Teaching Vocabulary Through TPR Method to by wandii

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									Teaching Vocabulary Through TPR Method
to Children
February 8, 2009 aminudin241072

                           TEACHING VOCABULARY


                                    TO CHILDREN


       English is a medium of communication which can help people to interact,

converse, and share to other people. English is as an international language that‘s why it

is possible to everyone to communicate with other people around the world if someone

has an ability to use English. The ability in using English is very important to everyone.

This is one of the ways to improve human resources. The developing of human resources

by mastering English will be better if it starts as early as possible. That‘s why Indonesian

Government has already run the policy and regulation for Elementary school to give

English subject for the students in the classroom. It is one of the concerns of the

Indonesian government to encounter the era of information and technology.

   English has been taught in Indonesia at Elementary school as one of the local content

subjects. It is hoped that the students will learn and comprehend English as early as

possible and can practice simple conversation. According to ―Ministry of Natonal

Education ‖(1993), the aim of teaching English at Elementary School as follows: (1)

―Siswa dapat memahami kata-kata dalam bahasa Inggris yang sering ditemukan dan
digunakan dalam kehidupan sehari hari. (2) Siswa mampu berkomunikasi dalam bahasa

Inggris secara sederhana‖.

       In communication, students need vocabulary which can support them to produces

and use meaningful sentences because vocabulary provide organ of sentence. That‘s why

vocabulary is very important to be mastered. Jeremy Harmer (1991, 153) classifies that

―Then it is vocabulary that provides the vital organs and flesh‖. For that reason the

students have to develop their vocabulary and master it in order to be able to

communicate with other.

       Vocabulary is not only sign of symbol for ideas but also a part of how to improve

language skills in the target language. The more vocabulary students learn the more ideas

they should have, so they can communicate by using their ideas more effectively. It is

mentioned by Julian Edge (1993, 27),‖ Knowing a lot of words in a foreign language is

very important. The more words we know, the better our chance of understanding or

making ourselves understood‖

   However, students sometimes get difficulties to use or apply the vocabulary. Their

difficulties in using vocabulary which have been studied can be caused some reasons.

One of the reasons could be in the method which is used by the teacher in presenting the

lesson in the classroom. That‘s why the appropriate method in delivering the lesson in the

classroom should be considered.

   One of the methods which is suitable for children in learning vocabulary is Total

Physical Response (TPR) method. James Asher (http:/www.tpr-world.com,1 ) stated that
―use TPR method for new vocabulary and grammar, to help students immediately

understand the target language in chunks rather than word-by-word. This instant success

is absolutely thrilling for students‖. It shows that using Total Physical Respond method is

effective to help the students to learn the target language because the students practice

directly using the vocabulary in real context. By doing so, the students can develop the

storage of the vocabulary in a short time. Besides that Total Physical Respond method

also helps the children to understand and memorize linguistic input because the children

use body movement as media in the process of learning. It is mentioned by Jack C

Richard and Theodore s Rodgers, (1986, 92) that ―The movement of the body seems to

be powerful mediator for the understanding, organization and storage of macro details of

linguistic input‖. Considering to the above explanation, this paper discusses the TPR

method, characteristics of children, and advantages of TPR method to children.


       Total physical Response is one of the language teaching methods which was

develop by James Asher, a professor of psychology at San Jose State University,

California. He used the commands from the teacher to students or a student to another

student. Students try to answer or response the commands through the movements of the

body or action. According to Jack C. Richard and Theodore S. Rodgers (1993, 90) ―Total

Physical Response is a language teaching method built around the coordination of speech

and action; it attempts to teach language through physical (motor) activity‖ . It is

obviously described that physical response is the medium to stimulate interaction

between teacher and learners.
       Total Physical Response has characteristic. Asher who developed this method,

focused in particular on two characteristics of first language acquisition which is written

in David Nunan‘s book ( 1991, 244)

       1.‖The child gets a vast amount of comprehensible input before beginning to
           speak. Young children comprehend language which is far in excess of their
           ability to produce.

       2. There is a lot physical manipulation and action language accompanying early
           input. Throw the ball to Rudi‘, put your arm through here‘, etc. This action
           language, encouraging physical manipulation, is couched in the imperative‖ .

       From the above description, the students try to comprehend the utterances of

language before trying to produce verbal language. They learn by using physical

movements or actions. To make it easy for the students, the teacher should not give

abstract words first. It can be delayed until students can comprehend the target language.

Asher ( 1991, 244) stated that: ―Abstractions should be delayed until students have

internalized a details cognitive map of the target language. Abstractions are not necessary

for people to decode the grammatical structure of a language. Once students have

internalized the target language‖ . To know more about Total Physical Response, the

following is the basic principles of Total Physical Response which was created by Asher

(1974, 244):

   1. When should stress comprehension rather that production at the beginning levels
      of second language instruction with no demands on the learners to generate the
      target structure themselves.
   2. We should obey the ‗here and now‘ principle.
   3. We should provide input to the learners by getting them to carry commands.
      These commands should be couched in the imperative‖ .
       There are many kinds of activities which can be used by teacher in the process of

learning using Total Physical Response Method such as:

   1. Exercise by using command (imperative drill).

This is the main activity which teacher can do in the classroom by using TPR method.

   This exercise is essential to demonstrate body movement and activity from students.

   It is hoped that when students are demonstrating the responses by acting out they will

   absorb and comprehend the meaningful sentences or utterance.

   1. Dialogue (conversational dialogue).

Students can interact and have conversation during the lesson. While having the

   conversation students can memorize and comprehend sentences in real context

   because students are brought to the real context in the conversation. For example

   when a student is asked to cry, walk, open, etc, he will do like the real one.

   1. Playing a Role ( Role Play ).

In this section every student is invited to act out his/her daily activity such as in school,

   restaurant, supermarket, and so on. It is very interesting and useful for students to

   practice the language because they are really like to act although pretending to be

   other people.

   1. Presentation by using OHP or LCD.
Using OHP or LCD is also very interesting to develop students‘ motivation in the

   learning process. In this form, students are asked to read or pronounce the words

   written on the screen. After that teacher asks students to act it out in front of the class

   about the words which have been learnt. Or teacher asks students to answer directly

   after the command are written on the screen. It will give a good feedback for students

   when they can answer it well.

5. Reading and writing activities.

Reading and writing activities develop not only vocabulary but also train students to

   make sentences based on the right order. This activity can create students‘

   imagination because they try to illustrate and translate the others‘ action into sentence

   by writing on the whiteboard. Or while reading a passage, the others‘ describe it in

   acting in front of classroom.


Generally children like doing any kinds of activities as long as they feel happy. Children

will choose the activities they like to do according to their own characteristics. The

character of the children may be one of the signs of their development. According to

Wendy A Schott et al (1990, 4) the characteristics of children are as follow:

   1. The children ask questions all the time.
   2. They rely on the spoken word as well as the physical world to convey and
      understand meaning.
   3. They have definite views about what they like and do not like doing.
   4. They have developed sense of fairness about what happen in the classroom and
      begin to questions the teachers‘ decisions.
   5. They are able to work with others and learn from others‖ .

       Using the body movement in the process of learning is suitable to the

characteristic of the children because children like to do physical movement. They like to

move from one place to another place. They like to go around without thinking whether

they disturb their surrounding or not. They don‘t like to keep staying in one place which

forces them not to do something. Geoffrey Broughton stated that‖ Young children are

physically active‖(1980, 169) .

       Besides that children also like to imitate and mime. They will give attention to

other people and try to imitate merely like other people do and say. This is the way how

children learn and develop their knowledge. This is supported by George Broughton et al

( 1980, 169) Rivers that ―Children love to imitate and mime: they are uninhibited in

acting out roles, and they enjoy repetition because it gives them a sense of assurance and

achievement‖ . According to the points of explanation above, children like to be involved

in something active. To make them active, the teacher should be able to make the

circumstance of learning process which is suitable to the characteristics of the children. It

may give motivation to the students to learn effectively. So hopefully the goal of the

learning can be achieved well.

       TPR method which developed by Prof. Dr. James J. Asher; a professor of

psychology at San Jose University California has been succeeded in learning of foreign

language for children. The successful of learning process can‘t be separated from the

advantages of TPR method itself. The advantages of using Total Physical Response

Method in teaching English are wide.

       Firstly, Total Physical Response method creates positive thinking which

facilitates the student to involve in learning process, so it can develop not only motivation

but also the aim of students in learning. Besides that this method is very easy and the

usage of language contains of action games, that‘s why it can help student to learn fast

and effectively. Besides that it is also able to avoid the problem which students usually

meet during the process of learning especially when they study foreign language. James

Asher (ttp//www.tpr.world.com,1) stated that ―Use Total Physical Response method for

new vocabulary and grammar, to help your students immediately understand the target

language … . This instant success is absolutely thrilling for students‖.

       Secondly, teaching vocabulary to children by using Total Physical Response

method is very useful for children because children like to give response by using

physical response first better than using verbal response. It is very suitable when the

process of learning is emphasized on physical response in the students‘ response.

Children also not only like to response and act out something new but also intend to

know more and more about language by responding the action toward the given

command. ―Directly utterances to children contains of command and children or students
will respond toward their physic before they start to produce verbal response‖. (James


       Thirdly, This method can facilitate students with the meaning in real context.

Students can memorize the vocabulary by looking at the action, even though the

vocabulary is not translated. So the presence of action in the classroom is as an

imperative to help teacher in explaining the materials for students and in understanding

the meaning of vocabulary. Because of this method uses basic command and real context

in the process of learning it is very helpful for students to know the meaning. By telling

students to stand up, put their hands in the air, and pick up something and give it to

another students, etc, are acting which commonly and naturally done by students so it is

easy for them to memorize the vocabulary or utterance. ‖. It is supported by Teacher

Joe‘s (http://www.teacherjoe.us/teachers TPR.html, 1) that ―TPR trains students to

respond quickly and naturally while also teaching vocabulary in a fun, lively lesson‖.

       The usage of Total Physical Response method emphasize in action so students are

involved in activities in the process of learning. This circumstance is interesting to

students. So by using this method students can accept the lesson easier and faster. Even

though Total Physical Response Method is effective to teach vocabulary, teacher needs to

think of media to set up the context in delivering the lesson of vocabulary to students.

Besides teacher should be willing to create conducive learning.

       Fourthly, using Total Physical Response method is interesting and fun. It is very

suitable for the students‘ characteristics which have been mentioned before. By giving

something interesting and funny makes children attentively focused on the process of
learning. Because of that situation children feel free to involve in learning process.

Besides that they are not under pressed by the threatening situation and condition. Finally

they can get the aim of learning by keeping on learning and giving attention to the lesson.

ESL Café‘s Idea Cookbook-TPR.(http://www.eslcafe.com, 1) supported that ―It‘s fun!

It‘s non-threatening. It keep their attention. They learn!‖. For example: put your left hand

in the air

- put it down – put your right hand in the air – put it down – put both hands in the air –

put them down – put your left foot in the air – put it down – put your right foot in the air

– put it down – put both feet in the air ! Students try jumping in the air or attempt a

handstand on their desks! Another funny sequence of basic TPR is : – clap your hands –

clap your hands three times – clap them five times – clap your hands 800 times ! – turn

around – turn around twice then clap once – jump once – jump seven times – turn around,

jump once and clap twice – turn three times, jump five times and clap twice! Students

really struggle hard to remember this last one, but if you do it step by step and repeat

often, they can do it eventually.


Total Physical Response is one of the learning processes which involves the students

actively in the classroom activities. It can be affective in delivering explicit instruction in

learning. The effectiveness of the Total Physical Response has been shown by the experts

in some countries and has given significant improvement of students‘ achievement in
learning English especially vocabulary in language target. As children are physically

active by nature, Total Physical Response will make language learning especially

vocabulary more effective because children feel fun during the learning. This methods of

instruction ―injects the lesson with both physical activity and fun as the students playact

their roles and respond to both simple yes/no questions and more complex questions

about who, where, when, etc.‖ (James Asher, http:/www.tpr-world.com )

By having a good skills in presenting the lessons in any kinds of models teacher is

encouraged to develop knowledge and stimulate children‘s to learn. The knowledge and

experience are influences in developing of children‘s vocabulary, that‘s why teacher

should be able to manage and select the material which can be absorbed by children.

Besides that comprehension of the vocabulary should be more emphasized and developed

in the learning process in order to get the aim of learning vocabulary. Finally, after

knowing some of the advantages of Total Physical Respond method, hopefully teacher is

able to present the lesson to students or children effectively.


Broughton Geoffrey, Teaching English as a Foreighn Language: Routledge and Kegan Paul, London, 1980,

Edge Julian, Essential of English Language Teaching: Longman, New York 1993, 27.

Harmer Jeremy, The Pracatice of English Language Teaching: Longman Group, London 1991, 153.
Ministry of National Education GBPP Kurikulu SD, Jakarta,1993.

Nunan David, Language Teaching Methodology: Prentile Hall International Ltd, 1991,188-244

Richard C Jack and Theodore S Rodgers, Approach and Method on Language Teaching: Cambridge
        University Press New York, 1986, 92

Total Physical Response known worldwide as TPR: http:/www.tpr-world.com.

Teaching Ideas for the ESL Classroom: http://www.teacherjoe.us/Teachers TPR.html

Entry Filed under: TPR Method
Total Physical Response

The method was developed by James Asher, a professor of psychology at San
Jose State University, California in the 1960s. The Total Physical Response
Method (TPR) incorporates theories of developmental psychology, humanistic
pedagogy, as well the dramatic or theatrical nature of language learning. The
main idea behind TPR is based upon the principle of establishing psychomotor
associations to facilitate language learning. The teacher presents the language
in the form of commands which are demonstrated and modeled by the teacher
and fulfilled by the students, individually and/or in groups. The meaning is
made clear through demonstration. The emphasis is on developing
comprehension skills before the learner is required to produce in the target
language. Though the language is presented and taught in the form of
imperatives, Asher claims that most of the grammatical structures of the target
language and hundreds of vocabulary items can be learned from the skillful
use of the imperative by the instructor.

The idea of employing the imperative drill in language teaching and
developing comprehension skills before production is not new and can be
traced back to 1925 to the teaching procedures proposed by Harold and
Dorothy Palmer in their textbook of English 'English Through Action', a
comprehensive collection of oral drills and exercises for the classroom. Palmer
used the term incubation period which is a necessary prerequisite for the
learner to absorb and cognize; the language in all its aspects. Therefore he
suggested that language teaching should be based on the ‗natural basis,‘ and
active production (speaking and writing) should never be encouraged or
expected until the pupil has had many opportunities of cognizing the language
passively (through listening and reading).

TPR is most effective in the early stages of language learning and Asher
himself has stressed TPR should be used in association with other methods
and techniques. And indeed TPR represents a useful set of techniques which
are compatible with other approaches to teaching.

Theory of language: The approach is based upon structuralist or grammar-
based views of language. The verb in the imperative is considered to be the
central linguistic motif around which language use and learning are organized.
The commands employed in the classroom are used to teach anything
beginning with focusing on prepositions to the conditional and subjunctive
moods (e.g., Henry would you prefer to serve a cold drink to Molly, or would
you rather have Eugene kick you in the leg?). Since Asher considers second
language learning as a parallel process to child language acquisition, the
language contents are based on concrete nouns and imperative verbs, i.e.
nonabstractions, the immediate surrounding in the classroom. As for teaching
abstractions, they should be delayed until students have internalized a detailed
cognitive map of the target language. Once students have internalized the
language code, abstractions can be introduced and explained in the target
language. Though the syllabus of TPR is structure-based and grammar-
focused, the emphasis is on meaning rather than on form. Language is
presented in chunks so that it would be internalized as wholes rather than as
single lexical items. In the early stages teachers similarly to parents should
refrain from too much correction in order not to inhibit learners.

Theory of learning: TPR takes its grounding in behavioral psychology. Asher
sees a stimulus-response view as providing the learning theory underlying
language teaching pedagogy. To reinforce memorization TPR combines motor
activity (fulfilling the commands after the teacher) and verbal rehearsal
(listening to the teacher's model and speaking out when one is ready to
produce). Such combination can be labeled as an action-based drill in the
imperative form. To justify development of listening comprehension before
expecting any production from the student Asher uses the facts from the
process of first language acquisition when children respond physically to
spoken language in the form of parental commands. Only after a long silent
period (from several months to two or three years) the child‘s speech-
production mechanism begins to function. Asher also believes that second
language teaching should be directed to the right brain hemisphere which is
responsible for motor activities, while the left hemisphere (responsible for
verbal processing) watches and learns. To sum up this theory in one sentence,
TPR is based on recreating the first language learning process in the second
language classroom, because the human brain and nervous system are
biologically programmed to acquire language in a particular mode. The
sequence is developing listening comprehension before production skills and
the mode is synchronizing language with body movements.

The general objectives of TPR are to teach oral proficiency at a beginning
level. Another sub-goal of the method is to have students enjoy their
experience in learning a foreign language, to reduce the stress that people feel
when studying foreign languages and thereby encourage them to persist in
their study beyond a beginning level of proficiency.

1) Stimulating memory with psychomotor associations: Language in the
form of the teacher's commands is synchronized with body movements.
According to Asher, this is the way to recreate the process by which children
learn their first language. Beginning foreign language instruction should
address the right hemisphere of the brain, the part which controls nonverbal

2) Comprehension before production: Students are not required to produce
in the second language until they themselves decide that they are ready.
Therefore students are allowed a silent period; an often lengthy period during
which learners do not try to speak but they internalize the language by
listening and comprehending it. Input (the new language material) is made
comprehensible through listening and watching the teacher's modeling of
commands and later fulfilling these commands.

3) Lowering the student's anxiety and stress reduction: This is achieved
through the following: (1) students are not required to produce in the new
language before they feel ready, (2) the teacher's commands are often zany
and humorous in order to make language learning as enjoyable as possible, (3)
students first perform the commands together with the teacher and in groups,
(4) early error correction is very unobtrusive and mistakes are allowed in the
classroom at the beginning period.

4) Inductive teaching of grammar: The target language is presented in
chunks and the focus is on meaning rather than on form.

5) Unobtrusive error correction in the early stages: Asher believes that it is
more important to let the students just talk in order to lower their anxiety about
making mistakes. Once their confidence in speaking is high they can be fine
tuned to produce the subtleties of speech that approximate the native speaker.
Moreover, Asher states that the emphasis on error-free production and correct
form is risky and if done so most children and adults will give up before
reaching even the intermediate level.

6) Selection of grammatical features and vocabulary items from the
immediate classroom surroundings: These are the imperatives in the first
place and concrete nouns. With imagination, almost any aspect of the
linguistic code for the target language could be communicated using
commands. E.g., the future and present tenses can be embedded into a
command as, "When Luke walks to the window, Marie will write Luke's name
on the blackboard!"; Abstract nouns are presented at the later stages once the
students are ready to decode the grammatical structure of a language.

The TPR syllabus is sentence-based with grammatical and lexical criteria
being primary in selecting teaching items. Grammar structures and vocabulary
are selected according to their frequency of need or use in the classroom (not
in target language situations) and the ease with which they can be learned.
Advocating the use of the imperative, Asher states that it should be used in
combination with many other techniques. A TPR course begins with about ten
to twenty hours of training in listening comprehension. Only after it the
students are invited (but not pressured!) to reverse roles with the teacher and
speak out the commands in the target language.

TPR lessons are structured in the following way:

a) Demonstration: the students sit in a semicircle around the teacher, they
listen carefully to his/her commands and do exactly what the teacher does. The
students are encouraged to respond without hesitation and to make a distinct,
robust response with their bodies. The first routine could be "Stand up! Walk!
Stop! Turn! Sit down!"

b) The routine is repeated for three or four times until individual students
indicate that they are ready to try it alone without the instructor as a model.
Each repetition of a routine is never an exact duplication of the previously
done sequence.

c) The instructor recombines the previously learned material to form novel
commands. When some of the students are ready to produce in the target
language, they give commands to the teacher and the other students.

Teacher and learner roles
The teacher plays an active and direct role in TPR. He/she decides what to
teach, who models and presents the new materials, and who selects supporting
materials for classroom use. The teacher usually initiates the interaction, even
when learners interact with each other. According to Asher, the instructor is
the director of a stage play in which the students are the actors.

At first learners are listeners and performers of the teacher's commands. When
they are ready to speak there is a role reversal and students themselves speak
out commands. Yet, they have little influence over the learning process: the
content is predetermined by the teacher.

1) Using commands in action sequences: The use of commands is the major
teaching technique of TPR (Larsen-Freeman, 1986). The teacher models the
commands and performs the corresponding actions to make the meaning clear.
Students fulfill the commands (action-based drills) with the teacher,
individually and in groups. When they begin to speak they direct commands to
the teacher and to each other.

Commands are presented in a sequence, but as Asher suggests there should be
no exact repetition of the same sequence and the teacher should each time vary
the routine to avoid memorization of a fixed sequence of behavior. Commands
should be funny and humorous to make the learning process enjoyable. E.g.,
"Rosemary, dance with Samuel, and stick your tongue out at Hilda. Hilda, run
to Rosemary, hit her on the arm, pull her to her chair and you dance with
Samuel!" The teacher should also plan sequences of commands in advance to
keep the pace of the lesson lively.

Commands are used, as Asher claims, to communicate all grammar features
and hundreds of vocabulary. Commands can be subdivided into the following

a) Moving whole body or parts of body: Stand, walk, sit, jump, run, etc.;
Touch your feet, head, shoulders, etc.

b) Moving things (manipulatives): Put the book under the chair; Point to the
purple paper; Pick up the eraser and put it on your feet; Set the clock to 2:00.

c) Moving abstractions/pictures: Put the picture of the cookie on the table;
Put the picture of the principal in the picture of the office; Give the card
labeled 'Sunday' to Juan; Pick up the card labeled 'Monday' and put it next to
the card labeled 'Thursday'.

d) Action sequences (series of commands or operations): Action
sequences are based on numerous everyday activities, like writing a letter,
cleaning the house, eating breakfast, etc, that are broken down into separate
commands, e.g. Eating Grapes:

-- Look at the grapes.
-- Turn on the water.
-- Put the grapes under the water.
-- Wash the grapes.
-- Don't use soap.
-- Shake the grapes dry.
-- Pick a grape.
-- Give it to a friend.
-- Pick another grape.
-- Chew it.
-- Chew it some more.
-- Swallow it.

2) Role reversal: When students are ready to speak, they command their
teacher and classmates to perform some actions.
3) Conversational dialogues and role plays: These are delayed until after
about 120 hours of instruction, when students achieve an advanced
internalization of the target language. Role plays center on everyday
situations, such as at the restaurant, supermarket, or petrol station.

4) Slide presentations: These are used to provide a visual center for teacher
narration, which is followed by commands, and questions to students, such as,
"Which person in the picture is the salesperson?"

5) Compiling language experience stories: A language experience story is a
group-authored story written about a shared experience. Students participate in
an experience such as a cooking activity, and then retell or dictate the story to
the teacher who writes it down on the blackboard. The students read the story
and act out the written sentences.

Questions to Ponder
Do you use any of the afar-mentioned techniques in your teaching? Would you
want to adapt any?

Do you believe it is useful to combine listening to the language and acting it
out to reinforce recall and memorization?

Do you grant your students the right to make mistakes at the beginning of the
course or are you afraid that if allowed to do so the students will memorize
something wrong and you will have to re-teach it?

Have you ever witnessed «the silent period» in any of your students (a student
who is dead silent in the beginning of the course but who becomes a real
chatter-box by the middle of it?

Does it make any sense to delay the teaching of speaking? Would you agree
that the teacher should wait until the students feel ready to produce in the
target language?

What grammar structures besides the imperative would be most rational to
teach using TPR?

You will find a few lessons based on the TPR method in the textbook 'The
Children's Response' by Caroline Linse. Try them out on your students.
TPR- Total Physical Response

I have decided to add a bit to the classroom on TPR. It is based on the work of Stephen
Krashen and James J. Asher‘s book Learning Another Language Through Actions.

see also: Total Physical Response - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

(And Live Action English).Amazon.com: Live Action English, Millennium Edition:
Elizabeth Romijn, Contee Seely, Elizabeth Kuizenga Romijn: Books

It is a technique to bring authentic language into your classroom in a communicative

Total Physical Response was developed in the 70's by the psychologist James Asher. This
method teaches languages through commands that require, as the name implies, a “total
physical response.” Thus, the first day of class might consist of learning the correct
responses to the commands “Stand up,” “Sit down,” “Turn around,” and “Jump.”
Notice that students only have to act out the commands and not actually give them
(though this may happen later). This is because the initial focus of TPR is on the
comprehension of language, not production. TPR also appeals to the kinesthetic learning
style, by linking language to actions. This puts the language used into a meaningful
context and thus helps students retain it longer (Asher). The effectiveness of TPR in
teaching vocabulary quickly, painlessly and for long-term retention is virtually
undisputed. However, Total Physical Response does have some serious limitations. It can
become monotonous when employed exclusively. There is also only a certain set of
vocabulary and grammar concepts that can be taught this way, namely commands and
concrete objects (thus excluding discourse and abstract vocabulary) (Marsh, 24).

Classical TPR is one of the few methods that can realistically achieve this kind of
comprehensibility. When a teacher teaches a command, for instance, “Stand up”, he
models it for the class, so that there is no question about what it means. Thus, when
students hear the command, they will have an easy time following it and associate the
action with the meaning of the command. As mentioned before, although classical TPR
can provide a high degree of comprehensibility, it is limited in the types of words and
syntactical structures that it can use.

The Basics of TPRS
The philosophical basis of TPRS is simple: People best acquire a second language
essentially like they acquire their first--by hearing lots of speech in context, and making
connections between the parts they understand and the parts they don't. As children and
as older learners,we are capable of absorbing amazing amounts of vocabulary and
structure under the right circumstances. When we are ready, we begin to draw upon what
we have heard to produce the words we have absorbed, arranging them in an ever-more-
complex manner according to what sounds right, making grammatical guesses based
upon the rules our brain (correctly or incorrectly) deduces.
Additional philosophical mooring is furnished by the idea of the "kinesthetic learner"--
that the acquisition of knowledge is enhanced when accompanied by physical activity. It
is an extension ofthe Total Physical Response method, in which the kinesthetic response
is central.
In TPRS, students hear lots of comprehensible speech in the target language, allowing
them to absorb rules and vocabulary well before they are expected to produce in the
target language. When production is delayed in favor of comprehensible input, the
quality of the eventual production is based upon a deep knowledge of the language as it
has been absorbed and synthesized.
Here is a brief summary of the methodology: Three or four vocabulary target-language
words are introduced to the class. English may be used, as well as mnemonic devices for
remembering the new words.Most importantly, each word is learned along with a gesture
(actual sign language gestures may be used, making it possible to learn two languages at
once!). The teacher says the words in random order, modeling the gestures at first, then
testing for comprehension by observing the speed of students' responses. When the words
seem to have been learned, a brief story is told which uses the words. The process is
repeated until ten to fifteen words have been taught. A longer story is then told which
features these words.Comprehension is tested on the spot every step of the way, first by
the speed of the gestures (students are required to close their eyes, so each student's
knowledge is truly measured), then by target-language questions about the stories.
I began this year experimenting with TPRS, trying to integrate Ray's techniques into the
curriculum with which I am comfortable (and which must be followed since most of my
students move to another teacher after one semester), and within a week, I was
exuberant. In the first four weeks, in which we usually cover one chapter of material,
most of my students already recognize about one third of the vocabulary which is
normally introduced in the fifth week. They have learned several adjectives in context,
and I get the feeling that agreement of adjectives will sound natural to them in a few
months when it's officially introduced.I fully expect that by second semester, most
students will already know about half of the vocabulary that will be presented. All this,
and I really feel like I haven't mastered the technique yet, and feel frustrated because I'm
bogged down by the tests and assignments that I don't have time to re-do.
There are a few elements of the method that will give teachers pause; I remember being
suspicious of approaches which took students away from drills. I have been a firm
believer in homework, which Ray virtually eliminates. But why don't we let results speak
for themselves? How many students have you seen become fluent from drills? Most of
BlaineRay's students leave school fluent, passing AP tests in astounding numbers. Don't
fight it, learn it!
TPRS has all the themes of the Mental Note philosophy of education which has been
espoused in this column: It is less work for the teacher; It is intrinsically motivating; Its
focus is long-term retention; It is an efficient use of the taxpayers' class time. This method
is not dynamite--it's nuclear fission for second language acquisition, and the sooner you
check it out, the sooner you can taste true success as a teacher.
From :https://scholarsbank.uoregon.edu/dsp...isFINISHED.pdf
BEP – bizarre, exaggerated, personalized; the three key qualities for a
successful PMS or story. (Blaine Ray)from TPRS Publishing

BEPH – bizarre, exaggerated, personalized, humorous; the four key qualities for
a successful PMS or story. The more of these qualities that you can incorporate
into your story, the more likely it will be successful. (Carol Gaab) from TPRS

A 2-week Introductory Lesson Plan can be found at:

Video example here: TeacherTube - Good Morning!

This is a sample of my lesson plan:

I have the sentences on the board.
I draw pictures to help with the vocabulary.
I go over the vocabulary before the practice.
Then I Demonstrate the actions.
Then all students do the actions.
Then they can practice in groups.
Then I have them copy the lessons into a journal.
(Just lined paper composition books.)

I have used this technique successfully with all ages of beginning students (from 5 to 80)
in groups from a few to as many as 70.
It is a way to bring communicative language into beginning classrooms.

Good luck. KMS 101

There is a CD for computers that looks like this. (I have never used it.):

There are of course new (and expensive materials) that support this. As above.

But you will be fine with the basic book and a few props to match the lesson.KMS 101

From the Lit about the book:
It includes stuff like:

      Good morning (morning routine)
      Time to clean house
      Playing a cassette (operating a cassette player)
      Grocery shopping
        Giving directions (in a car)
        Sending a postcard (buying, writing and mailing)
        Going fishing
        Using a pay phone
        Planting a seed
        Making a table
        Office worker (focuses on articles of clothing more than office vocabulary)
        Soup for lunch (heating up a can of soup)

And this is indeed one of the books that I used.

"Many of the pundits attacking government health insurance rely on government health insurance for their
own families." Daniel Gross

Last edited by Killing Me Softly 101; 13th August 2008 at 02:30. Reason: Automerged
Chapter 5 of Revitalizing Indigenous Languages, edited by Jon Reyhner, Gina Cantoni,
Robert N. St. Clair, and Evangeline Parsons Yazzie (pp. 53-58). Flagstaff, AZ: Northern
Arizona University. Copyright 1999 by Northern Arizona University. Return to Table of

       Using TPR-Storytelling to Develop Fluency and
          Literacy in Native American Languages
                                    Gina P. Cantoni
This paper describes the Total Physical Response Storytelling (TPR-S) approach to
teaching second languages. TPR-S is an extension of James Asher's Total Physical
Response (TPR) immersion approach to teaching second languages that has been very
popular with indigenous language teachers as it allows students to be active learners,
produces quick results, and does not involve the use of textbooks or writing. TPR-S
strategies utilize vocabulary first taught using TPR by incorporating it into stories that
students hear, watch, act out, retell, revise, read, write, and rewrite. Subsequent stories
introduce additional vocabulary in meaningful contexts.

This paper discusses TPR-Storytelling (TPR-S) as a promising approach to teaching a
Native American language to Native students who have not learned it at home. I am
grateful to my former student Valeri Marsh for the opportunity to examine TPR-S
training materials and strategies and for her input into this article.

An interest in exploring methodologies suitable for teaching indigenous languages and in
having teachers receive training was expressed by the Native educators who met in
Flagstaff, Arizona, at the First and Second Symposia on Stabilizing Indigenous
Languages (Cantoni, 1996). Some of the participants gave demonstrations of the Total
Physical Response (TPR) in their small-group meetings, and several teachers mentioned
that TPR was used in their schools as an introductory approach to Native language

What is TPR?

Popularized in the 1960s and 70s by James Asher (1977), TPR represented a
revolutionary departure from the audiolingual practice of having students repeat the
teacher's utterances from the very beginning of their first lesson and whenever new
material was introduced later on. Asher recommended that beginners be allowed a silent
period in which they learn to recognize a large number of words without being expected
to say them. The vocabulary presented at this level usually consists of action verbs and
phrases such as "walk," "run," "touch," "point to," "give me," "go back," and the names
of concrete items such as "floor," "window," "door," "mouth," "desk," "teddy bear," and
"banana." About 150 words are presented in the first five or six weeks, and at least three
new terms per lesson can be expected to become part of a learner's active vocabulary
during any lesson, even though they may not say them until later.
The teacher begins by uttering a simple command such as "walk to the window,"
demonstrating or having a helper act out the expected action, and inviting the class to join
in. Commands are usually addressed first to the entire class, then to small groups, and
finally to individuals. When a few basic verbs and nouns have become familiar, variety is
obtained by adding qualifiers such as "fast," "slowly," "big," "little," "red," "white,"
"my," and "your." Since the students are not required to speak, they are spared the stress
of trying to produce unfamiliar sounds and the consequent fear of making mistakes.
Stephen Krashen (1981) considers lowering the "affective filter" an important factor in
the language acquisition process. Although the teacher is continuously assessing
individual progress in order to control the pace of introducing new material, this
assessment is unobtrusive and nonthreatening. A learner who does not understand a
particular command can look at others for clues and will be ready to respond
appropriately the next time or the one after.

TPR is a continuous application of the "scaffolding" strategy (Vygotsky, 1986) with the
teacher, and then the class, supporting the learning of a new word by demonstrating its
meaning and then withdrawing assistance when it is no longer needed. For example, to
teach the word "gato" for "cat" the Spanish teacher may use a toy or a picture; later, the
word "gato" becomes part of the scaffolding for teaching modifiers such as "big," "little,"
"black," or "white."

During TPR, the teacher is always providing comprehensible input, the cornerstone of
Stephen Krashen's (1985) theory. New items are introduced within the framework of
items taught in previous lessons or available from the learners' preexisting knowledge. In
teaching the word "gato," the teacher is introducing a new label (an alternative to the
label already available, i.e., "cat") but not a new concept--the learners are already able to
identify the toy or the picture as representing a certain familiar creature.

TPR has been proven very effective for the initial stages of second language instruction,
but it has limited usefulness for more advanced learning. It emphasizes commands,
leaving out the forms used in narratives, descriptions, or conversations, and it is
predominantly teacher-initiated and directed, with little opportunity for student creativity
and little attention to individual interests. More importantly, TPR promotes only the
learners' receptive language skills and ignores the productive ones, which are essential to
real communication.

After a few weeks, some students spontaneously begin to give commands to each other.
This indicates readiness for a gradual evolution from the receptive to the productive
mode. At this point, TPR-Storytelling (Ray & Seely, 1997) provides easy-to-follow
guidelines for further progress towards more complex levels of language proficiency.

What is TPR-S?

The storytelling strategies of TPR-S utilize the vocabulary taught in the earlier stage by
incorporating it into stories that the learners hear, watch, act out, retell, revise, read,
write, and rewrite. Subsequent stories introduce additional vocabulary in meaningful
contexts. The children are already familiar with stories from other school and preschool
experiences, and now they are exposed to this familiar genre as the teacher presents it in a
new language with an abundance of gestures, pictures, and other props to facilitate
comprehension. After hearing a story, various students act it out together or assume
different roles while their peers watch. The teacher may retell the story with slight
variations, replacing one character with another, and engaging different students in the
acting. Another technique introduces some conversational skills, as the teacher asks
short-answer and open-ended questions such as "Is the cat hungry?", "Is the dog big or
little?", and "Where does the girl live?" (Marsh, 1996).

Students are not required to memorize the stories; on the contrary, they are encouraged to
construct their own variations as they retell them to a partner, a small group, or the entire
class, using props such as illustrations, toys, and labels. The ultimate goal is to have
students develop original stories and share them with others. A whole range of activities
may be included, such as videotaping, drama, creating booklets for children in the lower
grades, designing bulletin boards, and so forth. At this point TPR-S has much in common
with other effective approaches to reading and writing instruction.

Both TPR and TPR-S are examples of language teaching as an interactive learner-
centered process that guides students in understanding and applying information and in
conveying messages to others. TPR as well as TPR-S apply Cummins' (1989) interactive
pedagogy principle. At first the children interact silently with the teacher and indicate
comprehension by executing commands and then by acting out stories. They are active
participants long before they are able to verbally communicate with the teacher and with
each other.

TPR as well as TPR-S also apply some of Krashen's (1985) most valuable pedagogical
principles. The learners' affective filter is kept at a low level by a relaxed classroom
atmosphere, where the stress of performing and being judged is kept to a minimum. At
the beginning of the storytelling stage, the students' initial response is not oral, but
kinesthetic: When they begin to speak, the teacher responds to the content of their
messages rather than to their grammatical accuracy. In TPR as well as in TPR-S the
teacher provides comprehensible input without using L1; she relies on the learners'
preexisting knowledge of the world and uses gestures, actions, pictures, and objects to
demonstrate how one can talk about it in another language.

TPR and TPR-S also make abundant use of the pedagogical strategy of scaffolding
(Vygotsky, 1986). The teacher or a peer assists the learner during tasks that could not yet
be performed without help. The scaffold is removed as soon as it becomes unnecessary;
new support is then made available for the next challenge. Cooperative learning can be
seen as a particular kind of scaffolding provided within a group where students help each
other (Steward, 1995; Tharp & Gallimore, 1988).

How can TPR-S promote Native language learning?
Materials and guides for TPR-S are available for teaching Spanish, French, German, and
English as a Second Language. The procedures outlined in these sources could be
adapted to the teaching of any language, including Native American ones, if educators,
school districts, and community members wanted to engage in such a project.

Several Native American teachers and teacher-trainers have created TPR lessons to
introduce their tribal language to the children who have not learned it at home, and these
efforts are usually very successful; they allow the learners to indicate comprehension
non-verbally, keeping the affective filter low. However, these TPR strategies develop
receptive language skills and ignore the productive ones.

Many Native children can understand their tribal language because they hear it spoken at
home. These children can be very useful during TPR lessons, acting as assistants,
demonstrators, and group leaders. There is reason to rejoice over the fact that they can
understand their elders and appreciate their teachings and stories, but what will happen a
few years from now when the old people are gone and these children are grown up and
should carry on the task of culture transmission? If they can understand but not speak the
tribal language, how are they going to teach it to the next generation?

This situation is especially serious in the case of languages such as Hopi or Zuni that are
spoken only in a particular community, whose members cannot import speakers from
other parts of the world, a choice which is available to Hispanics, Slovenes, Chinese, and
other groups. It is essential that Native children learn to use their tribal language instead
of just understanding it. In some cases, their reluctance to speak may be owing not only
to the pressures of an English-speaking society but also to unreasonable expectations of
correctness and accuracy. Children who have suffered ridicule or embarrassment because
they mispronounced or misused a word are likely to avoid the risk of further
unpleasantness and take refuge in silence. This problem was brought up repeatedly
during the First and Second Symposia on Stabilizing Indigenous Languages (Cantoni,
1996), and it was recommended that all attempts to use the home language be encouraged
and rewarded but never criticized.

The increasing scarcity of Native-language speakers has assigned the responsibility of
Native language instruction to the school, instead of the home or community. When the
Native language teacher is almost the only source of Native language input, and the
instruction time allocated to Native language teaching is limited, the learners are not to
blame for their limited progress in fluency and accuracy.

In addition, Native children face a more severe challenge than English-speaking children
who are learning French or Spanish. Research indicates that the extent to which
comprehensible input results in grammatical accuracy depends not only on the quantity,
quality, and frequency of available input, but on the "linguistic distance" between the
learners' L1 and the target L2 (Ringbom, 1987). There is evidence that students learning
Spanish through TPR-S made high scores on national grammar tests, but Spanish is an
Indo-European language, just like English, whereas Native American languages have
grammatical systems unrelated to those of English.
Consequently, Native language teachers who expect their students, or at least some of
them, to master the tribal language at a level of correctness that will satisfy the most
exacting local standards should provide them appropriate guidance, not just input. As
Rivers (1994) has pointed out, there is a crucial difference between comprehension and
production. The meaning that a learner constructs from input is drawn from semantic
clues and is not stored in memory in its full syntactic complexity. It is possible to
comprehend and remember input with little attention to syntax by relying on preexisting
knowledge, context, and vocabulary (Van Dijk & Kirtsch, 1983). This phenomenon is
known as "selective listening" and often occurs even when the teacher responds to an
ungrammatical utterance with one that models the correct form (Van Patten, 1985). This
kind of polite error correction, which is recommended for interactive journals, does not
necessarily work all the time for all learners; teachers might need to resort to other forms
of intervention, such as those described in the literature on the writing process.

In conclusion, educators interested in developing a Native language program or
modifying their existing one could explore what TPR-S has to offer for their particular
situation. TPR-S consultants could be hired by a school district to work with Native
language speakers in developing materials and lesson plans similar to those used for
teaching Spanish or ESL.

TPR-S evolved from the grassroots efforts of interested and creative teachers rather than
from the application of theoretical models. Its reputation has spread by word-of-mouth,
from one satisfied practitioner to another, from one school to the next (Marsh, 1997).
Training new personnel to use this methodology is not difficult or excessively time-

TPR-S emphasizes a positive, collaborative, and supportive classroom climate in which
Native American children could develop increasingly complex skills in speaking,
reading, and writing their tribal language. The stories, illustrations, and audio cassettes
they could produce would be a valuable addition to the scarce pool of Native-language
materials available today.


Asher, J. J. (1977). Learning another language through actions: The complete teacher's
guidebook. Los Gatos, CA: Sky Oaks.

Ausubel, D. P. (1968). Cognitive structure and the facilitation of meaningful verbal
learning. Journal of Teacher Education, 14, 73-94.

Cantoni, G. P. (Ed.). (1996). Stabilizing indigenous languages. Flagstaff, AZ: Northern
Arizona University.

Cummins, J. (1989). Language and literacy acquisition in bilingual contexts. Journal of
Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 10(1), 17-31.
Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (1986). Learning together and alone: Cooperation,
competition and individualization (2nd ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Krashen, S. D. (1981). Second language acquisition and second language learning.
Oxford: Pergamon.

Krashen, S. D. (1985). The input hypothesis: Issues and implications. New York:

Marsh, V. (1996). ¡Cuéntame!: TPR Storytelling: Teacher's manual. Scottsdale, AZ:
C.W. Publishing.

Marsh, V. (1997). Personal communication.

Ray, B., & Seely, C. (1997). Fluency through TPR Storytelling. Berkeley, CA: Command
Performance Language Institute.

Ringbom, (1987). The role of first language in second language learning. Clevedon, UK:
Multiligual Matters.

Rivers, W. M. (1994). Comprehension and production. In R.M. Barasch & C.V. James
(Eds.), Beyond the Monitor Model (pp. 71-95). Boston: Heinle & Heinle.

Slavin, R. E. (1990). Cooperative learning. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Steward, E. P. (1995). Beginning writers in the Zone of Proximal Development. Hillsdale,
NJ: Erlbaum.

Tharp, R. G., & Gallimore, R. (1988). Rousing minds to life. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge

Van Dijk, T. A., & Kritsch, W. (1983). Strategies of discourse comprehension. New
York: Academic.

Van Patten, B. (1985). Communicative value and information processing. In P. Larson,
E.L. Judd, & D.S. Messerschmitt (Eds.), On TESOL (pp. 89-99). Washington, DC:

Vygotsky, L. S. (1986). Thought and language. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute
of Technology.

                              Return to Table of Contents
Teaching Vocabulary
By: Linda Diamond and Linda Gutlohn (2006)

Consider some excellent lesson models for teaching vocabulary, explaining idioms,
fostering word consciousness, instruction for English Language Learners, and mnemonic

Vocabulary is the knowledge of words and word meanings. As Steven Stahl (2005) puts
it, "Vocabulary knowledge is knowledge; the knowledge of a word not only implies a
definition, but also implies how that word fits into the world." Vocabulary knowledge is
not something that can ever be fully mastered; it is something that expands and deepens
over the course of a lifetime. Instruction in vocabulary involves far more than looking up
words in a dictionary and using the words in a sentence. Vocabulary is acquired
incidentally through indirect exposure to words and intentionally through explicit
instruction in specific words and word-learning strategies. According to Michael Graves
(2000), there are four components of an effective vocabulary program:

   1. wide or extensive independent reading to expand word knowledge
   2. instruction in specific words to enhance comprehension of texts containing those
   3. instruction in independent word-learning strategies, and
   4. word consciousness and word-play activities to motivate and enhance learning

Components of vocabulary instruction
The National Reading Panel (2000) concluded that there is no single research-based
method for teaching vocabulary. From its analysis, the panel recommended using a
variety of direct and indirect methods of vocabulary instruction.

Intentional vocabulary teaching

Specific Word Instruction

      Selecting Words to Teach
      Rich and Robust Instruction

Word-Learning Strategies

      Dictionary Use
      Morphemic Analysis
      Cognate Awareness (ELL)
      Contextual Analysis
According to the National Reading Panel (2000), explicit instruction of vocabulary is
highly effective. To develop vocabulary intentionally, students should be explicitly taught
both specific words and word-learning strategies. To deepen students' knowledge of word
meanings, specific word instruction should be robust (Beck et al., 2002). Seeing
vocabulary in rich contexts provided by authentic texts, rather than in isolated vocabulary
drills, produces robust vocabulary learning (National Reading Panel, 2000). Such
instruction often does not begin with a definition, for the ability to give a definition is
often the result of knowing what the word means. Rich and robust vocabulary instruction
goes beyond definitional knowledge; it gets students actively engaged in using and
thinking about word meanings and in creating relationships among words.

Research shows that there are more words to be learned than can be directly taught in
even the most ambitious program of vocabulary instruction. Explicit instruction in word-
learning strategies gives students tools for independently determining the meanings of
unfamiliar words that have not been explicitly introduced in class. Since students
encounter so many unfamiliar words in their reading, any help provided by such
strategies can be useful.

Word-learning strategies include dictionary use, morphemic analysis, and contextual
analysis. For ELLs whose language shares cognates with English, cognate awareness is
also an important strategy. Dictionary use teaches students about multiple word
meanings, as well as the importance of choosing the appropriate definition to fit the
particular context. Morphemic analysis is the process of deriving a word's meaning by
analyzing its meaningful parts, or morphemes. Such word parts include root words,
prefixes, and suffixes. Contextual analysis involves inferring the meaning of an
unfamiliar word by scrutinizing the text surrounding it. Instruction in contextual analysis
generally involves teaching students to employ both generic and specific types of context

Fostering word consciousness

A more general way to help students develop vocabulary is by fostering word
consciousness, an awareness of and interest in words. Word consciousness is not an
isolated component of vocabulary instruction; it needs to be taken into account each and
every day (Scott and Nagy, 2004). It can be developed at all times and in several ways:
through encouraging adept diction, through word play, and through research on word
origins or histories. According to Graves (2000), "If we can get students interested in
playing with words and language, then we are at least halfway to the goal of creating the
sort of word-conscious students who will make words a lifetime interest."

Multiple exposures in multiple contexts

One principle of effective vocabulary learning is to provide multiple exposures to a
word's meaning. There is great improvement in vocabulary when students encounter
vocabulary words often (National Reading Panel, 2000). According to Stahl (2005),
students probably have to see a word more than once to place it firmly in their long-term
memories. "This does not mean mere repetition or drill of the word," but seeing the word
in different and multiple contexts. In other words, it is important that vocabulary
instruction provide students with opportunities to encounter words repeatedly and in
more than one context.

Restructuring of vocabulary tasks

Findings of the National Reading Panel

      Intentional instruction of vocabulary items is required for specific texts.
      Repetition and multiple exposures to vocabulary items are important.
      Learning in rich contexts is valuable for vocabulary learning. Vocabulary tasks
       should be restructured as necessary.
      Vocabulary learning should entail active engagement in learning tasks.
      Computer technology can be used effectively to help teach vocabulary.
      Vocabulary can be acquired through incidental learning. How vocabulary is
       assessed and evaluated can have differential effects on instruction.
      Dependence on a single vocabulary instructional method will not result in optimal

It is often assumed that when students do not learn new vocabulary words, they simply
need to practice the words some more. Research has shown, however, that it is often the
case that students simply do not understand the instructional task involved (National
Reading Panel, 2000). Rather than focus only on the words themselves, teachers should
be certain that students fully understand the instructional tasks (Schwartz and Raphael,
1985). The restructuring of learning materials or strategies in various ways often can lead
to increased vocabulary acquisition, especially for low-achieving or at-risk students
(National Reading Panel, 2000). According to Kamil (2004), "once students know what is
expected of them in a vocabulary task, they often learn rapidly."

Incidental vocabulary learning

The scientific research on vocabulary instruction reveals that most vocabulary is acquired
incidentally through indirect exposure to words. Students can acquire vocabulary
incidentally by engaging in rich oral-language experiences at home and at school,
listening to books read aloud to them, and reading widely on their own. Reading volume
is very important in terms of long-term vocabulary development (Cunningham and
Stanovich, 1998). Kamil and Hiebert (2005) reason that extensive reading gives students
repeated or multiple exposures to words and is also one of the means by which students
see vocabulary in rich contexts. Cunningham (2005) recommends providing structured
read-aloud and discussion sessions and extending independent reading experiences
outside school hours to encourage vocabulary growth in students.

Instruction for English language learners (ELLs)
An increasing number of students come from homes in which English is not the primary
language. From 1979 to 2003, the number of students who spoke English with difficulty
increased by 124 percent (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005). In 2003,
students who spoke English with difficulty represented approximately 5 percent of the
school population—up from 3 percent in 1979.

Not surprisingly, vocabulary development is especially important for English-language
learners (ELLs). Poor vocabulary is a serious issue for these students (Calderon et al.,
2005). ELLs who have deficits in their vocabulary are less able to comprehend text at
grade level than their English-only (EO) peers (August et al., 2005). Findings indicate
that research-based strategies used with EO students are also effective with ELLs,
although the strategies must be adapted to strengths and needs of ELLs (Calderon et al.,

Diane August and her colleagues (2005) suggest several strategies that appear to be
especially valuable for building the vocabularies of ELLs. These strategies include taking
advantage of students' first language if the language shares cognates with English,
teaching the meaning of basic words, and providing sufficient review and reinforcement.
Because English and Spanish share a large number of cognate pairs, the first instructional
strategy is especially useful for Spanish-speaking ELLs. These students can draw on their
cognate knowledge as a means of figuring out unfamiliar words in English. A second
instructional strategy for ELLs is learning the meanings of basic words—words that most
EO students already know. Basic words can be found on lists, such as the Dale-Chall List
(Chall and Dale, 1995). A third instructional strategy that ELLs particularly benefit from
is review and reinforcement. These methods include read-alouds, teacher-directed
activities, listening to audiotapes, activities to extend word use outside of the classroom,
and parent involvement.

Strategies for ELLs:

      Take advantage of students' first language
      Teach the meaning of basic words
      Review and reinforcement

Lesson model for: Word conciousness

      ability to interpret literal and figurative meanings of idioms
      ability to research origins of idioms

Grade level

      Kindergarten and above

      whole class
      small group or pairs


      small plastic toy horses
      drawing paper
      crayons or markers
      dictionaries

Animal idioms

An idiom is a phrase or expression in which the entire meaning is different from the usual
meanings of the individual words within it. Idioms are fun to work with because they are
part of everyday vocabulary. Students enjoy working with figurative meanings, as well as
imagining possible literal meanings for the expressions. They also enjoy finding out
about the origins of idiomatic expressions, some of which are very old. Introducing
idioms by topic can make them easier for students to remember. This sample lesson
model focuses on introducing idioms that make use of animals or animal comparisons.


Tell students that an idiom is an expression that cannot be fully understood by the
meanings of the individual words that are contained within it. The meaning of the whole
idiom has little, often nothing, to do with the meanings of the words taken one by one.
Point out to students that idioms are often used in writing or speech to make expression
more colorful and that some of the most colorful English idioms make use of animals or
animal comparisons. Explain that many idioms have interesting origins that may not
make literal sense to us today, but made perfectly good sense during the times in which
they were coined.

Tell students that the expression "to hold your horses" is an idiom. Demonstrate its literal
meaning by holding a bunch of small plastic toy horses in your hand. Tell students that
when someone tells you "to hold your horses" it would be silly to think that they wanted
you to hold a bunch of horses in your hand. The whole expression "to hold your horses"
actually means "to slow down, wait a minute, or be more patient." For example, if you
were impatiently waiting for your sister to get off the phone, your sister might say to you,
"Hold your horses. I'll be off the phone in a minute!"

Tell students that "to be raining cats and dogs" is another idiom. Ask students whether, if
someone said it's "raining cats and dogs," they would expect to look up and see animals
falling from the sky. Then explain to them that "raining cats and dogs" is used to describe
when it's raining really heavily or really hard. Ask volunteers to describe a time they
remember when it was "raining cats and dogs."
Ask students to draw pictures of the literal meaning of either "to hold your horses" or "to
be raining cats and dogs." Then have them take turns showing their illustration and using
the idiom correctly in a context sentence.

Collaborative practice

Tell students that they are going to work together in groups to make a drawing of an
animal idiom's literal meaning and then act out its real, or figurative, meaning. They will
see if the drawings and skits they make provide enough information for their classmates
to figure out what the idiom really means. To begin, select a group of three students to
demonstrate the activity. Tell this group that their idiom is "to let the cat out of the bag"
and that this idiom means "to give away a secret."

Divide the group tasks as follows: One student will draw the idiom the way it would look
if it meant literally what it said: by drawing a sketch of a cat leaping out of a paper bag.
This student labels the drawing with the idiom, "to let the cat out of the bag." The other
two students develop a brief skit about the figurative meaning of the idiom: "to give away
a secret." For example, they could develop a simple scene where someone finds out about
a surprise birthday party, because a brother or sister gives it away beforehand. The last
line could be: "You let the cat out of the bag."

When the group is finished, have them show the idiom's literal meaning in the drawing,
and then act out its figurative meaning in the skit. Have the group challenge their
classmates to guess the idiom's figurative, or intended, meaning and then correctly use
the idiom in a sentence: Nancy let the cat out of the bag when she told Nick about the
surprise birthday party. When the whole class has understood how this activity works,
assign a different animal idiom, with its figurative meaning, to other groups of students.
Each group then works out its plan for making the drawing and acting out the skit. Have
the groups take turns demonstrating their idioms to the class, so the class can guess the
idiom's figurative meaning and use it in a sentence.

Animal idioms
      to have ants in your pants                   to be in a fine kettle of fish
      to take the bull by the horns                to seem a little fishy
      to let the cat out of the bag                to live high on the hog
      to have the cat get your tongue              to look a gift horse in the mouth
      to be raining cats and dogs                  to eat like a horse
      the straw that broke the camel's             to hear it straight from the horse's
       back                                          mouth
      to have a cow                                to hold your horses
      to wait until the cows come home             to put the cart before the horse
      to be in the doghouse                        to change horses in midstream
      to let sleeping dogs lie
English-language learner: Learning about idioms can be particularly helpful for ELLs
because the gap between the literal meaning of individual words and the intended
meaning of the expression often causes trouble in translation.

Lesson model for: Word-meaning recall

      ability to remember word meanings

Grade level

      Grade 3 and above


      whole class
      small group or pairs
      individual

Sample texts

      "Alaska Adventure" (Resources)
      "Studying the Sky" (Resources)

Keyword method

Mnemonic strategies are systematic procedures for enhancing memory. The word
mnemonic comes from Mnemosyne, the name of Greek goddess of memory. The
keyword method, a mnemonic strategy, has been shown to be effective with students who
have learning difficulties and those who are at risk for educational failure. According to
the National Reading Panel, the keyword method may lead to significant improvement in
students' recall of new vocabulary words. This sample lesson model targets two
contextualized vocabulary words. The same model can be adapted and used to enhance
recall of vocabulary words in any commercial reading program.

Direct Explanation

Explain to students that you are going to show them how to use the keyword method, a
useful strategy for remembering the meanings of vocabulary words. Tell them you are
going to model the strategy twice, using the words archipelago and lunar.


      Define the target word
       Read aloud the following sentence from "Alaska Adventure."

       The Aleutian archipelago stretches for more than a thousand miles.

       Then tell students that an archipelago is "a group of islands."

      Think of a keyword for the target word

       Say: To help me remember the meaning of the word archipelago, a group of
       islands, I am going to think of another word, called a "keyword." The keyword is
       a word that sounds like archipelagoand also is a word that can be easily pictured.
       My keyword for archipelago is pelican. Pelican sounds like archipelago and is
       the name of a water bird with a very large bill.

      Link the keyword with the meaning of the target word

       Explain to students that the next step is to create an image of the keyword pelican
       and the meaning of the target word archipelago interacting in some way. Tell
       them it is important that the keyword and the meaning actually interact and are
       not simply presented in the same picture. On the board, sketch a picture of a
       pelican flying over a group of small islands.

       Say: Look at the picture of the pelican flying over the group of islands.
       Ask: Pelican is the keyword for what word? (archipelago)
       Say: Yes, archipelago. To recall the meaning of the word archipelago, imagine a
       pelican flying over a group of small islands.

      Recall the meaning of the target word

       Tell students that when they see or hear the word archipelago, they should first
       think of its keyword and then try to remember the picture of the keyword and the
       meaning interacting.

       Ask: What is the keyword for archipelago? (pelican) In the sketch, where was the
       pelican flying? (over a group of islands)
       Say: Right, over a group of islands.
       Ask: So what does archipelago mean? (a group of islands)

English Language-Learners: Point out to Spanish-speaking ELLs that archipelago and
archipélago are cognates.

Lesson model for: Contextual analysis

      ability to recognize types of semantic context clues
      ability to use context clues to infer word meanings

Grade level

      Grade 4 and above


      Context Clues


      whole class
      small group or pairs
      individual

Teaching chart

      Types of Helpful Context Clues (Resources)


      copies of Types of Helpful

Context clues chart

      transparencies
      blue, red, and green overhead transparency markers

Introducing types of context clues

Instruction in specific types of context clues is an effective approach for teaching
students to use context to infer word meanings. Baumann and his colleagues recommend
teaching five types of context clues: definition, synonym, antonym, example, and general.
This sample lesson model can be adapted and used to enhance contextual analysis
instruction in any commercial reading program.

Direct explanation

Tell students that they can sometimes use context clues to figure out the meaning of an
unfamiliar word they come across in their reading. Remind them that context clues are
the words, phrases, and sentences surrounding an unfamiliar word that can give hints or
clues to its meaning. Caution students that although these clues can prove to be helpful,
they can sometimes be misleading.

Definition context clues
Give students copies of the Types of Helpful Context Clues chart. Briefly go over the
chart, identifying the types of context clues and discussing the example for each one. Tell
students that they should refer to the chart as they learn more about the five different
types of context clues.

Explain to students that in a definition clue the author provides the reader with the
specific definition, or meaning, of a word right in the sentence. Point out that words such
as are, is, means, and refers to can signal that a definition clue may follow. Then print the
following sentences on a transparency:

A conga is a barrel-shaped drum.

At night your can see constellations, or groups of stars, in the sky.

Read aloud the first sentence.

Say: I'm going to look for a context clue to help me understand the meaning of the word
Underline conga in blue.

Say: In the sentence, I see the word is. The word is can signal a definition context clue.
Underline is in red.

Say: The phrase a barrel-shaped drum follows the word is.
Underline the context clue in green.

Say: A conga is a barrel-shaped drum. The author has given a definition context clue.

For more vocabulary lesson plans, purchase CORE's Vocabulary Handbook

For more information about vocabulary, browse the articles, multimedia, and other
resources in this special section: Topics A-Z: Vocabulary.


Click the "References" link above to hide these references.

August, D., M. Carlo, C. Dressler, and C. Snow. 2005. The critical role of vocabulary
development for English language learners. Learning Disabilities: Research & Practice
20 (L), pp. 50-57.
Beck, I.L., M.G. McKeown, and L. Kucan. 2002. Bringing words to life:Robust
vocabulary instruction. New York: Guilford.

Calderón, M., D. August, R. Slavin, D. Duran, N. Madden, and A. Cheung. 2005. Bring
words to life in classrooms with English-language learners. In E.H. Hiebert and M.L.
Kamil (eds.), Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice.
Mahwah, NJ: Erlbraum.

Chall, J., and E. Dale 1995. Readability revisited: The new Dale-Chall readability
formula. Brookline, MA: Brookline Books.

Cunningham, A.E. 2005. Vocabulary growth through independent reading and reading
aloud to children. In E.H. Hiebert and M.L.Kamil (eds.), Teaching and learning
vocabulary: Bringing research to practice. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbraum.

Cunningham, A.E., and K.E. Stanovich. 1998. What reading does for the mind. American
Educator. 22, pp. 8-15.

Graves, M.F. 2000. A vocabulary program to complement and bolster a middle-grade
comprehension program. In B.M. Taylor, M.F. Graves, and P. Van Den Broek (eds.),
Reading for meaning: Fostering comprehension in the middle grades. Mew York:
Teachers College Press.

Kamil, M.L. 2004. Vocabulary and comprehension instruction: Summary and
implications of the National Reading Panel finding. In P. McCardle and V. Chhabra
(eds.), The voice of evidence in reading and research. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

Kamil, M.L., and E.H. Hiebert. 2005. Teaching and learning vocabulary: Perspectives
and persistent issues. In E.H. Hiebert and M.L. Kamil (eds.), Teaching and learning
vocabulary: Bringing research to practice. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

National Center for Educational Statistics. 2005. The condition of education. Washington,
DC: U.S. Department of Education.

National Reading Panel. 2000. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment
of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading
instruction. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human

Schwartz, R.M., and T.E. Raphael. 1985. Concept of definition: A key to improving
students‘ vocabulary. Reading Teacher 39, pp. 198-203.

Scott, J.A., and W.E. Nagy. 2004. Developing word consciousness. In J.F. Baumann and
E.J. Kame‘enui (eds.), Vocabulary instruction: Research to practice. New York:
Stahl, S.A. 2005. Four problems with teaching word meanings (and what to do to make
vocabulary an integral part of instruction). In E.H. Hiebert and M.L. Kamil (eds.),
Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice. Mahwah, NJ:

August, D., M. Carlo, C. Dressler, and C. Snow. 2005. The critical role of vocabulary
development for English language learners. Learning Disabilities: Research & Practice
20 (L), pp. 50-57.

Beck, I.L., M.G. McKeown, and L. Kucan. 2002. Bringing words to life:Robust
vocabulary instruction. New York: Guilford.

Calderón, M., D. August, R. Slavin, D. Duran, N. Madden, and A. Cheung. 2005. Bring
words to life in classrooms with English-language learners. In E.H. Hiebert and M.L.
Kamil (eds.), Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice.
Mahwah, NJ: Erlbraum.

Chall, J., and E. Dale 1995. Readability revisited: The new Dale-Chall readability
formula. Brookline, MA: Brookline Books.

Cunningham, A.E. 2005. Vocabulary growth through independent reading and reading
aloud to children. In E.H. Hiebert and M.L.Kamil (eds.), Teaching and learning
vocabulary: Bringing research to practice. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbraum.

Cunningham, A.E., and K.E. Stanovich. 1998. What reading does for the mind. American
Educator. 22, pp. 8-15.

Graves, M.F. 2000. A vocabulary program to complement and bolster a middle-grade
comprehension program. In B.M. Taylor, M.F. Graves, and P. Van Den Broek (eds.),
Reading for meaning: Fostering comprehension in the middle grades. Mew York:
Teachers College Press.

Kamil, M.L. 2004. Vocabulary and comprehension instruction: Summary and
implications of the National Reading Panel finding. In P. McCardle and V. Chhabra
(eds.), The voice of evidence in reading and research. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

Kamil, M.L., and E.H. Hiebert. 2005. Teaching and learning vocabulary: Perspectives
and persistent issues. In E.H. Hiebert and M.L. Kamil (eds.), Teaching and learning
vocabulary: Bringing research to practice. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

National Center for Educational Statistics. 2005. The condition of education. Washington,
DC: U.S. Department of Education.
National Reading Panel. 2000. Teaching children to read: An evidence-based assessment
of the scientific research literature on reading and its implications for reading
instruction. Washington, DC: National Institute of Child Health and Human

Schwartz, R.M., and T.E. Raphael. 1985. Concept of definition: A key to improving
students‘ vocabulary. Reading Teacher 39, pp. 198-203.

Scott, J.A., and W.E. Nagy. 2004. Developing word consciousness. In J.F. Baumann and
E.J. Kame‘enui (eds.), Vocabulary instruction: Research to practice. New York:

Stahl, S.A. 2005. Four problems with teaching word meanings (and what to do to make
vocabulary an integral part of instruction). In E.H. Hiebert and M.L. Kamil (eds.),
Teaching and learning vocabulary: Bringing research to practice. Mahwah, NJ:

Diamond, L. & Gutlohn, L. (2006). Vocabulary Handbook.Consortium on Reading
Excellence, Inc. Reproduction of this material is prohibited without permission from the

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