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What is Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling (TPRS)?

November 4, 2011

Since I blog about TPRS so much, I should probably stop and explain what it is.

Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling, or TPRS, is a teaching method developed by Blaine Ray. It's a method that focuses on providing students with lots of comprehensible input through the co-construction of stories, and Blaine developed it out of TPRS, or Total Physical Response. You can read about TPRS in this book, Fluency through TPR Storytelling.

Three steps of TPRS

There are three basic steps to a TPRS lesson:

  1. Establish Meaning
  2. Ask the story
  3. Read / Literacy

TPRS Step 1: Establish Meaning

Every TPRS lesson begins by identifying key unfamiliar target-language words that they are going to see in the story. These words will be used many times during the lesson. The teacher also tells the class what the words mean in English (or their first language).

TPRS Step 2: Ask the story

Next, the teacher and the class create a story that uses the target structures. Often, the teacher has an idea for the basic plot of the story, and the class decides the details. For example, the teacher might know that the story is about a character who wants something, goes somewhere to buy it, and they don't have it. In that case, the target structures might be "wants", "goes", and "doesn't have".

Other times, the teacher might not have an idea about the story plot ahead of time, and they create a story with their students on the fly. This is harder for me, so I prefer to use story scripts (or premade plots).

TPRS Step 3: Read

Since the Storyasking ("Ask the story") portion of the lesson is very listening focused, the next step is to engage them in interpretive reading. Usually this means giving students a printed or projected version of the class story and reading it together. Often, it's followed by some fun activities, like Running Dictation or any number of other text-based review games and activities.

Learn more about TPRS

There are many places that you can learn more about Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling. Here are some of my top sources for learning:

  • The MoreTPRS listserv on Yahoo
  • Ben Slavic's blog and website
  • Fluency through TPR Storytelling book
  • TPRS Publishing Inc. materials and trainings
  • Blaine Ray Publishing and their trainings
  • Local Professional Learning Communities, like our First Fridays group in Anchorage

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