Total Physical Response – English Methodology

Травень 18th, 20117:23 am


Total Physical Response – English Methodology

Total Physical ResponseEnglish Methodology

James Asher is the author of total physical response. In this response to the problem of second language learning he analyzed the process of first language learning. The noticed that children pass through a silent period before they begin to speak. He found that about 50% of adults’ utterances to children are commands.

Taken these two factors and children’s languages skills into account he hypothesizes that children can determine meaning by comprehending cause-and-effect relationships, by seeing the changes that take place in their physical environment as the result of language use and by understanding the relationship between the language and the context of a situation.

The approach Asher developed to help a large number of students become successful in second language learning is called total physical response approach because during class students act out commands.

He believed that the most students can rapidly internalize the linguistic code – the structure of the language and vocabulary when language is synchronized with actual movements of the student’s body.

Asher had several objections to a method that require students to speak perfectly from the beginning of instruction. His principle objection is that these approaches cause students to feel a high-leveled stress. Another is that teachers has the illusion, when they ask students to repeat after them or to answer a simple yes/no question, that is so simple. Related to the illusion of simplicity of the teacher’s unrealistic expectations and yearning for perfection. Another weakness of this approach is that student’s performances should improve on subsequent attempts instead performances generally tend deteriorate. His last objection is the extremely high attrition rate.

Asher mentions three major strengths of TPRA:

1) students acquire second language at an accelerated rate
2) they remember what they have learned for a long time
3) they don’t find second language learning stressful

Asher’s TPRA is similar to a comprehension approach in that he favors a silent period at the beginning of second language learning.

Both approaches have cognitive orientation because they stress internalization of linguistic data before asking students to generate utterances and before they focus on meaningful learning.

Both recommend that students should not be required to talk before they are ready to and both stress that students should comprehend everything that they hear. Approaches which focus on establishing receptive skills first (listening, comprehension, reading) and do not attempt specifically to train oral production – oral fluency being expected to emerge naturally and gradually out of the database established through ample comprehension of the right times and are called comprehension based approach or comprehension based learning (CBA or CBL).

However TPRA is different from CBA in some ways:

1) one of the Asher’s major objectives is to eliminate (exclude) stress that is more concerned with the affective domain then are proponents of CBA.
2) the techniques here recommended are different giving a performing commands make it easier for teachers to establish meaning that do the techniques recommended for the CBA.
3) physical actions may promote long-term retention through phycho-motor memory.

Finally students acquiring second language by acting out commands may engage the right hemisphere of the brain while they tend to use the left hemisphere in traditional approaches (brain lateralization).

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