Before I began teaching with VIPKID, I had very little knowledge of effective teaching strategies. I had plenty of experience working with children, but I didn’t know any ESL teaching methods that might work in the online classroom.
Luckily, VIPKID introduced me to TPR. Using TPR in a VIPKID classroom is one of the best ways to interact with your student and help them understand complex ESL concepts.
What Is TPR?
I’m sure one of the first questions you had when you became a VIPKID teacher was, “what is TPR?”. VIPKID is constantly talking about TPR and how important it is to use in the classroom.. so what the heck is it?
Don’t worry, I had to Google this acronym, too.
TPR stands for total physical response.
Total physical response refers to the actions of the teacher. This includes hand gestures, facial expressions, modeling, and body language. The goal of TPR is to extract a response from the student. TPR is important for every VIPKID classroom because it’s the most beneficial way to teach ESL students.
The Benefits of TPR In The VIPKID Classroom
In 2014, I decided I wanted to teach English in Thailand. Without any prior knowledge of how to teach ESL students, I was at a loss. I didn’t know how to communicate with students that didn’t speak English. Unfortunately, I was given little training before I was thrown into the classroom.
To say the least, my students didn’t learn very much from me *face palm*.
TPR for ESL students
A few years later when I signed up to teach for VIPKID, things were different. After watching demonstration videos, I realized that the easiest way to communicate with ESL students was to use hand gestures and facial expressions.
TPR helps students understand unfamiliar words. The actions, gestures, and facial expressions that go along with each unfamiliar word helps the student absorb and remember new vocabulary.
As a traveler who rarely knows the languages of foreign countries, using TPR helps me communicate with locals. It works for all ESL learners, not just young students.
The point is, TPR makes communication easier and learning more effective because you’re showing and acting rather than just speaking.
When Should I Use TPR?
As a VIPKID teacher, you’ll soon learn that TPR is your secret weapon. Personally, I use TPR as much as possible, while still staying on topic of the lesson.
But, it should be noted that many older and advanced students won’t need you to use as much TPR. Starting at level 4 and continuing upward, these students have a strong understanding of the English language. I keep the TPR to a minimum during these lessons, but use it when necessary or to introduce new vocabulary words.
VIPKID TPR Examples And Strategies
Here are a few helpful examples of TPR:
A simple wave will help the student understand that you’re greeting them.
Cupping your hand behind your ear will let the student know that you’re waiting for them to speak or repeat after you. When I ask a question or ask the VIPKID student to repeat, I use this TPR gesture to elicit a response from them.
Although you’ll be trying to keep incidental language (unnecessary words) to a minimum, it can be hard for the student to understand what word you want them to repeat. By pointing at your mouth while you say the specific word, the student will learn to repeat that word or phrase.
Combine this TPR example with the one above (cupping your hand behind your ear) and soon you’ll have the student repeating exactly what you want them to say.
I use this gesture for TPR during my VIPKID classes when I am emphasizing the question word “what?”.
Use this gesture after you ask a question and you’d like the student to answer.
For example: “what color is the duck?” *scratch head* and wait for answer.
These next two are quite obvious. There is an entire VIPKID unit on emotions and using TPR during these classes will help your student remember new vocabulary words; they can easily associate the action with the word.
Most students know this vocabulary word, but for beginners, this action comes in handy. I like to use this TPR gesture when I ask my students, “How are you?” If they can’t answer the question right away, I point at my smile, which helps them to remember “happy”.
Praising a student will always build strong rapport. They’ll learn quickly that the thumbs up means they’ve done a great job.
I also like to clap when my student does a wonderful job. When I get excited about their progress, I want them to see it. Saying “good job” doesn’t always translate to the beginning ESL learners. Clapping and smiling goes a long way.
This is a random example of how I incorporate TPR in all of my VIPKID classes. For each word, it’s pretty simple to think of an action that could go with it, ie. walk.
The more you teach, the faster and better you’ll be at utilizing TPR.
Read next: 5 Clever VIPKID Reward System Ideas
The Wrap-Up: VIPKID TPR Methods
Using TPR is vital when it comes to teaching ESL students. VIPKID students learn how to communicate and understand new concepts when they are shown actions that go along with specific vocabulary words.
I highly recommend implementing TPR into your VIPKID classroom for optimum learning results and a better classroom setting for your students.
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