Total Physical Response

Total Physical Response

Total Physical Response (TPR) is a method developed by Dr. James J. Asher, a professor emeritus of psychology at San José State University, to aid learning second languages. The method relies on the assumption that when learning a second or additional language, that language is internalized through a process of codebreaking similar to first language development and that the process allows for a long period of listening and developing comprehension prior to production. Students respond to commands that require physical movement. TPR is primarily intended for ESL/EAL teacher ["The Total Physical Response Approach to Second Language Learning" by John J. Asher. "The Modern Language Journal", Vol. 53, No. 1 (Jan., 1969), pp. 3-17 [ JSTOR] ] ["The Learning Strategy of the Total Physical Response: A Review" by James J. Asher "The Modern Language Journal," Vol. 50, No. 2 (Feb., 1966), pp. 79-84 [ JSTOR] ] , although the method is used in teaching other languages as well. [ "The strategy of the total physical response: an application to learning Russian" [ ERIC ED011378] by JJ Asher ] [ "Integrating Total Physical Response Strategy in a Level I Spanish Class" DE Wolfe, G Jones - "Foreign Language Annals," 1982 [ ERIC] ] ["Total Physical Response: Commands, not Control" William J. Celestino "Hispania, "Vol. 76, No. 4 (Dec., 1993), pp. 902-903 [ JSTOR] ]

Blaine Ray, a Spanish language teacher, added stories to Asher's methods to help students acquire non-physical language creating the foundation of the method known as Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) built on Stephen Krashen's theories of language acquisition. [ "Total Physical Response Storytelling: A Communicative Approach to Language Learning" V Marsh - TPRS Publications Inc - [ ERIC EJ586008] ] The method became popular in the 1970's and attracted the attention or allegiance of some teachers, but it has not received generalized support from mainstream educators. [cite book
last = Richards
first = Jack C.
coauthors = Rodgers, Theodore S.
title = Approaches and Methods in Language Teaching
publisher = Cambridge University Press; 2 edition
date = 2001
isbn = 978-0521008433
pages = 72-72
url =
doi =
id =


According to Asher, TPR is based on the premise that the human brain has a biological program for acquiring any natural language on earth - including the sign language of the deaf. The process is visible when we observe how infants internalize their first language. [ "The Total Physical Response known world-wide as TPR"] by James J. Asher, Ph.D. ]

It looks to the way that children learn their native language. Communication between parents and their children combines both verbal and physical aspects. The child responds physically to the speech of their parent. The responses of the child are in turn positively reinforced by the speech of the parent. For many months the child absorbs the language without being able to speak. It is during this period that the internalization and codebreaking occurs. After this stage the child is able to reproduce the language spontaneously. With TPR the language teacher tries to mimic this process in class.

Classroom usage

In the classroom the teacher and students take on roles similar to that of the parent and child respectively. Students must respond physically to the words of the teacher. The activity may be a simple game such as "Simon Says" or may involve more complex grammar and more detailed scenarios.

TPR can be used to practice and teach various things. It is well suited to teaching classroom language and other vocabulary connected with actions. It can be used to teach imperatives and various tenses and aspects. It is also useful for story-telling.

Because of its participatory approach, TPR may also be a useful alternative teaching strategy for students with dyslexia or related learning disabilities, who typically experience difficulty learning foreign languages with traditional classroom instruction. [cite web
last = Zink de Diaz
first = Laura
title = TPR Foreign Language Instruction and Dyslexia
publisher =
date = 2005
url =
accessdate = 2007-05-23

According to its proponents, it has a number of advantages: Students will enjoy getting up out of their chairs and moving around. Simple TPR activities do not require a great deal of preparation on the part of the teacher. TPR is aptitude-free, working well with a mixed ability class, and with students having various disabilities. ["Total Physical Response: An Instructional Strategy for Second-Language Learners Who Are Visually Impaired." by P. Conroy "Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, v93 n5 p315-18 May 1999" [ ERIC] ] It is good for kinæsthetic learners who need to be active in the class. Class size need not be a problem, and it works effectively for children and adults. However, it is recognized that TPR is most useful for beginners, though it can be used at higher levels where preparation becomes an issue for the teacher. It does not give students the opportunity to express their own thoughts in a creative way. Further, it is easy to overuse TPR-- "Any novelty, if carried on too long, will trigger adaptation." It can be a challenge for shy students. Additionally, the nature of TPR places an unnaturally heavy emphasis on the use of the imperative mood, that is to say commands such as "sit down" and "stand up". These features are of limited utility to the learner, and can lead to a learner appearing rude when attempting to use his new language.


External links

* [ BBC British Council]
* [ LinguaLinks]
* [ Second Language Research Journal]

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