how the brain acquires information to teach their students, are more likely to be able to help their students learn how to think critically and make meaning of information (Hruby & Goswami, 2011; Jensen, 2009; and Smith, 2007).

Kurt Fischer, Harvard University Graduate School of Education professor and director of the Mind, Brain, and Education program, postulates that our tools for teaching must no longer be one-dimensional but multi-dimensional. Instruction must provide students with the tools to not only recall information but to engage their brains in thinking processes that promote generation of new thoughts (Brown, 2012; Worden, Hinton, & Fischer, 2011).

Research also indicates that memory is not stored in a single area of the brain but is broken apart into visual images, emotion, movement, and other sensory areas of the brain (Willis, 2007; Wolfe, 2015).

When the brain recalls information it actually reconstructs it from each sensory area of the brain. These neuroscience research findings provide a basis for engaging multiple parts of the student’s brain when teaching and providing multiple pathways for learning (Wolfe, 2015).

 Before any learner can start to speak a foreign language spontaneously and creatively he or she must feel the inner readiness to do so.

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