TPRS - Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling

Use Nualang to help you introduce TPRS in your classroom in a fun and interactive way!

Developed in the 1990s by a high school Spanish teacher named Blaine Ray, Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS) is a teaching method for foreign language learning. With an ever-growing body of literature supporting its implementation in classes, let's explore its key features and how Nualang can help you introduce TPRS in your classroom in a fun and interactive way!

Key Features:

The underpinning of the TPRS method is that one's learning of a second language should follow the same pathways as one's learning of their first. We as children did not spend time practicing grammar and in-depth language mechanics before we could converse, and you must admit, this method seems to have worked well! Therefore, one of TPRS’s key features is its lack of emphasis on grammar and corrections compared to traditional language teaching methods. In place of these rigid rules, TPRS focuses on exposing students to high levels of usable and comprehensible vocabulary and phrases. TPRS advocates believe this is the most effective way to establish students' fluency and overall language confidence. 

The benefits of TPRS:

TPRS is a multifaceted method with many benefits, especially when teaching a younger audience. Value is placed on Acquisition rather than accuracy and this creates a comfortable learning environment for those who may be reluctant to speak up for fear of being incorrect. The end goal becomes a practical gift of fluency when focusing on acquisition and comprehension. While grammar is an essential aspect of language, the ability to converse takes priority. TPRS caters to many different students' learning styles. Pairing vocal inflection with visual and physical cues creates multiple means of representation, expression and engagement in the classroom.

Implementation in the classroom:

Generally, the implementation of TPRS in the classroom can be set down into three simple steps. 

1. Choose phrases and establish meaning.

Comprehension is essential to TPRS. TPRS aims to focus on three/or four phrases at one time. Therefore, once chosen as a method, the meaning of the new phrases is established and further reinforced. The most effective way to do this is to translate it into your students' first language. It can also help to write these phrases on the board along with their translations. This way, during step 2, students can check the meaning in the event they forget. Gestures and pictures are also very effective ways to establish meaning and promote students' fluency. As stated above, comprehension is critical, and therefore teachers should conduct comprehension checks using short questions that include your chosen phrases. It is advised not to proceed to step two until students are confident with their comprehension of the phrases. 

2. Spoken stories

This step aims to establish an understanding of context when using your chosen phrases. Teachers should tell students a short but engaging story that incorporates many instances of the selected terms, with as many different contexts as possible. The most crucial element is to maintain and reinforce comprehension throughout the task; Reinforcing comprehension can be done in many ways, such as referring back to diagrams or translations that are displayed for the students to see. At this stage, techniques such as acting and repetition are further utilised to solidify the learning of the key terms. The teacher or volunteer students may act out certain parts of the story to add a visual aspect. After the main story is told, the teacher may condense it further and repeat a shortened version; this again serves the purpose of reinforcing comprehension.

3. Readings

This final step of the TPRS process usually takes place the day after steps one and two; it is seen as a good sign if steps one and two have taken a whole class period. This shows that the learners have spent enough time on the foundation steps. It is good to have a refresher session before moving straight into step three; as a reminder, comprehension is vital with TPRS. Once you are confident the student's memories are refreshed and comprehension is reestablished, only then should you move on to the final stage. Here, students begin to read the key phrases and terms they have learned; this reading consists of key terms from this session and other known terms, perhaps from previous sessions. But no language should be incomprehensible to the student at this time. This reading is often an altered version of the story told in step two, with minor detail changes to maintain engagement. Translation can also be utilised at this stage. Students can read the story in their target language and then translate it into their first language. Here is the only stage of TPRS where grammar should be discussed. If it is relevant to translation or parts of the reading, 'pop-up grammar' is used. If something 'pops up' that must be addressed to ensure comprehension, this should be explained but not dwelled on. Once the reading stage is finished, it is good practice to ask students personal questions, such as how they feel about the story? Or did something like that ever happen to you? This process is known as enriching and helps consolidate memories of the story and the new terms. 

How Nualang can help!

While TPRS seems like a complex method, there is no doubt that Nualang can simplify the process for you! When introducing your phrases, try using a picture quiz with some flashcards as a comprehension test. Simply upload a picture of your chosen words and allow students to translate them. 

Once you have picked your chosen phrases and established and tested their meaning, why not make the process even more engaging by utilising our roleplay feature in the storytelling process. The story can be spoken aloud and incorporate enrichment by including questions at intervals in the story. These questions can be in the student's native language, the target language, or both. 

Sample comprehension question using a Nualang roleplay 

Nualang Chatbots are another great way to introduce TPRS into the classroom. With our open-ended chatbot feature, you can allow students to answer questions without correction and monitor their progress.

Sample Nualang chatbot using a TPRS story

TPRS is a fun and engaging language-learning experience, and what's more fun and engaging than Nualang?

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