Planning a TPRS® Lesson: Designing the Learning Activities

Once a TPRS® teacher has chosen the focus structure or structures for the day’s lesson, they need to devise the learning activities that will move the students toward the goal of using those structures accurately in a conversational context.  Most current TPRS® materials suggest between 50 to 100 repetitions of a structure in context for it to be acquired by students.  This doesn’t mean the student has to merely hear the structure 50 to 100 times, but the structure has to be used in a meaningful way so the brain will see it as valuable to retain.

First, the teacher has to introduce the structure to their students.  This can be done in various ways, depending on the structure itself.  Since the introduction is the first encounter the students will have with this structure, a positive experience at this point will set the tone for the other parts of the lesson.  The TPRS® teacher can foster this by reducing ambiguity in the students’ minds.  Although some people enjoy figuring out puzzles and riddles, this can often cause many language students’ affective filters to rise.  If they’re not sure what the exact meaning of the structure is, students might begin to close their minds off to comprehending the activities to come.  Giving students a clear meaning, though, can set the stage for the rest of the lessons.

When the meaning has been clarified, the teacher can use that structure in various ways to begin the acquisition process.  At this point, students begin to hear the language used repetitiously in a conversational context through personalized questions and answers (PQA).

Many teachers ask how long the PQA portion of the lesson should last, but that’s difficult to say.  It depends on how comfortable the students appear to be with the new structures and how engaged the class is in the discussion.  In fact, some teachers continue the comparing and contrasting from the PQA through the story time.  This opens the door to even more repetitions of the target structures.

From there, the teacher plans a skeleton backup story in case no good story nugget emerges from the PQA time.  Rounding out the lesson, another story with the same target structures is written out for use during the reading time.

Next:  3 Great Ways to Establish the Structure Meaning

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Planning a TPRS® Lesson: Determining the Content

One of the first differences a teacher might find between the TPRS® method and using a textbook is how they prepare a lesson.

Traditional teachers often decide on their content by the arrangement in their textbooks.  What they cover in any particular lesson will depend on what concepts the text has joined together in a chapter.  The learning goals are often written in terms of the pages and grammatical concepts included during that day’s lesson.

While TPRS® teachers are definitely concerned about grammar, they view it as more of an outcome than a goal.  The goal in TPRS® is to get the students to use the language accurately in a conversational context.

Because of this, planning for a TPRS® lesson requires consideration of how the day’s material can come together in a contextual format.  A TPRS® teacher focuses on the structures they will need to engage the students in a comprehensible and meaningful dialogue.

The first part of planning in TPRS® is to decide on what the main focus structure (or structures) will be.  Many TPRS® lessons include three structures, but one or two is also very common.  A structure is an excerpt from the language that is foundational for using the language in a conversation.

As an example, let’s say the teacher decides to give the students practice in using the concept of “afraid.”  In both French and Spanish, this is translated by actually saying, “to have fear.”  This would be “avoir peur” in French.  This is a structure, but it is not really all of the structure that should be included in the lesson.  The full structure needs the word “of” (de) because to use the phrase “afraid” in a conversation, you will most likely want to say what you are afraid “of.”

When the TPRS® teacher writes their lesson plan, they would list “avoir peur de” as the content of the lesson.  The entire lesson is then built around this structure with the goal of finding various conversational contexts to repeatedly use “avoir peur de” in all of its different forms.  While it might appear that the lesson covers only one structure, in reality it will cover most of the various permutations of that structure including each form of the verb with the appropriate subject, how “avoir peur de” is used in questions, and a large variety of other vocabulary to support the main structure.

Next:  Planning a TPRS® Lesson:  Designing the Learning Activities

PDF version available for download.