Total Physical Response (TPR). by James Asher, 1977, one of the Designer Methods. Origin.
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Developed by James Asher in the 1970s, TPR is a language teaching method built around the coordination of speech and action. TPR is linked to the developmental psychology, learning theory, and humanistic pedagogy. It is based on the belief that the fastest, least stressful way to achieve understanding of any target language is to follow instruction uttered by the instructor without native language translation.
In psychology, it is linked to the trace theory of memory, which holds that the more often or the more intensively a memory connection is traced, the stronger the memory association will be and the more likely it will be recalled. Retracing can be done verbally such as rote repetition or in association with motor activity.
In addition, in a developmental sense, Asher claims that speech directed to young children consists primarily of commands, which children respond to physically before they begin to produce verbal responses.
The emphasis on developing comprehension skills before the learner is taught to speak links to the so-called Comprehension Approach, the principles of which share the belief that (1) comprehension abilities precede productive skills in learning a language; (2) the teaching of speaking should be delayed until comprehension skills are established; (3) skills acquired through listening transfer to other skills; (4) teaching should emphasize meaning rather than form; (5) teaching should minimize learner stress (Richards & Rodgers, 1986).
There are other methods being practiced under this common ground such as Krashen and Terrell’s Natural Approach, which emphasizes students’ developing basic communication skills and vocabulary through their receiving meaningful exposure to the target language. By using pictures and occasional words in the students’ native language, teachers have to make sure their input is comprehensible, acquisition will proceed naturally and a low affective filter should be created to reduce anxiety.
Another example is Winitz and Reed’s self-instructional program and Winitz’ The Learnables. In this method, students listen to tape-recorded words, phrases, and sentences while they look at accompanying pictures. The meaning of the utterance is clear from the context the picture provides.
Another method is the Lexical Approach developed by Michael Lewis. It is more concerned that students receive abundant comprehensible input. Especially at lower levels, teachers talk extensively to the students while requiring little or no verbal response from them. They are particularly encouraged to notice multi-word lexical items such as I see what you mean.
Based on the Comprehension Approach (p.6), understanding precedes production. Meaning is conveyed through actions (instructions given by the teacher); memory is increased if it is stimulated or traced through association with motor activity which is a right-brain function (the trace theory of learning). Learners’ learning anxiety has to be lowered.
It seems to be especially effective in the beginning level and its appeal to the dramatic nature of lg learning is attractive. It can also be used into more advanced proficiency levels by incorporating more complex syntax into the imperative. However, in TPR reading and writing activities, Ss are limited to spinning off from the oral work in the classroom.