I previously invited readers who were familiar with TPR Storytelling to tell me about it, and many responded. You can see many great lengthy comments here and I’ve also added the link to A Quasi “The Best” List On TPRS (TPR Storytelling) For Teaching ESL..

In addition, I’ve invited several to write full-length guest posts.

A big thanks to Martina Bex for contributing this first one!

Martina Bex is a World Languages Curriculum Consultant and former Spanish teacher that lives in Anchorage, AK. She specializes in training teachers to teach language through the study of culture using Comprehensible Input. She regularly publishes world language lesson plans, strategies, and activities on her blog, The Comprehensible Classroom (www.martinabex.com).


I remember sitting in a new-to-district training in 2009 and being asked whether I was familiar with TPRS®. “Sure”, I thought, “Total Physical Response….uh…S! That must be a West Coast addition”. After an afternoon in Michele Whaley’s Russian classroom, however, I knew that I knew nothing about TPRS®. Here’s a crash course to see whether or not you are in the same boat:

While Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling, a teacher provides comprehensible input that contains many personalized repetitions of the language structures being taught. This is achieved through three steps: (1) Establishing Meaning, (2) Storytelling, and (3) Reading. The steps in a TPRS® lesson are simple, and they are effective when employed correctly.

Step 1: Establishing Meaning

A typical TPRS® lesson targets 1-3 structures, which can be any vocabulary term or phrase. The the lesson begins by establishing the meaning of the target structures, and most teachers do this by writing the target structure and its translation on the board.
Establishing meaning image

Step 2: Storyasking

After establishing meaning, the teacher tells a story that employs the target structure(s) using a strategy, called “storyasking”, in which the teacher co-creates the story with the class. Many teachers begin with a basic script that contains variable details. Here is an example of a script for the structure “wants to go”:

Story script image

In this script, the variable details are underlined. Instead of telling these details to the class, the teacher asks the class for the missing information:

Storyasking image
In this way, the class story becomes “Kendra wants to go to Jamaica to get dreads….”.

While the story is being asked, the teacher employs a myriad of techniques: most notably,  circling (asking a series of questions about a single statement in order to provide repetition of the structures that it contains) and checking for comprehension. Click here for tutorials if you are unfamiliar with these strategies: martinabex.com/teacher-training/essential-strategies-for-tprsci-teachers/. Above all, it is critical that the story remain comprehensible to all students in the class by limiting vocabulary and employing strategies such as circumlocution and translation.

Step 3: Reading

Once the class concludes its story, the students read a short text that contains the target structures. The reading is usually done as a class so that the teacher can continue circling, personalizing, and checking for comprehension. The text could be a written version of the class story, a new version of the same story, or a completely different story that uses the same structures. After the reading, the teacher can choose to provide additional repetitions of the target structures through other forms of comprehensible input and/or opportunities for output. Click here to read more about variations on the three steps of TPRS® and to see demos: martinabex.com/teacher-training/using-story-scripts/.

Learn More

Most teachers that use TPRS® on a regular basis often self-identify as “TCI” (Teaching through Comprehensible Input) teachers, because TPRS® is just one of the means by which they provide students with comprehensible input. If you are interested in learning more about TPRS® and other Comprehensible Input strategies, please consider following these blogs:

Crystal Barragan http://senoritabarragan.com

Martina Bex http://martinabex.com

Laurie Clarcq http://blog.heartsforteaching.com

Judith Dubois http://tprswitch.jimdo.com

Kristin Duncan http://tprsteacher.com

Bryce Hedstrom http://www.brycehedstrom.com

Cynthia Hitz http://palmyraspanish1.blogspot.com

Mike Peto https://mrpeto.wordpress.com

Kristy Placido http://kplacido.com

Chris Stolz https://tprsquestionsandanswers.wordpress.com

Carrie Toth http://somewheretoshare.com

Michele Whaley http://mjtprs.wordpress.com

Dustin Williamson https://mrpeto.wordpress.com

Other recommendations: