TPRS Conference

Cindy TracyJul 31, '09

I exhibited at the national TPRS conference in San Antonio, Texas last week. What is TPRS, you ask?

TPR Storytelling is a method for teaching foreign languages that was invented by Blaine Ray, a Spanish teacher in Bakersfield, California, in 1990. Concerned that his students were disinterested in the unexciting process of learning a language from a textbook, he began to use James Asher's Total Physical Response to teach Spanish. Asher says that students acquire their second languages as they acquired their first languages. Our students learn as babies learn. Therefore, we should not expect them to produce the language before they have had an ample amount of time to listen to it. Blaine experienced great success, and the students began to be excited about his class. Although TPR has been the most effective method for acquiring a second language since it was invented in the 1960s, Blaine found that after hitting the "TPR wall," he was unsure of what to do to move from the imperative to the narrative and descriptive modes of speech. He found that changing from commands to the third person singular allowed him to tell stories, a long-term memory technique. He found that asking the students to act out the parts of the characters in the stories preserved the highly effective physical element that had been so powerful in Classical TPR. As the technique was developed over the years, it became an all-encompassing method and methodology. The method combines Dr. James Asher's Total Physical Response (TPR) with Dr. Stephen Krashen's language acquisition strategies, allowing us to teach grammar, reading and writing along with vocabulary.

Teachers experience the role of their students by signing up to learn Chinese or Russian during the conference. It is fun to see how much they can learn in just a few days, using this methodology. We were there with all our readers in a variety of languages!

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