Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling
TPRS is a relatively new method of teaching languages. It was developed by Blaine Ray, a high school Spanish teacher in California during the 1990's. TPRS evolved from the "Total Physical Response" (TPR) method of language acquisition. TPRS revolves around 3 basic steps: learning a limited set of vocabulary, constructing a funny or interesting story with the learned vocabulary, and then writing and reading the created story. At the elementary level, learning a new language can be daunting for young learners. By using this method, students focus on the story, and they love acting it out, and watching their friends act it out. Kids get so involved in the story that they often forget they are working in a different language!
THE THREE STEPS OF TPRS
The story is what TPRS® brings to mind, and it is a crucial teaching skill to develop, but the story is actually the second step of the method. Each lesson involves three or so target structures. These structures are the core of each lesson. A target structure is usually more than a word and less than a sentence. A structure almost always has a verb phrase at its core. Examples of structures are: "gives him", "is afraid", "couldn't find it" and "wanted her to go".
Step #1: Establish Meaning
- Students learn a core set of vocabulary through questions, answers, and various games and activities during class time.
Step #2: Tell a Class Story
- The class story is uniquely built by asking questions using the vocabulary. It is sometimes described as “asking” the story. The story is short, simple, and interesting—it provides many opportunities for repetition and practice. It is told slowly with constant comprehension checks and ideas from the students.
Step #3: Read
- Students write the story they just acted out, and will read it out loud with the teacher and with a partner.
- Students will read the book at home to a parent or other family member.
If you would like to see a demonstration of a TPRS lesson and the three steps in action, I recommend this video, available on youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hl9eBJkRkeQ.