Friday, July 26, 2013


Get MOVING in EFL (aka YAY for TPR)

Throughout this blog I discuss different ways to use TPR in the your English class. Essentially TPR (Total physical response) is a technique which is often used with EFL students. Students are taught to associate an action with a word or phrase.

Asher's book
HISTORY 1965 James Asher basically said, "Hey! I am sure that we can get students to actually move around and have less stress in class." What he came up with was having students move to show comprehension. You can check out more TPR World or language impact for more background information.

Even though the basis for TPR in EFL started over 30 years ago there is still a bounty of current research being done to support using actions with language teaching. One of my favorites to direct people to is an article published by New Scientist in January of 2012 which discusses a study where 20 students enrolled in a 6 day course to learn a fake language. Half of the content was taught using traditional (spoken and written) techniques and the other half was taught with each word having a body movement. The students did better at learning the information that was taught with motions! Keep in mind that this worked for all words, not just words with a clear motion. That is to say, this technique worked as well for actions like run as it did for words like however or rather. The study goes onto cite functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans as well which seem to show that the actions help by creating a more "complex representation of the word that makes it more easily retrieved." You can read the actual study via the onine library if that interests you.

Now that you know a bit of what it is, let's check out how to use it:

Poor Joe, he has no....
  • Simon Says- Usually body parts and actions but you could get specific with adjectives. "Simon says jump up and down quickly."
  • Charades- Usually this is done when a student is given a word and they have to act it out. Great with verbs, but don't be afraid to do this with nouns or adjectives. You can make it more complicated by giving them an entire sentence!
  • Oh No Poor Joe- If you play with students covering the part that's missing this is great TPR for body parts.
Make a fortune teller!
  • Make a box with your students! Directions (Top, Bottom, Left, Right, Middle), Actions (Kick, Throw, Fold, Unfold, Meet) Nouns (Invitation, Door) Adjectives (Locked, Unlocked)
  • Make a fortune teller. Locations (Center, Corner, Left, Right) Actions (Cur, Flip, Fold, Unfold) 
  • Tell a story while they draw or act it out Draw and Tell story.

Find a song (or make one for your EFL class)
  • Traditional Kids Somgs (Great for younger EFL students)
    • Teddy Bear Teddy Bear- Directions (Turn Around) Actions (Touch, Jump) 
    • Hokey Pokey- Body Parts (All!) Actions (Put your)
    • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes- Body Parts (Head, Shoulders, Knees, Toes, Eyes, Ears, Mouth, Nose)
  • Songs I've adjusted to use with my EFL students:
  • Songs which I use, "as is" to practice the words they use.

The video has 15 songs you can use (but probably not at once)! 
    • Bounce, Rock, Roll, Skate- Actions (Bounce, Rock, Roll, Skate)
    • Cha Cha Slide Directions (Left, Right, Back, On, Low, Top), Verbs (Turn, Slide, Criss-Cross, Clap, Stomp, Reverse, Freeze, Hop), Numbers (One, Two, Five), Body Parts (Hands, Knees, Foot), Adverbs (Again)
    • Cupid Shuffle Directions (Right, Left) Verbs (Kick)
    • Da Dip- Actions (Dip) Possessive Pronoun (My, Your)
    • Dancing in Heaven- Adjectives (Slow, Quick)
    • Do the BartMan- Actions (Move, Shake, Sitting) Directions (Front to back, To the side) Body Parts (Hips) 
    • Harlem Shake- Actions (Move) Directions (Left, Right) Adjectives (Fast)
    • Hoedown Throwdown- Actions (Glide, Jump, Pop, Lean, Lock, Shake, Shuffle, Stick )  Adjectives (Polka Dot, Zig zag) Nouns (Hawk, Sky) Body Parts (Hands, Head, Hips, One Footed, Toe) Directions (180 twist, Diagonal, In, Left, On, Side to side)
    • Locomotion Directions (Up, Back), Body Parts (Hips), Actions (Swing, Jump)
    • Mambo #5-Actions (Jump, Move, Put, Clap) Body Parts (Hands)
    • Men in Black- Actions (Bounce, Freeze, Slide, Walk) Body Parts (Neck)
    • Peppermint Twist Directions: (Round, Up, Down) Actions (Jump, Kick)
    • Stanky Leg- Actions (Bounce,Drop, Lean, Shake, Show, Slide, Snap, Stick, Stop, Switch, Wipe) Body Parts (Feet, Fingers, Leg, Shoulders) Adjectives (Low,  Right ) Clothing (Socks)
    • The Bunny Hop Directions (Left, Right, Forward, Out) Body Parts (Foot), Actions (Put, Hop) I add a "Backwards and a forwards hop hop hop" to get a bit more vocab. 
    • The Time Warp  Directions (Left, Right), Body Parts (Hands, Hips, Knees, Pelvis), Verbs- (Jump, Step, Thrust)
    • The Superman Tons of verbs / commands (Sleep, Wave, Hitch a ride, Sneeze, Walk, Swim, Ski, Spray, Blow your Horn, Ring the Bell, Kiss, Comb your Hair, Give a wave, Bend your Knees, Faster, Louder)
    • Usher's UTurn Directions (Put your hands up, Circle) Verbs (Bend, Bounce, Get down) Body Parts (Hands, Knees) 
    • YMCA- Letters (Y, M, C, A)


This list already seems a bit long so for now I am stopping, but if you have any other songs, games, or activities you think embrace the spirit of TPR be sure to leave it in the comments!


  1. Thank you very much for your materials. the scholl i'm working is asking me to listen a song about jobs, professions, I couldn't find anything! do you have any idea about it? Thanks in advance. Malena

    1. There are tons! What level do you want?
      If you don't mind making your own is fun! Have them make up a motion for each profession (brushing teeth for dentist, etc.)
      If you want a pre-made song: has lots of actions for little ones.


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