The use of Total Physical Response as a Classroom Management Strategy


During my school internship in the final semester of my B.Ed studies, I decided to investigate the use of Total Physical Response (TPR) activities to manage my class, because of some of the problems that I faced with classroom management. According to Slattery and Willis (2001), Total Physical Response is a particularly suitable strategy to use with young learners. The TPR method was first developed by Asher, who stated that “We learn better when our muscles are involved as well as our minds” (cited in Freeman and Freeman, 1998, p. 17). Total Physical Response involves the whole human body in the learning process.

I conducted my research in an elementary boys’ school in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. It is one of the oldest schools in the city, and there have been many changes made to the school in terms of reconstructing the building over the years. The students and teachers in this school are from different Arab countries, as well as from the UAE. There are around four hundred and fifty students in the school. The learning environment represents Emirati culture and traditions; however, on special occasions there are some activities that introduce the children to other cultures. During my internship, I taught Grade Five students who used the English for the Emirates course book. There were twenty three students in each classroom, and for my research, the participants were a group of five students within one of the classes that I taught.

For young children, physical activities are very important because they like to do things, more than they like listening and reading. As I noticed during my teaching practice placements in some schools in the UAE, English language teachers depend basically on presenting information, asking questions, and asking students to read. The lessons are mostly teacher-centered, and they do not give the students the practice they needed to learn the language. I have worked with boys a lot during school placements, and I have noticed that they are attracted more to physical activities, which easily get their attention and promote interaction with each other. I believe that physical response is a very important way of responding to language.

Therefore for my research, I developed the following research questions regarding the use of Total Physical Response activities in the English language classroom:

  • How do children respond to TPR activities?
  • What are some of the strategies that can be used for managing children in the classroom when following TPR methods?
  • How suitable is TPR for use with students in government schools in the UAE?

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