Total Physical Response Immersion is a language learning methodology we’d like to focus on today.
What is Total Physical Response Immersion?
This learning methodology encourages students to begin their language learning in an immersion environment. This means that no English is used in the classroom by the teacher(s) at all, even if the students have not been exposed to the target language before. Total Physical Response been used as a teaching methodology in Northern Cheyenne and Ho Chunk language classrooms.
A total physical response program should include the following components:
- Silent period: At the beginning, the teacher uses the target language and hand gestures to give commands (for example, saying “stand up” in the target language while using a hand motion inviting students to rise from their seats). At first, students are silent and focus on comprehension, but soon they move to using the commands with their fellow students to reinforce the language. This can be a challenging time for a language teacher, as a silent classroom requires a great amount of effort from the teacher. Many of us also feel compelled to fill silence with words, which can confuse new learners. Keep it simple at this stage, focusing on just the words and grammar structures students need to know to successfully complete the command.
- Storytelling: After some time, when students have successfully learned a significant amount of vocabulary and multiple simple grammar structures, students are ready to being storytelling. In this learning component, the teacher provides short stories using familiar vocabulary and grammar structures. Students then act out the stories to reinforce the language. This also allows for the retelling of the skits, where students are asked to narrate a story being acted out. Students may also write their own scripts, once they are familiar with this learning format.
- Activity-focused learning: Don’t spend your students’ time memorizing one sentence structure after the next. Keeping your lessons activity-focused will better maintain your students’ interest and make the language more relevant to their daily lives, especially if you try to base lessons around topics in which your students are interested!
Do you teach with an immersion method? Were you taught your language through immersion? If so, we want to hear from you! Leave a comment about your experiences, positive or negative.
*For more information about immersion language learning, download “Nurturing Native Languages” by Dr. John Allan Reyner and Octaviana Trujillo here.