Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, January 12, 2006


by AJ

Blaine Ray lays it all out in his book, "Fluency Through TPR Storytelling". He walks you through the technique step by step. He gives lots of suggestions for maximizing the technique.

But thats been part of the challenge for me. There is so much to learn in order to use the technique at maximum effectiveness. Typically, when I focus on one aspect... I forget to do other things.

For example, Ive been focusing a lot of energy on questions and getting plenty of repetitions. Its helping. We are getting more repetitions of key vocab and grammar.

But when I began to focus on questions/repetitions, I forgot "BEP". BEP stands for Bizarre, Exaggerated, and Personal. These are the qualities that make stories fun and interesting for the students. Unfortunately, when I started to focus on questions and repetitions, I became lazy with the actual stories.... they became more normal... and thus much more boring.

I could tell by looking at my students sleepy faces that something wasnt right.

But today I solved the problem through personalization. Today's stories used one of the students as the main character. His name is Mike (his American name). But personalization requires more than using a student's name. You also need to include details about them. Mike, for example, loves custom cars. He owns a customization shop in Taiwan. So today's story also included custom cars.

The effect was immediate and powerful. Students perked up. They laughed and paid attention. They seemed to remember the story more easily.. and certainly seemed to enjoy telling it more.

When we told part 2, I added exaggeration. Mike became a hip-hop gangster in a customized car with huge speakers. I strutted around the room, pretending to be Mike.

The key to doing this is to learn about your students... learn about their hobbies, their interests, their history. Learn what they do in their free time. What do they like? What do they hate? What are they good at?

Its also important to maintain a fun and friendly attitude. Of course we should never mock our students or insult them (I always use myself as the main character if the story is humiliating or insulting... which CAN be funny to the students).

What all this boils down to is, quite simply, an attitude of fun and playfulness. Thats what I lost when I over-obsessed about getting those repetitions. To work well, TPRS should feel like PLAY, not work.

Thats its true power.... ideally, the students are having so much fun... and are so focused on the story.. that they "forget" they are learning new words and grammar. Done well, TPRS facilitates unconscious and involuntary language acquisition. The students learn and remember with no effort..... whether they want to or not!