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TPRS Step 1 (target vocabulary and definitions)

TPRS begins with choosing words in the target language for the lesson and defining their meaning before telling a story that uses them.

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Season 1, episode 22
13 min / Published

TPRS has at its core the starting and ending with the correct words that you want to teach your students. From an language-teaching-angle, target words are the stars of the story.

It is absolutely crucial to create an early foundation for meaning in TPRS teaching.

The last thing we want is for the learners to guess meaning and misinterpret context.

Show notes

How to implement TPRS correctly for effective language learning

As the popular saying goes: "people don't remember facts and figures, they remember the stories". Stories are an old but always current tool for conveying meaning and fixing ideas in our memory. Using stories within the language classroom can turn language learning into a smooth and stimulating process.

Today we continue our journey to find more interesting, engaging and effective ways of language learning. TPRS – or Teaching (language) Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling, comes under the spotlight once again. Before we jump in, we have to make a very important distinction.

There is a marked difference between language learning and language acquisition. The former is a classroom activity with a great amount of focus placed on grammar structures, drilled in through standardized testing. While the latter comes from a natural interaction with language, such as spontaneous communication.

Steven Krashen argues that the input (comprehensible input) needs to be easily enough understood on its own.

If it’s too hard, people give up, and if it’s too easy, people tend lose interest. One has to look for the perfect blend so that lessons are approachable and learning targets should be within reach.

In this way, students feel less apprehensive about language-learning and encouraged to engage with the content. Through spaced repetition, context, and interesting stories, TPRS helps support language-learning efforts.

TPRS begins with choosing words in the target language for the lesson and defining their meaning before telling a story that uses them. Finally, the lesson finishes up with reading that reinforces the words covered in the lesson.

The three steps involved in the practical application of the TPRS technique each deserve their rightful standing. As such, we will discuss them all in detail and individually.

1. Selecting the target vocabulary and confirming their definitions.

TPRS has at its core the starting and ending with the correct words that you want to teach your students. From an language-teaching-angle, target words are the stars of the story.

It's vital for learners to become familiar with the targeted words/phrases. get acquainted with the selected words. Therefore, give them time to understand the target words’ meaning and learn their pronunciation.

According to most of my research, the most effective approach is to choose a maximum of three words as to not stretch learners' attention and efforts too much.

When you’re done choosing the target words, immediately establish their meanings for your students.

  • The fastest way of establishing the meaning of new words is by translation. Write the translations on the board. The translations provide not only the crucial input for comprehension, but also allows the learners a type of safety net – to glance at when needed.
  • You could also attempt to drive home meaning by the showing of pictures representing the words/phrases you want to focus on.
  • Yet another way to drill down on meaning is to gesture or demonstrate the action itself or another action associated with the target word.

It is absolutely crucial to create an early foundation for meaning in TPRS teaching. The last thing we want is for the learners to guess meaning and misinterpret context.

Teachers have to insure that every word that they use is perfectly understood. This might seem a little far-fetched, especially in the non-native language-learning set-up. The instructor has to be mindful about staying in-bounds by seeing to it that no foreign word or phrase may be considered vague or open to interpretation.

TPRS is renowned for its comprehensive comprehension checks. When applied correctly and diligently, there will be strong indicators of understanding. This will signify the readiness of the students to progress on to a new lesson.

What works really well in this instance is to identify a student that could serve as measuring mark. Usually it will be a student that finds the process somewhat more challenging than the rest. Once the teacher is happy that this learner grasps the vocabulary, progression to a new lesson is possible.

Progression and comprehension, at this stage, is largely banked in the short-term memory unfortunately. Some teachers might move on to new words and phrases and find that the students have forgotten the meanings the very next day. To commit these meanings, pronunciations and comprehensions to the long term memory, repetition and continued comprehension checks are vital.

 

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