TPRS stands for Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling. Little known in the UK, it's the most common approach associated with the second language learning hypotheses of Stephen Krashen. These, in a nutshell, claim that the only way to develop proficiency in a second language is through comprehension, not explicitly teaching grammar and vocabulary. For more background try:
Many teachers, largely in the USA, have taken on board the TPRS methodology to produce excellent, engaging lessons for their classes. In essence the starting point of the approach is that students become proficient by being exposed to meaningful, ‘compelling’ listening and reading input. Grammar is usually taught in "pop-ups", within the context of a story being told or reenacted. Lots of input is provided before any output is expected, key vocabulary and structures are recycled and a full range of aids are used to help students grasp meaning: pictures, gestures and objects. There are elements of acting out involved, including having students dress up as characters. The approach may not suit teachers who prefer quite a formal approach to their lessons, since it helps a great deal if the teacher is prepared to act out situations, use mime, props, humour and imagination.
Some elements which TPRS has in common with other approaches are: the use of the visual aids, using all four skills, question-answer sequences called ‘circling’, acting out, doing grammar pop-ups (briefly explaining and modelling grammar structures and morphology) and using stories as a source of input. Even if you think that TPRS is a poor fit with your own syllabus or scheme of work, you might like to include features of it. Here is a typical lesson as described by Martina Bex (martinabex.com):
"The heart of a TPRS lesson is the story which looks like this:
A character has a problem.
The character tries to solve the problem and fails.
The character tries to solve the problem in a new way and fails again.
The character tries to solve the problem in a new way and finally succeeds.
Many teachers use "scripts", or basic story outlines in order to guide the story and/or to target specific structures(words or phrases). Other teachers make up stories based on the answers to personalised questions which they ask students. A basic story script might look like this:
(Character) wants (thing).
(Character) doesn't have (thing).
(Character) goes to (place 1) to find (thing).
There are no (things) at (place 1), only (thing 2).
There are no (things) at (place 2), only (thing 3).
(Character) (decides that s/he no longer wants it, it's too expensive, buys it and is happy, etc."
Other teachers base stories on the answers to personalised questions asked to students.
Below is an example story script sent to me by Martina Bex, in the style of scripts written by Anne Matava. All of the underlined details in the story are "asked" to the class instead of "told" by the teacher. So the teacher might say, "While Maya was walking, she saw an animal in the distance. What animal did she see?" "Yes, she saw a frog! Maya approached the frog. When she got close to it, what did she think?" "Yes! She thought "This frog makes me hoppy!" etc. The language items in bold are the target structures to be practised.
How does this story turn into a lesson? Again, I'm quoting directly from Martina Bex here.
1. Establish meaning for the guide words (target structures, key vocabulary). Most TPRS teachers establish meaning through translation on the board. Students are encouraged to not repeat the word as the teacher says it; they are encouraged to just listen. Then, the teacher gives a gesture for the word. Students mimic the gesture as the teacher continues to say the word aloud in the TL several times. Meaning is typically confirmed once or twice by asking a student in English, "What does [TL structure] mean in English?" English is used because it ensures accuracy and is efficient. Images are better in many situations, but are also subject to misinterpretation. Most TPRS lessons target three new structures.
2. Ask personalised questions with the target structures. If the structure is "goes to sleep", you might ask, "When do you go to sleep?" "What do you need to go to sleep?" "When is it difficult to go to sleep?" etc. Discuss these questions with your students.
3. “Ask a story” using a story script or by spinning a story out of the personalised conversation that you started after establishing meaning. Most teachers bring up actors and have them use props to make the story come to life.
4. Read the class story. Ideally, you have typed it up so that you can project it and read it together. As you read it, use strategies such as circling, checking for comprehension and personalising.
5. Complete several story activities. These can include familiar tasks such as hiding the story then doing a retell from memory, answering questions from memory, doing a true-false task or matching starts and ends of sentences.
Here is an example of "asking a story" without using a pre-prepared story. Note the "circling" technique (question-answer).
For more video extracts of lessons see YouTube (TPRS Hangout).