The main assumption for learning a second language is that it can be acquired effectively through the same way as we learned out first language.

Through natural processes as we were raised.

So, TPR tries to mimic these processes by requiring students to respond to commands, which in turn require physical movements.

To no surprise, this method has been embraced by ESL teachers especially those teaching young learners, to teach and practice new vocabulary with their students.

, 5 TPR Activities to Liven Up Your Class, SDE Seadragon Education

The advantages of using TPR Activities in Teaching

ESL TPR activities requiring movement are great fun for students, even for grown-ups!

Sometimes they enjoy the cheesiness of it.

TPR is especially effective for teaching young children as they are less self-conscious about moving their bodies around the classroom, in sometimes silly ways.

On one hand TPR activities require more energy from teachers, on the other hand they require less preparation. Finally, activities with TPR are great for kinaesthetic learners who need more action or hands-on activities.

So, does TPR really work? 

Try some of these TPR activities and see for yourself!

1. Simon Says (with a spin!)

Simon says is a staple among TPR activities, one that is more commonly used to teach the parts of the body and classroom rules.

If you are teaching older students, you can still play this game by adding more complex commands. Let’s see an example.

Say you are teaching your students how to give directions.

After giving clear instructions, clear up a space in the classroom, one your students can easily move around.

Your commands could be directions such as, “Simon says turn right, Simon says go straight ahead.”

To make it even more fun, turn the classroom into a mini-neighbourhood! Place a flashcard or picture on each of your students’ desks: a bank, a pharmacy, a shopping centre, etc.

Arrange the desks so they create “streets.” Students take turns giving each other directions to and from locations in their neighbourhood.

2. Charades

Another classic game, this one is best suited to action verbs and sports.

, 5 TPR Activities to Liven Up Your Class, SDE Seadragon Education

For example, to teach sports, you must first introduce each with flashcards, act out each of the sports yourself, and have students say each out loud with you.

Then you divide the class into two teams.

Each student must take a flashcard, picture or card with a sport written on it, and pantomime the movements involved in playing the sport so that his or her teammates can guess what it is.

Encourage them to be silly or exaggerate if they have to.

Teammates have to answer in complete sentences: “You are playing basketball.”

3. Songs

Young ESL learners love to sing songs, but if you add movement or miming, they’ll enjoy them so much more.

You’ll notice it’s difficult for most children to sing songs while sitting absolutely still.

Singing and moving come naturally to them.

So, why not take advantage of this and incorporate lots of songs with movement?

Here are some great songs you can use or adapt to suit your needs:

  1. Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes – A classic song used to teach kids the parts of the body.
  2. Hokie Pokie – Great warm up song for students when starting a lesson. Can also be used to teach body parts
  3. Wheels on the Bus – The wheels on the bus go round and round and so should your students – go round the classroom! Have them line up and go around the classroom in a single or double file, or arrange their seats so that they resemble a bus.

, 5 TPR Activities to Liven Up Your Class, SDE Seadragon Education

These are just a few. Super Simple Songs has plenty for you to choose from.

ESL Teacher Training

4. A Stroll around the Classroom

This activity is great for both kids and adult students.

You’ll need several objects or props – as many as you’d like to use.

First, you pantomime a series of actions while you say the phrases.

Then you say the phrases and ask a student to pantomime the actions.

Finally, they should do it on their own and walk around the classroom interacting with objects. Try something like this:

  • You open your bag.
  • You look inside.
  • You take out a notebook.
  • You open it.
  • You look for your pencil
  • You find the pencil
  • You write “Hello” in the book
  • You close it.
  • You put it in the bag.
  • You take out your water bottle.
  • You drink the water.
  • You touch your ear.

5. Mime Role Plays

This can be surprisingly fun for adult students! Give each student a role to act out but tell one of them that they’ve lost their voice.

Tell this student what situation he or she has to act out, but don’t tell the other student what it is. For example:

Student A – You need to find the bathroom, and you ask someone for directions. You have lost your voice, and you can’t say a word.

Student B – You will be stopped in the street by someone who needs directions, but this person can’t speak, so you must interpret their gestures to find out where they need to go.

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