H is for Hug (your Teddy)

| March 30, 2014

Skip to 1:08, then 2:16 for the fun!

Besides being cute when kids use it, Total Physical Response (TPR) is a common, effective and accepted method of teaching used in second language acquisition. “Developed by James Asher, a professor emeritus of psychology at San José State University, it is based on the coordination of language and physical movement. In TPR, instructors give commands to students in the target language, and students respond with whole-body actions and vice-versa,” according to Wikipedia. The method purports to establish an effective, inductive, stress-free learning experience that engages the right side of the brain in a natural, familiar learning sequence.

This is John Rassias in action (worth clicking on and watching):


Why isn’t TPR used in other learning contexts? In my preliminary investigation into this question, I’ve found no substantial argument for or against it. It seems it could be applied to any subject matter and since it is a “technique” taught to ESL teachers, the engagement structures can be reproduced in a variety of contexts and spaces with different people and age groups taking part.

TPR seemed  a good option to segue out of rote language memorization popular in the 60’s – which was shown to be less than effective for the actual production of the target language. It was taken on enthusiastically by the ESL/ ELA community but seemingly no other subject or teaching community.

Can anyone shed light on or provide insight into this?