TPR in Time Constraints

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No not Christmas, it’s back to school and soon countless kids will be logging online to learn from remarkable VIPKID teachers like you! As brilliant and exciting as this new influx of eager beaver students may be, some of them will be attending with no prior knowledge of English whatsoever. This can be tricky, but not impossible, and that is where TPR comes into play. Before we go into how TPR can very beneficial and how to plan efficiently with it, let’s first look at the glaring question – what the devil is TPR?

TPR is an acronym for toast, passion fruit, and raspberries, it’s a way of ensuring teachers get a very balanced and notorious breakfast so that – OK, I’m joking! It actually stands for Total Physical Response and was created by Dr. James J Asher after he studied the way that children learn their mother tongue recognized that parents host what is called “language-body” conversations where the parents verbalise something and the child reacts to it physically. For example, “come sit with daddy” or “throw me the ball”, from here TPR was born and introduced into the classroom. Teachers do as a parent would and say verbal instructions that will result in a physical response from a student.

Time is ticking:

As you have probably gathered, TPR is a method that will take a lot of time out of the lesson and needs to be planned for accordingly. This doesn’t mean that it cannot be used in a 25-minute VIPKID lesson, just that adequate time must be allocated for it.


To minimise any time lost and any stress on your part as you rack your brain for ideas, it’s much better to prepare some TPR techniques beforehand. For instance, have ready what phrases or words that you’re going to be teaching for that lesson. Let’s say you choose “jump” “run” and “wave”, you can now begin to plan around only these words.


These will come in very handy when teaching TPR as not only does it add another layer to your teaching but it’s also something interesting to look at for the students. Flash cards are a teacher’s best friend, they’re easy to make (you don’t need to be Vincent van Gogh), lightweight and simple to understand.

Songs are perfect for use with TPR as they encourage students to make the sounds and if melodic and catchy, the student will remember the new actions and phrases a lot easier. Think of songs like “The Wheels on The Bus” and “Baa Baa Black Sheep” when we were growing up. These songs, though we didn’t know it at the time, taught us motion, animal vocals and even animal shearing!

Stories have been around since the dawn of humanity and are used as a tool to pass on knowledge in various aspects, this is no different when used in conjunction with TPR. Stories are engaging and evoke feelings and you can tie this in with actions that students can do when listening to you. Maybe during your story the characters hide, scream, laugh, kick etc. Students can repeat these actions as they watch you enact the story.


Who doesn’t love a good game every now and then?! Games are a fun and captivating way to learn new things and will be well-received during a VIPKID lesson. A pleasant TPR game to play is to gather your students together and call out different actions i.e “clap” “click”. The last student in the group to do the action is out and so on and so forth until you get to the winner. If you happen to only be teaching one student you can play “Simon Says” which doesn’t necessitate other students.

Possible disadvantages:

Alas, as with everything, nothing is perfect and TPR does come with a few disadvantages of its own. The first one being that a student who is new to the world of a new language can be very shy and it can be difficult to get them to engage. Not to worry, this is where your enchanting teacher and personal skills can be put to use!

If not prepared for thoroughly, TPR can tend to become boring and repetitive for students, causing them to switch off. So really try to be creative and adventurous with your TPR techniques and don’t be afraid to try new things!

Benefits of TPR

Using TPR technique for teaching English as a second language also has its advantages. One of the best things about using TPR activities is that you do not have to worry about the size of your class; the games/activities are so easy to understand and follow that no matter how big your class is everyone can actively participate.

Here are a few other major benefits:

  • It is fun for the students – Using games and different activities incorporating TPR can be a fun way of learning for the students. In fact, the TPR itself can be quite exciting. This will encourage the students to see learning as a fun process and they are likely to pay more attention to you as a teacher and your lessons.
  • It can be good for all age group – It is generally believed that TPR works better for kids but you will be surprised to know that it works equally well with adults. Not only does it help them respond better but it can also serve as a great ice breaker, which can encourage the learners to participate in the class more.
  • Planning TPR lessons are relatively easier for the teacher – This is a huge selling point for the teachers. TPR lessons or games/activities do not take as much time to prepare as regular lessons. And even though they take less preparation time, you can still achieve more results from TPR activities.
  • It builds vocabulary – TPR activities not only encourage physical response but they also help build your students’ vocabulary. The basic words they learn can help you form a foundation for learning. And once your non-native learners learn these basic words they can communicate with you and understand you better.

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