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Total Physical Response: Understanding Learning Theory

Total Physical Response: Understanding Learning Theory

Learning theory covers a collection of ideas that, at their core, exist to help teachers understand and improve student education. One of the concepts associated with learning theory is Total Physical Response. By taking the time to research and implement Total Physical Response, understanding learning theory and using it to improve your classroom will be as simple as it is beneficial.

What It Is

TPR (Total Physical Response) is a way of teaching new words to young students by pairing these words with physical actions. For example, if you were teaching your students the word for “drive,” you could move your hands side to side as if you were turning the wheel or something of that nature that directly connects to the word. The idea behind TPR is that by pairing the words with physical movements, students can learn and memorize definitions at an effective rate.

How To Implement It

Implementing TPR in the classroom is easy, but don’t try to explain the concept to your students as I did above. Instead, introduce it like it’s a game. Once you’re ready to use TPR with your class, prior to your students arriving, map out exactly which vocab words you want to teach that day. Once you know what words you want to use for your TPR, come up with gestures that can effectively convey to your students what those words mean.

Then, when the class arrives, you can begin using these ideas in action. After teaching the students the vocab words along with the designated gestures, have them carry out the same actions while saying the words aloud. You should also have the words and definitions clearly displayed on your board, monitor, or sheet of paper for students to reference when first learning. This will help immensely with connecting their actions to the actual meaning behind each word they represent.

Use this activity over the course of your curriculum to monitor the progress of students. Each day, say a vocab word and call on a student to physically bring that word to life with any kind of movement that makes sense, even if it’s not a specific movement you taught in class.

Now that you know the proper way to implement Total Physical Response, understanding learning theory should be a bit easier. TPR is only one aspect of learning theory, but it is an immensely useful one. Combining TPR with one of our curriculums for teaching Spanish to elementary students will help you educate these young learners in a competent, compelling way.

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