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Total Physical Response



Total Physical Response is a language learning method based on the coordination of speech and action. It was developed by James Asher, a professor of psychology at San Jose State University, California. It is linkedto the trace theory of memory, which holds that the more often or intensively a memory connection is traced, the stronger the memory will be.

Theory of language

Asher does not directly adress his view of languag, but Richards and Rodgers state that the labeling and ordering of classroom activities seem to be build on the structural view of language.

Theory of learning

Asher's language learning theories seem similar to those of other behavioral psychologists. There are three principles he elaborates;

  • Second language learning is parallel to first language learning and should reflect the same naturalistic processes
  • Listening should develop before speaking
  • Children respond physically to spoken language, and adult learners learn better if they do that too
  • Once listening comprehension has been developed, speech devlops naturally and effortlessly out of it.
  • Adults should use right-brain motor activities, while the left hemisphere watches and learns
  • Delaying speech reduces stress.

Here are some of the objectives of Total Physical Response

  • Teaching oral proficiency at a beginning level
  • Using comprehension as a means to speaking
  • Using action-based drills in the imperative form
The syllabus

TPR uses a sentence-based grammatical syllabus.

Types of learning techniques and activities

Activitis where a command is given in the imperative and the students obey the command isthe main activity in TPR.


Asher gives step-by step accounts of how to use TPR for English or other languages.


Asher 1982

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