TPR to Set Up CI

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39 thoughts on “TPR to Set Up CI”

  1. I think we make a big error when we assume a class has a verb. They always know less than we think. TPR those verbs whenever you can, even in the middle of a story, and have a better year next year.

  2. There is another thing we need to talk about, and I think it will be a big thread for next year. So far we know that we can take the information from the cards in CWB and give quizzes on each kid, or however many kids you talked about that day. So that in the fall as you do CWB to get to know the kids and say on one day you cover two kids, then the Quiz Writer would have a quiz ready at the end of class on those kids. That is not new. But I was on a bike ride with Bryce yesterday (above the smoke from the fires) and he told me about how you could have it all build up to a class test on every kid in the room when the CWB is done, say in September or October or whenever it ends for the group. A class test on CWB, on every kid. What will be the result of that? It will be that the kids in your classes will see each other in the hallway and say, “Hey, you’re the kid with four dogs at home, right?” and the kid will say, “Yup, that’s me!” and they will walk on down the hallway, having been acknowledged as a human being in a big scary building* and feeling just a bit more important, and it will have been a result of the CWB work done in Spanish class that day.

    *I have to figure it’s scary to him because it’s scary to me and I’m an adult.

    1. I have two, sort of – one by me and one I’ve seen students make up.

      I pretend I’m holding some object in my right hand and, as if it weighs something, bounce my hand up and down a bit. (I always think of a spoof cartoon on when I do this.)

      One I saw kids use in a gesturer-speaker reading activity: they cradled their arms as if holding something in them. Not like a baby, more like holding a stack of books. This one is great for Chinese because it reinforces the character components, too – hand and body – which put together mean “have”.

  3. Cool! My ideas:

    — all gestures should be one-handed cos you will eventually be holding props or scripts, or directing actors, etc, with the other hand

    Tense indicator: for past tense, I point backward over my shoulder; for future I have another pointing forward signal

    Order: I do person, verb then tense indicator

    –I also have a pronoun/# gesturing system, thus (I do this right before the verb):

    I– point at myself with one finger
    You– point at interlocutor with one finger
    She/he– point sideways, or at the person being referred to

    We– point from me to whoever back and forth, or hold finger up and make circling motion
    You guys– point with two or more fingers
    They– point with two or more fingers sideways, or at the ppl being referred to

    — t0 have: palm up
    — to walk/run: fingers walk or run
    — to want: point at heart
    — like/dislike: thumb up or down
    — there is/are: make a fist
    — needs: palm over heart

    Etc etc

    1. …all gestures should be one-handed cos you will eventually be holding props or scripts, or directing actors, etc,, with the other hand…

      This is a great point. I often seem to catch myself putting a script down on the student’s desk in front of me and it gets awkward. The question is how to do it. I need my whole body to sign some verbs, like I really like to sign “to succeed” by pointing mightily to the skies. I like that one. But I seem to live with a script in my hand – it’s my security blanket bc as soon as I get the deer in the headlights look I just go to the next sentence.

      Maybe something to come out of San Diego would be some kind of video with good signs. We could film it there and put it here for others. We could ask each other what each other’s signs are.

      One thing about signs, and Jody makes the point below, is that when you try to sign person it gets really complex for the kids. They only act like they get it. Susie taught me that. She said that signing should be very natural and kept very simple.

  4. These are great personal ideas, Chris. Each teacher needs to do what feels right to them for their groups of kids. Gestures are very valuable at the beginning (imo) and slowly fade away naturally as structures are acquired. I have never seen the need to isolate a gesture to one hand, or use pronouns, or even tenses for that matter–whatever works and doesn’t add layers of “cognitive” processing for the acquirer. I notice that even when a class has decided on the exact gesture we will use for a structure, each kid ends up morphing it a bit away from the original anyway–and as it should be. It has to be useful to the student–not particularly to me.

      1. Sabrina Janczak


        Wow, it feels like the beginning of the year when we had that discussion with David Maust after his video, and the whole conversation about signing in.

        To answer your question Chris, I expect kids to do gestures and they do for the first few minutes but then they stop. That’s fine by me. I have to pick my battles and I would rather insist on a choral answer than getting a gesture from them.
        So I end up doing the gestures. I still use gestures even with my french 2 students for 2 reasons. The first one is that it is how I express myself in general, I use my body a lot when communicating so it’s natural to me to use my hands. Unlike you I do use both hands while signing . I prefer not to multi -task, so if I need to grab a pencil or something else, I’ll stop and reconvene as needed.

        Second reason is I’m never sure where in the acquisition sprectrum my kids are, so by adding that extra level of meaning throught the gesture (some kids need the gestures as they have told me in exit slips), I add one more source of comprehension.

        I too use gesture at the beginning of French one (for the couple first months) to teach pronouns. This is what I do:

        My I is like yours where I point to myself with my thumb.
        You :I point to a person and look at them straight in the eyes for 5 seconds while pointing.
        He/she : I point to either a girl or boy
        We: since my kids are all facing me I enter their space and turn my body so we’re all facing in the same direction and do a circle in the air with my index.
        You plural I use both my index fingers and point to the kids.
        They : I’ll point to one or more boys for masculine or girls for feminine.
        I also explain the formal you to the kids but have no specific gesture for that one.

        Fun discussion.

  5. Sabrina Janczak

    By the way this is a list of verbs that I always TPR at the beginning of first year of French. These verbs are easily TPR-able . I do these 5/10 minutes at the beginning of French 1 for the 1st 2 months and it I get so much mileage later on.

    Slowly you can add adverbs such as slowly/fast/nicely/meanly/romantically etc….

    I also take care of the thematic units covered by most traditional textbooks such as classromm objects, body parts, colors, etc….

    Most traditional teachers cover those thematic units and it takes them weeks or month whereas all you need is 5 to 10 minutes daily for a few months at the very beginning and the kids like it.

    Be mindful that after a couple of months the kids get tired of it, so like with everything else, use in moderation and only for the first few months. You will know when it’s time to stop b/c the kids will let you know.

    Examples of TPR commands in first few months of French 1:

    Prend un crayon rouge rapidement et jette le crayon dans la poubelle: take a red pen quickly and throw it in the wastebasket.

    caresse l’ordinateur romantiquement : caress the computer romantically

    gratte la tête d’un garçon blond: scratch the head of a blond boy

    met ta main gauche sous la table : put your left hand under the table

    embrasse ton épaule droite: kiss your right shoulder

    etc, etc… This way you can really take care of a lot of thematic stuff that would otherwise be so boring to teach.

    I know that most of you here know this stuff and do it, but this is more for very new teachers on this blog who may find this helpful.

    TPR verbs I always do are:

    Il/elle va vers : goes to
    Il/elle se lève/lève; (s)he/she stands up/raises
    Il/elle s’assied : sits
    Il/elle marche : walks
    Il/elle saute : jumps
    Il/elle regarde: sees
    Il/elle se tourne/ tourne: turns
    Il/elle touche: touches
    Il/elle monte: goes up
    Il/elle descend: goes down
    Il/elle chante: sings
    Il/elle parle: talks
    Il/elle arrête: stops
    Il/elle danse : danses
    Il/elle dessine: draws
    Il/elle écrit: writes
    Il/elle mange: eats
    Il/elle boit: drinks
    Il/elle caresse: pets/ caresses
    Il/elle gratte : scratches
    Il/elle crie : yells
    Il/elle frappe : hits
    Il/elle montre: shows
    Il/elle rit : laughs
    Il/elle dort: sleeps
    Il/elle prend : takes
    Il/elle met: puts
    Il/elle jette/lance : throws
    Il/elle embrasse : kisses
    Il/elle pleure: cries
    Il/elle conduit: drives
    Il/elle frappe: hits
    Il/elle applaudit: claps
    Il/elle nage: swims

    1. I like the list. I always do swims, drives, knocks, and claps as well. There are definitely some from your list that I need to add to mine. I am definitely experiencing the need for more background as I have a very short (15 hour) summer course with students and have been trying to do Circling with balls, as I understand it for the first time. Some have gone great and some I probably got too complex.

        1. I’ll add those to Sabrina’s list and thanks.

          Eric you also said:

          …some I probably got too complex….

          This is the thing with Circling with Balls. We get all excited about how cool the stuff is and we deliver as much as 200 times more complex language than they can handle. There is not a single one of us who doesn’t make those beginning strategies too complex, with the possible exception of our own Mark Mallaney in DPS. We must learn to flow slowly as we do CWB and OWI and all of it.

    2. I do #s 1-10 cos I can do them on my fingers, and they are useful for making basic PQA and CWB funny and weird (e.g. “Class, Mike has eight girlfriends/cats/Ferraris!”)

      I put the colours in a poster– but no English– where rojo (red) is written in red, etc. I spent a few minutes a day with the colours and what was cool was, you can get reps with is/are (big prob for beginners keeping these separate) with basic PQA. E.g. “Clase, [point at two kids’ binders which are of the same colour], ¿son rojos o son azules?” Etc etc. As I did my beginners’ final today– dictation and translation– I saw them looking at my #s and colours posters.

      Sabrina and Ben, that’s a great verb list– if you spend only 5 mins a day PQAing just one of those, you have a massive base for beefed-up and more entertaining reading later on. I wouldn’t expect them to produce all those but I want them instantly recognizable: if I am doing a story, it’s always fun to toss in “and when the boy who wanted a cat went to Guaremala, he saw a purple elephant who scratched himself.”

    3. I have a Word Wall with a bunch of verbs, colors, and things I called fun words (like “incredible!” and “no way”)… and I haven’t done anything like this at the beginning of classes. I will try it next year. I think it will help! The more verbs, the better. I will remember Ben’s tip on “where” and “with whom” in conjunction with verbs.

    4. I figured something out this year about TPR/gestures… we can have a long list, but we don’t have to do them all at once. It’s okay to decide to focus on just a few. They say threes are brain friendly. If I wanted to prepare for CWB, I think I might start with playing a few of the popular (cognate) sports, and a couple words to go with them, like hit, throw or go. Then I have interesting things to say about the topic. After Linda Li’s Chinese class, I decided that Look is also a useful verb, because you can use it in any story, and it’s powerful for classroom management. The list could be chunked into 10-15 min segments of PQA/CWB. Gesture/discuss once. Extend vocab. Gesture/discuss another person/couple of people.

      1. Carla what you say here is huge:

        …the list could be chunked into 10-15 min segments of PQA/CWB. Gesture/discuss once. Extend vocab. Gesture/discuss another person/couple of people….

        Rinse and repeat. If I am understand this point correctly, it is vintage TPR. But somehow it feels new. Hmmm.

        So can we plan a list of verbs that are brain friendly, grouped in certain ways? This does take us into the area of planning what we teach. Which goes to the curriculum/pacing guide discussion. So complex, this issue of planning. Targeting verbs. Hmmm. Just thinking out loud here, really.

        At least we are a long way from how we used to do things, planning instruction based on what the textbook company thought was a good idea, which in light of the research that is currently bulldozing the textbook was just a ghastly arrangement of things. So whatever we do is going to be better and I love the idea of threes too.

        Of course, as you know there is a side of me that always asks why we would need to plan when language acquisition has been shown by Krashen to be a thing that occurs in a natural order (The brain accepts into the growing language system what it wants and when based on what it heard that day as it arranges all it heard during sleep).

        Because we don’t have 24 hours to teach the kids the language, we must select – is that the reason? Or do we just like to plan it all out because we are teachers? Another area for more discussion, one we may never resolve. Must we indeed plan things out?

        These are just meandering thoughts about how it all works. If we do need to plan verb instruction then Carla you should develop a list of verbs for us to teach and when to teach them – it’s just a thought and an area of inquiry so if you do it share it with us.

        For me, I’m lazy. I’ll not plan what verbs I teach. But I am the exception. I just want to work on feeling the verb in my body more when we gesture it. I once gestured “sends” last year and it was like that motion a baseball umpire makes when he kicks the manager out of the game for kicking sand on his trousers and it was just so much fun that I made the gesture, histrionically, for like five minutes. The kids just started ignoring me with my stupid smile being an umpire and saying sends in French too many times, for them.

        For me it is the feeling we have in our bodies when we say the verb that has a lot to do with how much it sticks to the language soul of the learner. I figure if I say it with gusto and really gesture it it will stick more, perhaps. And I will get to be more in my body in class, which for a teacher is good. And get over my fears of looking foolish in front of my kids, which is no way to be a CI teacher, working under that silly fear of being pre-judged by others in class for the way we teach.

        Bernard wants to look at choice of verbs/structures for upper level classes. I’ll go post that question now.

        1. Ben, I think you’re an expert and you can just pull what works right out of your head on a moment’s notice 🙂

          I wasn’t suggesting making plans that look imposing, turn to stone, and get dusty. You could pick the words on the fly. I meant that structures for PQA/CWB/OWI could be anticipated and pretaught with TPR, in the same way that people do it with stories. The TPR words would be natural partners to the main words, so they make the conversation flexible and more comprehensible. Linda Li’s carefully chosen starting list gave us things interesting things to say in conversation. Those words sparked conversation. she knew where she was planning on going with the conversation, but even so, she did not teach us all the words at once. We did a little at a time. She was also willing to add words to the list based on our input and interest. Her starting list was plenty for us to handle, though, and I doubt that needed to stop to add more than 5 or 6 words.

          1. …structures for PQA/CWB/OWI could be anticipated and pre-taught with TPR, in the same way that people do it with stories….

            I truly like this. Even my hippy self likes it. So how do we make it available? (hint)

  6. I’ve not been happy with any gesture I’ve tried for “wants” (including the sign language one). I’m going to try the begging sign–think my kids will like it.

    I do a end-of-year survey with my students on which activities (I list maybe 10-15) help them learn Spanish the most and without fail, TPR gestures are mentioned by more students than anything else–even acting out stories. Students I will have next year for Spanish IV have already asked me “we’ll still do some TPR gestures, won’t we?”

    I’d love to see this category with suggestions for gestures–especially for the non-action verbs.

  7. With TPR we generally follow the pattern that Sabrina described – we have too many fish to fry and so we end up dropping the TPR, at least many of us do. I am determined not to let that happen next year. Yes, gesturing verbs is THE most valuable thing we can do to support our fluency programs.

    Lori, I just rub my hands together for “wants”, like I’m warming them up. Not perfect, but definitely works for the kids which is the point.

  8. Susan VanBronkhorst

    I really like to use the signs from the American Sign Language. They are easy to learn because I can watch the lady on the website doing them, and they usually are simpler motions than those I would think of.

    I used to ask the kids to help me come up with motions, but then not all the classes used the same motions and that was confusing to me.

    I tell kids they are getting two languages for one— Spanish and sign language.

    I usually do the signs, but I don’t really ask the kids to do them, unless it is in a game. Do you think having to do the motions themselves would be more beneficial to the students’ learning. Or is it good enough for them to watch me do the motions?


    1. ^good points. Next year I have TWO intro blocks (woot– doubled my enrolment!) and 22 of my 26 beginners came back (woot–doubled my retention– let’s see if them French teachers can match me 😉 )…and without standardised gestures I am gonna be screwed.

      So…where canI learn basic ASL signs to go with Spanish?

      1. I tried ASL and it didn’t work. Too much to remember. I personally have such a laundry list going on in my mind, starting with the Classroom Rules and jGR and just being present with the kids, that the TPR/Gesturing piece gets shoved aside in the melee of thoughts, as Sabrina stated as well here a few days ago.

        I come up with signs for the kids. Susan did state that it can get confusing when different classes use different signs, so I don’t allow that. I just tell the kids later in the day what the first morning class came up with and that’s that.

        Susan re: having them do the motions – again, it gets to where you have to focus on too many things in the CI process, the essence of which is simply to relax in the classroom. So I just let them sign with me if they want to. It should all happen naturally. We can’t continue to emulate the old 20th c. model of what a teacher is (control, control, control) in this new century. Ours is but to relax and let the CI process unfold in slow happiness.

        And Chris congratulations on those numbers. Now THAT will draw attention, and you won’t even have to leave your classroom – they’ll be coming to you like with Tamula and Liam and many others here. Yes, it HAS been a great year, y’all!

        1. Yeah, we’re starting a TPRS/CI plc group here next year (we get an hour every two weeks for collaboration time). Also, two of the French teachers and I are going to the Von Ray workshop in Aug. I figure, we are gonna see if we can get the non-fossilised French teachers starting some kind of TPRS/CI at the gr 8 level.

        2. I see this was posted back in June, but just saw it today and wanted to say a few things.

          I like using ASL as my mainstay for signs. I usually only do a different sign if the ASL one is too complicated or doesn’t make sense (for instance it is signed with letters or something), or if the kids really don’t like the ASL sign (and usually they like to let me know).

          But here’s the piece for me that is making it work for me, because even I often can’t remember the signs from year to year, sometimes from one period to the next (and it is ridiculous for me to run back and forth to my computer all day checking signs):

          I have the “personal secretary” job assigned to a kid who sits at my desk with a computer open to the two ASL video dictionaries that I use. When I need to remember a sign I just look over, say “hungry – check ASL,” and the student looks up “hungry” on the video dictionary. Then I continue to circle with the class and in a few seconds, or whenever I want, I turn back and the student shows me the sign. Then we do the sign. No interruption, no break in the flow of class.

          I love the “personal secretary” job now, because especially for Latin (which I am still a big learner of myself), and I also have these kids trained on how to look up Latin words on a dictionary (so I can check gender and things when I don’t remember them), and to look up words on English-to-Latin dictionaries in case we have and English word come up and I want to check the Latin meaning.

          Plus, some kids LOVE to have this job. I usually give it to pretty responsible kids who can handle being at my desk, looking out at the class without being distracting and who are fast processors.

  9. Hi guys,

    I’ve seen videos of Ben throwing a thumb of his shoulder for past tense.
    Do you TPRS morphemes that indicate future, conditional, subjunctive? Or is that too much grammar that takes away from meaning?
    In other words, should “habla” and “quiere que hable” have two different gestures?

    Do you TPRS auxiliary verbs to form the compound tenses? I am thinking of Spanish using “haber” with a participle or even German using “sein” or “haben”
    Would “fue” and “ha ido” have two different gestures?

    1. Robert Harrell

      Just my opinion, but I think gestures for time frames (not tenses) are valuable. To me, though, the gesture for a verb is the gesture that indicates the basic meaning of the verb, e.g. “walk”, not walks, is walking, would walk, may walk, will walk, walked, was walking, etc. The time frame gesture puts it in the past or future, and I’m not sure that is necessary all the time. Especially in beginning classes, students are not ready for nuances. So, “quiere que hablar” would have two gestures: “quer” and “habl”. Both “fue” and “ha ido” and even “iba” would have the same gesture with the indication for past time frame added.

      1. Agree. Gesture verb and point for verb tense, that’s it. If these are 4th years and they want to geek out on subjunctive vs indicative or whatever, they get a 10-second pop up on the diff between reality and poss/prob.

  10. …should “habla” and “quiere que hable” have two different gestures?…

    No. The brain can’t compute that when signed. That kind of processing will occur naturally at the level of the unconscious. Don’t worry about it. My opinion only. Good one to ask Krashen next month.

    1. Robert Harrell

      Actually, maybe not. I would have the same gesture for “habla” and “hable” and even “hablar” but add the gesture for “quiere” because it is a completely different action.

  11. Oh I see what happened. I was responding to the reflexive verb question that Drew brought up over on the other comment. I addressed the wrong question.

    This is the question in this comment thread by Drew:

    …should “habla” and “quiere que hable” have two different gestures?…

    And Robert said:

    … I would have the same gesture for “habla” and “hable” and even “hablar” but add the gesture for “quiere” because it is a completely different action….

    Yeah, I agree with that.

  12. I raced through these comments, and perhaps I missed it, but what forms are you giving the kids when you do TPR at the beginning of the year?

    Last year in all of my classes I gave my kids the command (imperative forms) figuring that I should shelter vocabulary but not grammar (i.e. I should speak to them correctly). Generally, I simplified a bit by using the singular rather than plural forms.

    At NTPRS I spoke with some people who even when doing pure TPR give the 3rd person singular form (i.e. “se levanta” instead of “levántate”, or in Latin “capit” instead of “cape”). The reasoning behind this is that the 3rd person form is what is most important in TPRS and it should be the “base” form that the kids learn.

    Is there a consensus on this PLC as to what is best to use?

    I am thinking that in my beginner Latin class the 3rd person form might be more helpful because they really don’t need to know command forms at all this year. However in my 2nd year Spanish class they need to learn “tu” commands, so it would be good to give them from the outset. For my Spanish 1 class, I don’t know, but I would lean towards giving them the real “tu” commands, since they are quite similar to the 3rd person forms.

    Can anyone chime in?

    1. Sabrina Sebban-Janczak

      Hi David,

      I think that it depends on the language. In some languages, the verb form never changes so they don’t need to adress that. But for us in romance languages, where verbs can have so many different endings depending on who the subject is, it becomes crucial to try and hit as many forms as possible as early on as we can.

      I think that the 3rd person singular is probably the most useful but 1st and 2nd are just as important.

      I can tell you what I do. When I do TPR, I want to be able to use as many verb forms as possible early on, so their brain can do the switch as seamlessly as possible.

      I ask for two volunteers, one female, one male because in French we have 2 thrird person pronouns, il(he) and elle (she) so I want to convey that difference right away right.

      I ask them to come to the front of the room and the three of us face the rest of the class, having the boy to my right and the girl to my left, or vice versa.

      Let’s take an example and say I want to TPR “eat”, “drink” and “cut”. ( I usually TPR three verbs at the same time, never more than 3)

      1) I will say : “I eat” and I show them what it looks like, with my two hands moving towards my mouth. Then I’ll do the same with drink and cut. I repeat that while mixing the verbs up for a bit.

      2) Then I will turn to the girl and look at her and say “she” eats, and point to her when I say “she” so that the class (who at this point is just observing and acquiring sounds and corresponding gestures) can see that it is “she” we are talking about. So if I say she drinks, the girl will gesture drinking by bringing her hand towards her mouth and tilting her head slighly as if drinking. I do that with the other two verbs and then mix them up , just focusing on her doing those actions for a bit.

      3) then I will turn to the boy and do the exam same thing, except that when I point to him, the class now hears “he” instead of she.

      4) then I will alternate between the “he” and “she” and mix verbs up for a bit.

      5) When we ‘ve done that for a good 5 minutes , I’ll look at the class and say “eat”. I m now giving the whole class the command to eat (in French that is done using the 2nd person plural). The kids get that they all have to eat now because they have heard eat quite a bit even though it sounded a little different for he/she and I . They make the switch without a problem. So I continue with commanding them to drink, eat or cut for a while.

      6) Then I will turn to one kid and only one kid. I will use his or her name and will say : Tammy . pause . “Eat” . And the class knows now that I ‘m giving the command to only one person. and I ‘ll switch the commands with the 3 different verbs.

      7) Lastly I will alternate the commands going from “he” eats to “she” drinks to the whole class to one individual and continue mixing and matching subject pronouns and verbs.

      Do you see now how in one session I have jumped from the “I” to “she” and “he” and “you” (plural) to “you” (singular)? I have hit 4 of the 6 different verb forms, and they get it because of the repetition and modeling.

      Eventually the kids internalize the differences and acquire both the pronouns and verbs.

      This is what I do and it has worked for me but I think everyone has a different way of doing TPR just as we all have different styles .
      Anyway I thought I’d share how I do it. BTW I learned this from Ramiro Garcia ‘ s book: “Instructor’s Notebook: How to Apply TPR for Best Results”, although I tweaked it some.

      Good luck David.

  13. Hi David! Great to get to know you in Dallas!!! How’s it going?
    I am with you — I am going with tú commands in Level 1, since I will also be using a lot of 3rd person conjugation — it is so similar, and they need to just HEAR and COMPREHEND Spanish. In Level 1 (I only get Levels 1 and 2 for one semester now!!!) I want it to be as simple to understand as possible. If we taught Level 1 over two semesters still, then I would have time to do both types of commands. Besides, since one rarely gives a command (but rather the subjunctive) to Ud., then you might as well concentrate on the tú commands. Just my 2 cents.

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